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Old Wine, Broken Bottle: Ari Shavit's Promised Land [Paperback]

Norman G. Finkelstein
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Paperback: 100 pages
  • Publisher: OR Books; 1st edition (2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1939293464
  • ISBN-13: 978-1939293466
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 10.9 x 1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 200,100 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

My Promised Land by Haaretz journalist Ari Shavit has been one of the most widely discussed and lavishly praised books about Israel in recent years. It has garnered encomiums from a broad spectrum of influential voices, including Thomas Friedman, David Remnick, Jonathan Freedland, Jeffrey Goldberg, Franklin Foer, and Dwight Garner.

Were he not already inured to the logrolling that passes for informed opinion on this topic, Norman Finkelstein might have been surprised, astonished even. That's because, as he reveals with typical precision, My Promised Land is riddled with omission, distortion, falsehood, and sheer nonsense.

In brief chapters that analyze Shavit's defense of Zionism and Israel's Jewish identity, its nuclear arsenal and its refusal to negotiate peace, Finkelstein shows how highly selective criticism and sanctimonious handwringing are deployed to create a paean to modern Israel more sophisticated than the traditional our-country-right-or-wrong. In this way, Shavit hopes to win back an American Jewish community increasingly alienated from a place it once regarded as home. However, because the myths he recycles have been so comprehensively shattered, this project is unlikely to succeed.

Like his landmark debunking of Joan Peters's From Time Immemorial, Finkelstein's clinical dissection of My Promised Land will be welcomed by those who prefer truth to propaganda, and who yearn for a resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict based on justice, rather than arguments framed by anguish and schmaltz.


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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
3.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a solid, but very short, critique of Ari Shavit's 'Promised Land'. It's just over 80 fairly small pages with quite large text - and even if you read all the footnotes at the end it's still very short. There isn't that much to it, because compared to historians like Benny Morris, whose work Finkelstein has covered in the past, Ari Shavit is a bit of a lightweight. Shavit has been mostly a comment columnist for newspapers and not a very coherent one, whereas Morris was a serious historian. When criticising Morris' work, Finkelstein was only pointing out the logical conclusions of the historical facts Morris had established in great detail from the sources - and Morris didn't gloss over facts, only try to avoid unpleasant conclusions. With Shavit there are very few facts and little or no coherent arguments at all.

Even with Joan Peters' 'From Time Immemorial' , which wasn't up to Morris' standard Finkelstein was able to check primary sources and show the didn't prove what Peters claimed they proved. Shavit doesn't even have sources for most of his columns.

I felt it should really have been combined with other books to be worth the price for such a short book. Finkelstein's earlier books demolished multiple stories from multiple sources at once. This one only deals with one and a relatively weak one.

Finkelstein does point out some facts that Shavit has glossed over and some of the inconsistencies in it, but if you've read some of Morris and Finkelstein's books you'll know most of it already.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Norman Finkelstein first came to public prominence with his brilliant expose (published as a chapter in his book "Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict") of Joan Peters's much-lauded book "From Time Immemorial"; and much of his work has consisted of similar devastating critiques of best-selling books of Zionist propaganda (notably "Beyond Chutzpah", which eviscerates Alan Dershowitz's "The Case for Israel"). "Old Wine, Broken Bottle" is the latest in this formidable line.

This very short book is a kind of follow-on or extra chapter to Finkelstein's 2012 book "Knowing Too Much: Why the American Jewish Romance with Israel is Coming to an End". Finkelstein's argument in "Knowing Too Much" is: now that US Jews know the truth about Israel's past and present treatment of the Palestinians - in particular, as a result of the work of the New Israeli Historians, the truth about Israel's ethnic cleansing of 750,000 Palestinians in 1948 - American Jews have been faced with a conflict between their tribal loyalty to Israel and their liberal and universalist conscience; the liberal and universalist conscience has won; and American Jews are either speaking out strongly against Israeli policies or - in the case of the majority - silently losing interest in and turning away from Israel, which has become an embarrassment.

In accounting for this victory of universalism over nationalism, Finkelstein gives as the main reasons a) the long tradition of the association of American Jews with liberalism and b) (to a much lesser extent) self-interest, in view of the excellent position of Jews in the US. He omits, however, to point to the Jewish universalist tradition that derives ultimately from the Hebrew Prophets.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exposing the self-delusions of Mr Shavit 26 April 2014
Format:Paperback
Old Wine, Broken Bottle is a critique of a book by Israeli reporter Ari Shavit entitled My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel that has been widely praised by supporters of Israel in America. Shavit’s book acknowledges uncomfortable truths about Israel, whilst also heaping lavish praise upon it for its accomplishments, and appealing to the reader to understand the unique plight of Israel as justification for its actions. In so far as Ari Shavit’s message represents Zionism’s latest defence, which Finkelstein believes it does, his efforts to debunk it serve the broader goal of trying to separate fact from fiction and to offer an account of Israel, its history, and its possibilities for the future that is entirely possible and far more desirable.

The book makes for entertaining reading as Finkelstein makes light work of exposing the non sequiturs that Shavit offers in his account. These include numerous efforts to portray an idealised and heavily romanticised picture of Israel’s history whilst simultaneously disparaging the indigenous population. In one hilarious passage Finkelstein quotes Shavit as beginning a chapter with “Oranges had been Palestine’s trademark for centuries”, only to reflect later on in the chapter on the “wonders about the mysterious bond between Jews and oranges. Both arrived in Palestine around the same time”! Shavit’s mind-set, Finkelstein notes, is a throw back to another epoch in which Western colonialists had no qualms about justifying their dispossession of indigenous populations on the grounds of ‘progress’. Conversely, Shavit makes no effort to justify Israel on the basis of Jewish values and beliefs, and repeatedly expresses his distain for Orthodox Jews as a drain on the Israeli economy.
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