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The Question of Zion [Hardcover]

Jacqueline Rose
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

14 Mar 2005

Zionism was inspired as a movement--one driven by the search for a homeland for the stateless and persecuted Jewish people. Yet it trampled the rights of the Arabs in Palestine. Today it has become so controversial that it defies understanding and trumps reasoned public debate. So argues prominent British writer Jacqueline Rose, who uses her political and psychoanalytic skills in this book to take an unprecedented look at Zionism--one of the most powerful ideologies of modern times.

Rose enters the inner world of the movement and asks a new set of questions. How did Zionism take shape as an identity? And why does it seem so immutable? Analyzing the messianic fervor of Zionism, she argues that it colors Israel's most profound self-image to this day. Rose also explores the message of dissidents, who, while believing themselves the true Zionists, warned at the outset against the dangers of statehood for the Jewish people. She suggests that these dissidents were prescient in their recognition of the legitimate claims of the Palestinian Arabs. In fact, she writes, their thinking holds the knowledge the Jewish state needs today in order to transform itself.

In perhaps the most provocative part of her analysis, Rose proposes that the link between the Holocaust and the founding of the Jewish state, so often used to justify Israel's policies, needs to be rethought in terms of the shame felt by the first leaders of the nation toward their own European history.

For anyone concerned with the conflict in Israel-Palestine, this timely book offers a unique understanding of Zionism as an unavoidable psychic and historical force.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; First Edition edition (14 Mar 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691117500
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691117508
  • Product Dimensions: 2 x 14.7 x 21.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 439,228 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"[A] remarkable book. . . . Enormous amounts of news coverage and polemic are devoted to Israel, and the conflict in the Holy Land is the single most bitterly contentious struggle on earth. And yet, as Rose points out, little attention is given to the roots of the Zionist movement and the impassioned debates that once surrounded it. . . . Just what a strange creed Zionism was, and how unlike other nations its out-come, are part of Rose's theme."--Geoffrey Wheatcroft, New Statesman

"Jacqueline Rose has written a timely and courageous book. . . . It could do nothing but good if the force of Rose's argument were to be felt not only in and for Israel but beyond."--David Stimpson, London Review of Books

"Professor Rose's analysis . . . is modestly expressed and methodical. It is also fiercely intellectual. Judaic theology and psychoanalytic theory are wielded like tools, unpicking the minds of Israel's pioneers . . . to the Bible-bashing settlers currently resisting evacuation from Gaza to the West Bank."--Rafael Behr, The Observer

"[A]n original and provocative study, full of arresting insights, that deserves to be widely read in Israel and among diaspora Jews."--Rabbi David Goldberg, Jewish Chronicle

"In some of the most interesting passages of The Question of Zion, [Jacqueline Rose] offers a brilliant account of the psychopathological effects of the holocaust on 'the Israeli mind'. . . . Inspired by Rose's courage and generosity, our field should now engage with much less timidity with the issue of Palestine/Israel."--Bart Moore-Gilbert, Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies

"Rose's highly provocative work raises many important problems and provides many useful insights."--Laurence J. Silberstein, International History Review

"Rose's book has the merit of probing the problematic liaison in the Jewish state between nationalism and religion, on the one hand, and national myth and political reality, on the other. From the perspective of the study of her religion, her book challenges us to pay heed to the fundamental conceptual difference between (religious) redemption and (national) liberation."--Martina Urban, Journal of Religion

"Presents a revisionist appraisal of the complexities of the Arab-Israeli conflict and concludes that Israel is in danger of destroying itself."--Sheldon Kirshner, Canadian Jewish News

"Rose asks the right questions: is it possible to talk about the suffering of the Jewish people and the violence of the Israeli state in the same breadth? Why is criticism of Israel construed as a denial of the Jewish people's right to self-defense? Can any state act with impunity on grounds of self-defense? And finally, if part of the messianic view of world history is that 'it is part of the cosmic order of things that the nation must live on a knife's edge,' as her analysis suggests, is it possible for there to be peace?"--Cynthia Hoffman, Tikkun

From the Inside Flap

"Jacqueline Rose proposes a suggestive analysis of a communal neurosis gripping Israel. Her examination . . . is topical and important."--Amos Elon, author of The Pity of It All: A Portrait of the German-Jewish Epoch, 1743-1933.

"I never thought it would be possible to articulate the psyche of Zionism without descending into superlatives or foul language. Jacqueline Rose has succeeded admirably where others have failed."--Ilan Pappe, Haifa University, author of A History of Modern Palestine: One Land, Two Peoples

"Jacqueline Rose speaks as a Jewish woman who deeply feels the traumatic pain of her people and because of that pain is anguished by the violence towards another people entailed in the Zionist project. While one may dispute her thesis that the source of this violence lies within the inner logic of the Zionist vision, one cannot ignore the moral urgency of the questions she raises with trenchant intelligence and a probing psychological insight."--Paul Mendes-Flohr, Divinity School, University of Chicago, and Director, The Franz Rosenzweig Research Center for German-Jewish Literature and Cultural History, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

"This is a brilliant and highly original book on the mindset of modern Zionism and its principal progeny--the State of Israel. Jacqueline Rose is a formidable scholar with a writing style that is at once forceful and subtle. She offers--with intellectual honesty and fair-mindedness--new and very compelling explanations of the gap between the theory and practice of Zionism."--Avi Shlaim, Oxford University

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
On December 12, 1665, Shabtai Zvi, mystical messiah, advanced on the Portuguese Synagogue in Smyrna accompanied by a motley gathering of "everyone who was in distress and trouble and all vain and light persons." Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I read this book at the beginning of 2008. This is a very refreshing and honest look at the ideology of Zionism by a Jewish woman, who deeply cares about the trauma and pain suffered by fellow Jews, but who cannot accept the violence perpetrated towards another people entailed in the Zionist project using past suffering as a justification.
At the time I did not post a review, but when I happened to come across the two people above who gave Rose one star and accused her of telling lies and posted this as a 'review' I had to respond.
I thank robin hood for his review. I agree wholeheartedly with what he said.
I respect people if they have a reasoned critique. This stimulates debate. But I find the kind of anti-intellectual hostile rants as produced by Messrs. Myerson and A Kids Review frankly disgusting.
Read my comment under A Kids Review. A simple check in Rose's book made clear that he was telling a lie. S. Wood, thank you for your excellent response to Myerson.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
I couldn't believe the review posted here previous to mine. I have just purchased this book and I am very glad I did. I think the reviewer who gave it one star is either biased against discussing certainthings, or simply didn't understand the book. It is not the kind of book that preaches at anyone. Nor is it either the kind of book that begins with a message and then sets out to prove it. Instead, it begins with a question and sets out to explore that question.

The writer does this in a very intelligent and literate way, with many illuminating quotations and ideas referenced as she explores the question. It broadens its topic, instead of reducing it to a set of arguments. This is partly why it is so illuminating. The writer herself is Jewish and genuinely concerned for Isreal. She believes that Zionism emerged out of the legitimate desire of a persecued people for a homeland.

The only critism I would have is that the cover could have been better designed but that is not the author's fault.

The author has clearly thought about her subject very deeply and bravely and she deserves better readers than those who will flick through to see if the book conforms to certain shibboleths or not. It is a book that illuminates issues that are pertinent to any individual, so deep is its psycholgical analysis. I was very impressed and will return to it many times.
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3 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Appalling even by drive-by anti-Israeli standards 31 July 2010
A Kid's Review
This is a book literally packed with factual errors. It makes some noise about the differences between the Penteuch and the Tanach, except they are the same thing just one is the greek name and one is hebrew. We also have a recounting of a speech by made Jabotinsky on the eve of the 1948 war which is a pretty impressive feat given he died in 1940. Needless to say, given she can't get even basic, indisputable facts right that her analysis is shot to pieces.

I guess she is lucky to have written a book in a field where poor scholarship, a contempt for facts and out and out fraud is widely accepted and doubly lucky to be Jewish so she can jump on the "Jews against Zionism" bandwagon, the latter day useful idiots of such bastions of human rights as Syria, Iran, Pakistan, Hizbollah controlled Lebanon and Hamas controlled Gaza. The bottom line is that if you are already hopelessly biased against Israel then you are going to have your prejudices confirmed and what little she does say is clearly false - unless you also believe in ghosts.
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5 of 37 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Psycobabble 28 Jan 2007
Rose uses her skills to argue her case. That is certainly true. Her case is that Israel is so evil that its academics should be boycotted. That is so even though they have as much influence on government policy as she does on Blair and Brown.

Underlying such a call is a mind already made up and impervious to contrary argument. To take one example - Zionism did not trample on the rights of Palestinians. Rose says it did. She is wrong. Firstly, the Zionists bought land. That is only a problem if you don't want certain types of people to buy land. It seems to be a problem for Rose. Secondly, the Palesinians did not have any rights. They were the peasant class of a corrupt leadership. Thirdly, whatever discrimination and prejudice there is in Israel (plenty) it is a land in which people are free to come and go. Plenty of Jews have left Arab countries - forced out - and western countries - willingly. But very few Israeli Arabs leave for the life of luxury they could doubtless expect in Syria or Saudi Arabia.

It isn't that all of this escapes Rose. It's that she doesn't want to think it through. Like a number of academics who write books on topics which are outside their specialist area she thinks that because the University pays her salary she must be clever. But to write a good book on this topic you also have to be fearless, challenging of your own fixed opinions, able to change your mind, and reflective. Perhaps that's why it's a bad book.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 2.8 out of 5 stars  17 reviews
63 of 74 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb, thoughtful book 16 Jun 2005
By Chris Lane - Published on
The two readers' reports below are, sadly, a distressingly good example of the phenomenon that this book bravely represents. They strike me as an almost wilful misunderstanding of Rose's subtle argument about Zionism and its anti-European origins, as distinct from Zionism's current uses and defenses in today's volatile political scene. Rose tackles the history of Zionism, that is, and asks what it has sanctioned and made possible as a mythology and movement; she doesn't characterize or in the least pathologize a whole body of diverse people so much as examine what their collective beliefs arose in response to.

Maybe it's futile to suggest this, given the impassioned rhetoric on both sides, but readers intent on getting an accurate picture of this book might best study its description and thoughtful blurbs, including by many Jewish intellectuals. In doing so they hopefully will appreciate that it is possible to be Jewish yet critical of Zionism's misuses, just as it is possible to respect and advocate for the rights of Palestinians without subscribing to all that is done in their cause. Above all, one hopes that readers will perceive the intelligence and the humanity that inform this most necessary book.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent and timely critique of Zionism 19 Jan 2009
By Ruggeri Laura - Published on
I recommend this book to anyone seeking to understand why and how the Zionist project went wrong.
'The Question of Zion' is not anti-Zionist, as someone claims, it is an act of courage by a scholar who isn't shy to deconstruct the myths that underpin political discourse in Israel. Jewish readers with an open-mind will appreciate Jacqueline Rose's effort. All readers will gain a better understanding of the history and ideological premises of Zionism.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Critique of State Zionism 20 Oct 2009
By Edward Mariyani-Squire - Published on
This book offers a critique of mainstream state Zionism of Israel, characterising it as a heady mix of militarism, racism, messianism, and the self-delusional denial of these features. It also argues that Zionism is not monolithic - namely, that there are entirely different conceptions of Zionism that the author characterises as humane and humanistic such as Martin Buber's as found in Israel and the World: Essays in a Time of Crisis (Martin Buber Library). Needless to say, Rose is a Zionist in this latter sense. The book uses a kind of politico-psychoanalytic theory (never explicitly spelt out) to weave together threads of political ideology, psychology, religion and historical experience to account for mainstream state Zionism. This makes it a bit more interesting than the average critique, but also a little more tenuous. One gets the impression the author sometimes relies too heavily (almost exclusively) on imaginative theoretical interpretations of the "modern Israeli mind" (presuming there is such a single thing).
8 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Reviews don't have to be partisan.. 25 Sep 2006
By aurelias - Published on
This is a difficult book to read - not so much for its content, but for its style, which is a dense, choppy prose that weaves sometimes ill-defined concepts, people and history together. It is not a primer for understanding the Zionist question, and assumes a level of background knowledge, including terminology, appropriate to post-graduate study, or a devotion to the subject matter.

It is regrettable that so many of the reviewers here find it necessary to bash the author simply for daring to ask the questions (names and locations in many cases reveal the likely biases). By denying her this right, they either pretend that there isn't a problem, or that Israel's right to exist is so fragile that it cannot withstand even the slightest critical assessment, an attitude with which the text deals.

Anyone with a sufficient interest to consider this book is likely sufficiently well-versed in the issues that they should not be diverted from its purchase by one-star-allocating zealots who seek to deter people from coming to 'uncomfortable' conclusions.
11 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the indispensable works of Zionist revisionism 2 Mar 2007
By Michael Hoffman - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Don't let the negative reviews of this worthy volume misdirect you. Jacqueline Rose has been singled out for the usual smears and vilifcation by the American Jewish Committee because she has crossed the line of politically correct "polite" discourse about the Israeli state, and labeled it a humanitarian catastrophe. What her critics forget is that Zionism is not synonymous with Judaic people, and that ongoing Israeli crimes and apartheid are disastrous for the image and security of Judaic persons worldwide. Hence, it is pro-Judaic to be radically anti-Zionist and Rose makes the case by showing that wanton destruction of Palestinian society is part of the essential founding pathology of Zionism. There is some badly needed, original and empowering thinking in these pages - don't be frightened away from encountering it.
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