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Overcoming Zionism: Creating a Single Democratic State in Israel/Palestine Paperback – 20 Feb 2007

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Pluto Press (20 Feb. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0745325696
  • ISBN-13: 978-0745325699
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 1.8 x 21.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,171,285 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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An impressive, important book. ... I think that if persons following the current discussion and concerned about the problems of Jews and Zionism and Isreal and the Middle-East, even world peace, could have but one book on the subject on their shelf, it should be this one. (Media Lens)

This book is absolutely fundamental for those who reject the unfortunate confusion between Jews, Judaism, Zionism and the State of Israel - a confusion which is the basis for systematic manipulation by the imperialist power system. It convincingly argues in favour of a single secular state for Israelis and Palestinians as the only democratic solution for the region. (Samir Amin, director of the Third World Forum)

Joel Kovel's uncompromising criticism of Zionism is rooted in a very deep feeling of empathy and solidarity with his fellow-Jews caught in the death-trap of the Zionist adventure. The way out Kovel is suggesting - a bi-national Israeli-Palestinian state - may be challenged, but definitely not ignored. (Michel Warschawski, former director of the Alternative Information Centre in Jerusalem)

About the Author

Joel Kovel has served as a professor in Psychiatry, Anthropology, Political Science, Social Studies and Communications. He is currently editor-in-chief of Capitalism Nature Socialism (http://www.cnsjournal.org/). Kovel has developed his distinctive approach, which draws on both psychoanalysis and Marxism, across a wide range of publications. His ten books include The Enemy of Nature: The End of Capitalism or the End of the World? (2002), White Racism: A Psychohistory (1970) and Red Hunting in the Promised Land: Anticommunism and the Making of America (1994). Kovel is also a political activist and a media commentator.

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By M. A. Krul on 31 Jan. 2012
Format: Paperback
Joel Kovel, academic, Green Party politician, and psychoanalyst, is mainly known for writing works on Marxism and environmentalist issues. However, as a Jew from New York he is inevitably biographically confronted with the question of Israel, and in "Overcoming Zionism" he has made a settling of accounts with it. Like most American Jews, his family was strongly pro-Zionist, despite never moving to Israel, and the first chapter of the book details some of his unsettling confrontations with the demands Zionism makes on the Jewish Diaspora, especially in the United States. Most of the work, however, is not really autobiographical in nature but an attempt to understand and critique Zionism as a way of thinking. As befits a psychoanalyst, Kovel's book is distinguished from many other left-wing critiques of Zionism in that it isn't as much interested in the political economic situation or the history of Israel as such as it is interested in the psychology that allows Zionism to continue to prosper, and what kind of attitudes one would need to develop to overcome it. It is therefore not an explicitly political book or a concrete programme, but more an analysis of the ways in which Zionist thought managed to hold Jewish opinion worldwide and especially in Israel in such a stranglehold, preventing the resolution of the conflict.

This approach has its strengths and its weaknesses, as does Kovel's critique in general. The main positive aspect of the work is that it is in this sense original, and in particular that it resolves to overcome Zionism by supporting not a counter-nationalism for Palestinians, as so many do, and thereby to multiply the militarist-chauvinist nationalisms in the region, but instead to call for a one-state solution.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 13 reviews
191 of 213 people found the following review helpful
The Importance of Kovel's book on Zionism 30 April 2007
By Victor Wallis - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Kovel deepens the debate over Zionism. He writes powerfully, from a position fully cognizant and respectful of the highest ethical standards in Jewish tradition. He shows, more effectively than any other writer I know, the utter groundlessness of the the accusation that those who reject Zionism are thereby "antisemitic." He demonstrates that the Zionist project has been from its outset a colonial one, and thus an aberration from traditions of respect for human rights (including those of Judaism itself). It is important to note that when Kovel speaks of "overcoming" Zionism, he is not thinking of its being vanquished militarily; he is speaking of transcending it. His prose speaks to what is noblest in all of us. Transcending an agenda like that of Zionism means bringing about reconciliation: in this case overcoming not only the political conflict between two peoples claiming the same land, but also the differences within the Jewish community which, especially in the United States, have made the full and open airing of these underlying issues almost taboo.
168 of 190 people found the following review helpful
An important work - highly recommended 26 May 2007
By K. Boulos - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Kovel's book is the best survey of Zionism, its roots, its outcomes and why it is one of the most destructive ideologies today for Jews, Palestinians and the rest of the world. The primary conclusion that he draws is that the primary road to peace is the dismantling of Zionist ideology as a whole and putting in its place a construct based on Universal human rights and respect for the human dignity of all individuals.

What is unique about his analysis is that he looks at Zionism from all angles - including its psychological, sociological, religious, economic and geopolitical aspects. He then looks at the state of Israel and how the marriage of Zionism with all instutions of the state and society has created a haven for Jewish religious fanaticism, militancy, violence and racism. These aspects of the state and society are, because of the nature of Zionism, ever-increasing and becoming more and more dangerous, with no mechasims for self-correction.

For Zionists, hardcore believers or passive acceptors, reading this book will present them with a perspective that they have not likely heard before and a very important reality adjustment for their world view. For non-Zionists it will enable them to understand what exactly is so problematic with this Zionist ideology which has resulted in such strife for almost a century. Finally it presents a prescription for action to overcome Zionism both in Israel, the US and everywhere else.

I cannot recommend this book enough.
150 of 174 people found the following review helpful
One of the best books on Zionism 15 Jun. 2007
By abuleban - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book stands with, if not surpassing Uri Davis' Apartheid Israel, Akiva Orr's Israel, and John Rose's book The Myths of Zionism. With a unique combination of history, psychoalalytic insight, and truly excellent writing, it weaves so many important threads together, from the bad consicience that haunts the modern Zionist to the political machinations that have given rise to the state of Israel and the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

As someone that has travelled to Occupied Palestine on a number of occaisons and volunteered with the ISM, this book should be read by activists and all who are concerned about the people of Israel/Palestine. Forget the usual political analysis, the dogmatic attachment to the 2 state solution, the never ending "peace (piece?) process," that never brings peace, this book identifies the illness which is Zionism, and the need for Justice for Palestinians, which will bring peace someday.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Insight into the ways in which Zionism dehumanizes both its victims and adherents 4 Aug. 2009
By Brian M. Napoletano - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Kovel, who was formerly a psychiatrist and is now a professor of sociology, brings unique insight into the Zionist psyche and its role in contemporary Israel. According to Kovel, Zionism is a reactionary ideology that rejects universalism and attempts to legitimate Israel's exceptionalism by invoking primitive tribalism. Kovel demonstrates how the Zionist movement has exploited the horrors of the Shoah (Holocaust) to serve its own ends and how its adherents have identified themselves with the Nazi aggression that so many suffered by brutalizing the indigenous peoples who stand in the way of the Zionist vision of an ethnically pure "Jewish state." The consciences of many Jewish citizens of Israel and around the world have been seared by the violence and inhumanity employed in pursuit of the Zionist vision, argues Kovel, which has created in some a hypersensitivity to criticism that he calls a "bad conscience." The way that the sacred traditions have been blasphemed to serve the "Jewish State" has compounded this condition. The state of Israel, in relentless pursuit of the Zionist vision, has become a de facto apartheid state, similar in many (but not all) ways to South Africa before the rise of the African National Congress. Kovel includes accounts of instances where Zionist racism has extended beyond the indigenous Arabs, and has targeted other Jews in the European Ashkenazi Jews' treatment of Sephardi Jews from Africa and the Middle East. Kovel predicts that Zionism, as long as it dominates the actions of Israeli rulers, will continue to feed the cycle of violence and hatred, ultimately to the detriment of Israel and its countless victims. He suggests that the best way to prevent the further escalation of violence is for the international community and Israeli people to recognize the primitive tribalism and racial hatred inherent in Zionism and counter its propaganda with a universal ideology that recognizes the humanity of people from every race, religion, and tribe. For this to happen, Zionism's pervasive influence in both the US and Israeli governments must be recognized, as well as the ways in which its ideology has been prostituted to modern capitalism. The implementation of a humane ideology would extend beyond an end to the occupation and an agreement on a two-state settlement, and would require a restructuring of the Israeli state as a safe and truly democratic homeland for Jews, Muslims, Christians, and all other peoples. Kovel names this new theoretical state "Palesreal" for now, but suggests that a more appropriate name may arise in the transition. Unequivocally, Kovel contends that Israel does not have any "right to exist" in its present form, but that it should be reconstituted as an egalitarian state that recognizes the common humanity of all its citizens.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A Psychological Critique of Zionism 31 Jan. 2012
By M. A. Krul - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Joel Kovel, academic, Green Party politician, and psychoanalyst, is mainly known for writing works on Marxism and environmentalist issues. However, as a Jew from New York he is inevitably biographically confronted with the question of Israel, and in "Overcoming Zionism" he has made a settling of accounts with it. Like most American Jews, his family was strongly pro-Zionist, despite never moving to Israel, and the first chapter of the book details some of his unsettling confrontations with the demands Zionism makes on the Jewish Diaspora, especially in the United States. Most of the work, however, is not really autobiographical in nature but an attempt to understand and critique Zionism as a way of thinking. As befits a psychoanalyst, Kovel's book is distinguished from many other left-wing critiques of Zionism in that it isn't as much interested in the political economic situation or the history of Israel as such as it is interested in the psychology that allows Zionism to continue to prosper, and what kind of attitudes one would need to develop to overcome it. It is therefore not an explicitly political book or a concrete programme, but more an analysis of the ways in which Zionist thought managed to hold Jewish opinion worldwide and especially in Israel in such a stranglehold, preventing the resolution of the conflict.

This approach has its strengths and its weaknesses, as does Kovel's critique in general. The main positive aspect of the work is that it is in this sense original, and in particular that it resolves to overcome Zionism by supporting not a counter-nationalism for Palestinians, as so many do, and thereby to multiply the militarist-chauvinist nationalisms in the region, but instead to call for a one-state solution. I believe Kovel is entirely right that this is the only lasting solution for the conflict, and any other option will not only practically fail, but also psychologically, as it will be strangled by Zionism and the demands of a counter-Zionist nationalism. Kovel's emphasis on the importance of universalism comes into play here: only on the basis of a progressive universalism that recognizes the need for all people to live freely and flourish regardless of race, religion, or any such decaying limitations, can the aspirations of Zionism and the Palestinian cause both come to fruition by their own Aufhebung. This really boils down to what the old-fashioned people used to call a 'proletarian internationalism' and the like.

For reasons that aren't entirely clear, the author seems to associate this with the significance of a written constitution and spends a considerable time complaining about the lack of constitutionality in Israel, seemingly locating its fascistic tendency to let nation-building considerations override everything else in the failure to establish a constitution during the emergency situation at the historic birth of Israel. This is odd, not only because it is a strangely liberal reformist demand given Kovel's overall political point, but also because virtually no state's constitution has ever been founded other than in an emergency situation (US, France, Germany, Japan, etc) and the significance of this for the eventual political trajectory is not evident. Aside from this, a major flaw in the book is the author's tendency to accomodate too much the historical narratives of anti-Semitism; while he is certainly right that one should look at the history of Jews in Europe from an objective and universal point of view, and not just indulge in a tale of perpetual victimhood, Kovel goes too much in the other direction. It will not do to imply that Jews were for the most part successful money-lenders and the like, an old charade which ignores entirely the status of the vast majority of European Jews through the ages as poor artisans and craftsmen, not wealthy manipulators of money.

The book is not a political-economic analysis in the first instance, although it contains a fair amount of historical and economic sub-narratives to establish its mainly philosophical critique of Zionism. As a result, these sometime appear as somewhat truncated and superficial, and he fails to link this to a wider analysis of the nature of settler states, as could be done. Then again, one book cannot do everything. There is much good to be had in it also: at times, the analysis of the political and psychological consequences of the tribal chauvinism implied by Zionism is brilliant, and Kovel's book especially excellently makes the important argument of how Zionism necessarily and irrevokably brings forth so many of the seeming 'aberrations' of modern Israel: its fascistic and militarist tendencies, its inability to treat equally its Arab and Bedouin citizens, its expansionist nature, its wanton disregard for the lived environment, its corrupt mafioso structure domestically, its enormous inequalities, its theocratic weaknesses. There is also due attention for the history of Zionism as an idea, its marginality in the prewar Jewish communities, its links with fascistic (social fascist, i.e. social-democracy for the chosen people only) and terrorist activities, the breathtakingly cynical way it established itself as a dominant ideological force and still does so against increasing resistance. Kovel's narrative is not centered just around the oppression of the Palestinians and their exclusion, but also makes clear that even aside from all this, the Zionist project is a failure and must be a failure in this place and this age. Finally, he identifies clearly the significance of a universalist rather than a nationalist politics to overcome Zionism, including a clear exclusion of apartheid Israel along the same lines as South Africa, and the importance of the right of return of the expelled Palestinians and their descendants as a peaceful and progressive move that nonetheless ipso facto makes Zionism impossible. The road to a 'two-state solution' is a dead end; the road must now lead to a single, secular, democratic and socialist Palestine.
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