3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Interesting in parts, ultimately unsatisfying.,
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This review is from: Jewish History, Jewish Religion, the Weight of 3000 Years (Pluto Middle Eastern Studies) (Paperback)
Let's deal first with the hysterically negative things which are said about this book and about Israel Shahak. Firstly, attacking intolerance in Judaism does not make Shahak an antisemite. To label a Jewish survivor of the Holocaust an antisemite is an extremely offensive slur and one that is utterly baseless. Shahak was a humanist, an atheist and a committed human rights campaigner. The fact that he finds orthodox Judaism wanting should come as no surprise from someone of that philosophical background.
There is much that is interesting about the history of Judaism here and Shahak is right to offer explanations of material and contextual reasons why antisemitism exists rather than pander to a Zionist narrative of eternal suffering that demands the seperation of the Jews from non-Jews.
The problem with Shahak's analysis is that he is inconsistently materialist. Shahak will offer good materialist reasons for the occurence of antisemitism and pogroms, and explanation is not the same as condoning, yet he will not apply the same materialism to the analysis of why Israel behaves abominably on the human rights front: Shahak views Israel's poor human rights record as a product of Jewish theology and history rather than explaining it's material roots in the Zionist colonialist programme of the dispossession and expulsion of Palestinians and the racism that underpins that colonialist programme. Shahak blames Orthodox Judaism for the racism of Zionism and, as such, misses the target.
As such Shahak appears like someone from the 'religion is the root of all evil' camp and I find that approach unsatisfying.