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The Making and Unmaking of a Zionist: A Personal and Political Journey Hardcover – 6 Aug 2012
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An honest and moving account of how Antony Lerman – like so many Jewish liberals of his generation – fell in and out of love with the Zionist dream as translated into Israeli reality. A singular figure of principle in the grubby world of communal politics, Lerman retells factually and with a commendable lack of bitterness his shameful treatment at the hands of the British Jewish establishment. (Rabbi David J. Goldberg, author of This Is Not the Way: Jews, Judaism and Israel (2012))
In this very courageous, personal yet intellectual exposé, Antony Lerman, who, unlike many of his peers, refused to cross the red lines into the ideological territory of ethnocentric particularism, explores his journey to and from Zionism. His critique contains sharp insights and the inspiration of an optimistic prophet who believes that peace, justice and human rights are the true Jewish values. (Avraham Burg, former Speaker of the Israeli Knesset and author of The Holocaust is Over: We Must Rise From its Ashes (2008))
Lerman's journey from fervent Zionist to thoughtful critic of Zionism is fascinating enough. But this rich and compelling account also charts his sustained vilification and shows how extensively bigotry has replaced reason in the Middle East debate. You leave it, however, uplifted by the encounter with a commentator who has wrestled with these difficult questions with seriousness, thoughtfulness and integrity all his professional life. (Anne Karpf, sociologist, journalist and author of The War After: Living With the Holocaust (1996))
About the Author
Antony Lerman was Director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research. His work has appeared in many publications including the Guardian, The Independent, The Nation, Ha'aretz, Prospect and openDemocracy. He was editor of the academic journal Patterns of Prejudice and is a member of the Black-Jewish-Asian Forum.
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Over a period of over 30 years, the author became more deeply involved in communal and global Jewish politics, of which his involvement with Israel and Zionism was an integral part. Lerman founded a Jewish think tank and established a multi-million pound grant-making foundation that supported Jewish life in Europe. In 2006, he returned to head the think tank and found himself at the centre of polemical debates over the danger of "anti-Semitism" and the policies of the State of Israel. After a three-year struggle within the Jewish and pro-Israel establishment, Lerman resigned in frustration from the directorship in 2009. During this three-year period, the author's view on Israel and Zionism changed gradually and dramatically.
The author writes as an insider of the workings of organized Jewish communal life, the functioning of national and international Jewish political organizations and the Zionist movement. These different aspects give Lerman's book a unique perspective. It is not an autobiography; he uses autobiographical aspects where it is necessary to add to the picture. He mentions other people only when their thoughts or statements appear central to his own story.
Unsystematically, Lerman read many books by Zionist thinkers. He was impressed by the hard-headed, state-demanding political views of David Ben-Gurion. Three Zionist thinkers stood out against all others forming the ideology of the movement: Ber Borochov, A. D. Gordon and Berl Katznelson. The huge gap between Zionist theory and Zionist practice on the ground disturbed him. According to Lerman, leaving the kibbutz had more to do with using his brain than developing his brawn. He left Israel with a heavy-heart but out of personal considerations. "The stark fact is that the main reason for deciding to leave the kibbutz and Israel was to save our marriage." (51) Despite having had already ideological scruples against Israel's policy, personal motives predominated. The stigma of a "yordim", someone who "goes down", hurt Lerman deeply.
Back in the UK, the author took a job with the Jewish National Fund (JNF). Out of other job opportunities, he took a job with the JNF, which he considered a "soul-destroying compromise". For almost 30 years, Lerman held different jobs at the highest levels of international Jewish political and intellectual life. In the 1990s, he founded the "Institute for Jewish Policy Research", a Jewish think tank. The more he spoke out against the policy of the State of Israel towards the Palestinians, the more he became a target of Zionist extremists. Finally, he left the Institute.
Over the years, Antony Lerman turned from a Zionist idealist into a Jewish intellectual. It took him quite a long time to discover that Zionist ideology has nothing to do with Judaism and Jewish ethic. The book many find many readers and inspire many others to start their conversion process from Zionism to Judaism.
Dr. Ludwig Watzal works as a journalist and editor in Bonn, Germany.