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The Crisis of Zionism

3.91  ·  Rating Details  ·  311 Ratings  ·  58 Reviews
Israel's next great crisis may come not with the Palestinians or Iran but with young American Jews

A dramatic shift is taking place in Israel and America. In Israel, the deepening occupation of the West Bank is putting Israeli democracy at risk. In the United States, the refusal of major Jewish organizations to defend democracy in the Jewish state is alienating many young l
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published March 27th 2012 by Times Books
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 902)
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Oct 08, 2012 Tucker rated it really liked it
Shelves: finished
With his usual sharp analysis, Peter Beinart identifies several reasons why young American Jews tend to avoid pro-Israel activism. They may not be deeply committed to or involved in Judaism in the first place, and they may resent being expected to express agreement with every policy of the Israeli government. In The Crisis of Zionism, Beinart gives special elucidation to one interesting reason: for people born 30, 40, or 50 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, who have grown up in a United S ...more
Jun 01, 2012 Jeremy rated it it was amazing
Of the dozens of books I have read about the Middle East and the problems between Israel and Palestine, this is by far the best. I am stunned by Beinart's ability to write with passion and with clarity. He marshals an enormous amount of information, organizes it brilliantly, and tells a complex story with great insight.

The book's central theme is how can Israel be saved as a democracy? Time is running out, Beinart argues, because the settlements continue to expand, and this will leave Israel wit
Elliot Ratzman
Apr 29, 2012 Elliot Ratzman rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: American Jews, activists
Beinart’s book is an important intervention and should be a topic of conversation between American Jews about our relationship with Israel and our own undemocratic elites. Non-Jews would benefit from listening in, especially since a Liberal Zionist view is so rarely taken seriously by The Left. Meanwhile, the reviews from The Right are the same petty sequences of denials, double-standards, subject-changing and bigotry we’ve heard before, from The Israel Lobby book to J Street’s moderate Zionism. ...more
Apr 08, 2012 Mark rated it it was amazing
Peter Beinart may not be saying much that is new in his book, but he put it all out there, well researched and noted. There is much that is wrong with Zionism of today: Liberal Zionism, which was responsible for the building of the state, has been eclipsed by the Revisionist Zionism of Vladimir Jabotinsky. Revisionist Zionism seeks to rebuild the Jewish nation based on the notion that Israelite heroes were brute warriors (e.g. Samson), and that the moral vision of the prophets was an exilic dilu ...more
Alex Nagler
May 24, 2013 Alex Nagler rated it liked it
Shelves: politics
I wanted to like this book more, but my issue is more an issue with myself than with the author. It's clear from the first page that this author supports Israel, in spite of some of the negative things it has done over the past three decades. Beinart is reasonable the entire book, but in his conclusion he comes back to the emphasis of Jewish education as a way to make younger Jews identify more with Israel. I can't help but feel that's ignoring the problem. We (and I'm adding myself to this grou ...more
Lewis Weinstein
Feb 14, 2012 Lewis Weinstein marked it as to-read
Shelves: non-fiction

Peter Beinart’s “The Crisis of Zionism” is an important new book that rejects the manipulation of Jewish victimhood in the name of Israel’s domination of the Palestinians and asserts that the real issue for Jews today is not the challenge of weakness but the demands of power.

What Netanyahu and major American Jewish organizations miss is that, in Beinart’s words, “the less democratic Zionism becomes in practice, the more people across the world will
Aug 31, 2012 Lois rated it really liked it
A well-written, well-researched and insightful book by the man
who called Barack Obama the “first Jewish president”, Beinart offers ideas towards
effecting peace in the Middle East along with
strengthening the Jewish community in the U.S.
The author’s main premise is that both Israel under Netanyahu
and the conservative Jewish leadership in the U.S., have used the rationale
of the Holocaust to justify a deepening of the occupation. In his view, they
have abandoned the democratic, egalitarian Zionism of
This book makes a passionate case for liberal American Jews to take seriously and act to combat the erosion of liberal values in the governmental policies of today's Israel. He makes a persuasive argument that the country has strayed dangerously from the principles upon which it was founded, and that, through relative indifference and inaction, the liberal majority of American Jewry has ceded the community's voice on the matter to a wealthy right-wing minority that powerfully influences American ...more
Nov 28, 2012 Joshua rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
A thoughtful look at the challenges facing Israel and American Jews.
As one of those young American Jews Beinart is talking about, my feeling is that he doesn't go far enough. I mean, I do appreciate him pushing himself and bringing this conversation into the consciousness of the 'center.' But it annoys me that getting this far seems to be such a huge, difficult breakthrough for him, and he really loses me with the lecture at the end where he bemoans intermarriage and suggests everyone should send their kids to Jewish day school as the solution (or something like ...more
Jun 11, 2014 Pearl rated it really liked it
Peter Beinart is active in his synagogue, an adherent of Judaism. He defines himself as a Liberal Zionist. In today's world that seems a contradiction in terms. But that is his anguish. In his clearly written and well organized book, Beinart argues for being able to maintain and, indeed, embrace both ideologies. It's not easy and may be impossible. That's why this book is his cri de coeur.

As its title declares, he sees Zionism in crisis, that is, the Zionism of Israel's founders - true Zionism
Kristine Brancolini
Mar 11, 2014 Kristine Brancolini rated it it was amazing
I read The Crisis of Zionism for my Jewish book group and as I suspected, it caused quite a ruckus. The younger and more liberal members of the group were more open to Beinart's message. The book makes it clear that conservative American Jews have fueled and funded the controversy. For me, the book illuminated the historical and political issues that underlie much of the emotionalism around the occupation of the West Bank. I attended graduate school with a woman from the West Bank and she helped ...more
Aug 03, 2012 Luis rated it really liked it
This is a superb book that speaks the truth to entrenched interests in the US and in Israel. Israel is in crisis and it is mostly of its own doing. In the bible, God punishes the Jewish people on several occasions, usually because they strayed away from the moral and righteous path; because they forget to be compassionate towards others. It is in that tradition that Peter Beinart has written this pressing and timely book.

Zionism, as Beinart defines it, was supposed to be a movement to create a
Jan 31, 2015 Stephen rated it really liked it
An impassioned plea by a liberal Jewish Zionist for the survival of Israel as a both a liberal and Jewish state, and the need for liberal American Jews to reforge their commitment to both Judaism and Zionism in order to assure that survival. Combined with this is a scathing critique of the Obama administration's utter lack of backbone in standing up to illiberal Israeli politicians, and their increasingly illberal supporters in the US. While Beinart gives some reason to hope, I am not optimistic ...more
Edwile Mbameg
Apr 18, 2013 Edwile Mbameg added it
Shelves: politics
The Crisis of Zionism is a good book in many respects though the author's attempt to reconcile Zionism with liberal democratic ideals is, at best, tortuous. Zionism by definition is an ethic pursuit which reemerged around the 19th Century in response to antisemitism with the aim of (re)establishing a Jewish homeland in Palestine - it happened at the expense of Palestinians- while a Liberal Democracy is a form of government based on universal ideals; equality of all humans before the law, human r ...more
Jan 18, 2013 Ray rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Criticism of Israel or Israeli policies is something which tends to bring swift rebuttals and charges of being anti-Semetic if from a gentile, or of being a self-hating Jew if Jewish. So Beinart's book, "The Crisis of Zionism" is somewhat provocative in nature by stating that the Zionist dream of a Jewish state under democratic ideals is being challenged by the on-going settlement policy in the West Bank. Beinart looks at the West Bank as "non-democratic Israel", separate and distinct from the g ...more
Apr 26, 2012 Joe rated it liked it
Normally I don't do a book report for GoodReads, but there are no spoilers here. It's non-fiction.

We know that Israel faces a contradiction: its role as a Jewish state is threatened by dilution by non-Jewish Palestinians, but denying basic rights and citizenship to the Palestinians threatens Israel's role as a democratic state. Beinert's thesis is that it's okay to have a contradiction, but expressly not okay for Jews to do to Palestinians what they're doing today.

He doesn't try to paint the Pal
David Toub
May 27, 2012 David Toub rated it really liked it
I've been familiar with Peter Beinart's writings since he wrote a very important piece in the New York Review of Books a few years ago that noted that younger Jews were becoming less and less concerned about Israel, He argued that this was in large part because Israel was no longer seen as an endangered nobel country, but rather as one that was an occupier that has amassed a very powerful military force insulating the country from any neighboring threats. Beinart also had once supported the Iraq ...more
Roy Klein
May 23, 2012 Roy Klein rated it it was amazing
If you're interested in the Israeli predicament and you're not a Jew nor an Israeli, I would hesitate recommending this book for you. The book speaks within the Jewish "tribe", evoking its world views and shared memories, and I imagine that it would feel like an alien and exclusive environment to outsiders.

If you are an Israeli or a Jew, though, this book is something you should definitely read. Peter Beinart, a self proclaimed Jewish Partisan, is connecting the fate of the world wide Secular Je
May 05, 2012 John rated it it was amazing
Zionism refers to support for Israel as the Jewish nation state. I have long been interested in Israeli / Palestine relations. In 2000 I carefully followed the conflict called the Second Intifada. This conflict resulted in the deaths of an estimated 5,500 Palestinians and 1,100 Israelis. What was so astonishing was that Palestinian suicide bombers were targeting Israeli civilians (buses, coffee shops, random rocket attacks). Israel would respond with a heavy boot to the neck of the Palestinians ...more
May 23, 2012 Ernesto rated it really liked it
It's a wonderfully written book. Concise and to the point.

It deals with 3 things:
1) The split between democratic and autocratic Israel through the green line
2) Obama being an enormous coward
3) The future of American Jewish community.

What's missing is the obvious conclusion. Beinart narrates the parable of the pagan king that scoffed at his Jewish advisers when they claimed their religion forbade them violence. If they could, the king replied, they would.

Now we know the pagan was right. Beinart

Jamie VW
Sep 02, 2012 Jamie VW rated it really liked it
One of the best books I have ever read on the subject and the closest any scholar on the subject has come to my own personal view on the conflict. Smart, brave and firm, Beinart has opened the door to an essential argument that must take hold in mainstream American Judaism if there is to be meaningful change in the way we as a community approach Israel.

The book suffers from two flaws that make me unable to fully celebrate it, despite my excitement at Beinart's articulation of his thesis. For one
The American Conservative
'The Crisis of Zionism is in part a meditation on the present “golden age of Jewish power,” a critique of the American Jewish establishment, and a less than optimistic view of the increasingly Orthodox religious attitudes that will replace it; in part a history and analysis of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s tactical success in undermining the Oslo accords and his shocking humbling of President Obama.

While most of Beinart’s arguments are not novel, they are presented with unerring p
Jun 01, 2016 Francie rated it it was amazing
An important, compelling yet distressing argument re:democratic vs. nondemocratic Israel. Considering history as well as current events (up to book's publication in 2012), Beinart is passionate in his well-researched plea for the future of Israel's liberal democracy and adherence to its declaration of independence's commitment to equal rights "irrespective of religion, race or sex."
Georges Dib
Aug 14, 2014 Georges Dib rated it it was amazing
Very interesting read, and very insightful author. He defends his case quite clearly and in a balanced approach.
I am glad to see liberal American Jewish still trying to be unbiased and speak up against injustice.
I endorse almost all his points, except maybe at the end where he endorses the American government subsidising Jewish schools. As a secular guy I do not like the sound of this solution ...
Rich Mcallister
Nov 02, 2014 Rich Mcallister rated it liked it
Shelves: read2014
I've liked Beinart's writing I've read on the web, and this book is well constructed. It's a little more aimed at what American Jews are or should be thinking and doing about Israel and American policy toward Israel than it is aimed at Americans in general, so I'm not quite the target audience. I did appreciate reading his perspective on the generational divide among American Jews and how it affects their attitudes toward Judaism as a religion, Jewish culture, and Israel.

As usual in a political
Bonniecco cco
Dec 01, 2012 Bonniecco cco rated it it was amazing
This is a terrific discussion of the current situation in Israel, and an analysis of how so many Jewish organizations in the USA came to be uncritical endorsers of Israeli government policies. The writer explains clearly the impossibility of Israel remaining a liberal democratic nation while it is a occupying power. Chapters on President Obama and current Prime Minister Netanyahu explain well how they came to hold the views they do today. Beinart is also concerned with the dilution of "jewishnes ...more
Aug 07, 2013 Jonathan rated it really liked it
This is an excellent read - a must for any Jew concerned with the polarized rhetoric about Israel. This book speaks in a calm, passionate but diplomatic tone, and appeals to the basic human values that we as Jews profess to adhere to. With so many authors writing about this conflict based on pure ideology, Beinart relies on reason, logic, and compassion for both Jews and Palestinians.

My only complaint about the book is that he relies a little too much on religious arguments towards the end, and
Avi Shmueli
Aug 17, 2012 Avi Shmueli rated it really liked it
This book is required reading for any involved American Jew. I also strongly recommend it to the general public.

Excellent analysis and exposition. As an Israeli turned American, it fits brilliantly with what I know about Israel, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, America's role and American Jewry's role in this. And it tells the story well to those who should know, passionately yet crisply.

Israel cannot be all three: big, Jewish and democratic; it must, but seems unable, to settle on only the rig
Sep 14, 2014 Jack rated it liked it
Beinart raises some interesting points in this quick read about the current state of the American-Israeli relationship.

The book also provokes serious thought about what the role of an American Jew should be in the future.
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The Crisis of Zionism 1 9 Feb 14, 2012 11:39AM  
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  • 8
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Peter Beinart is the author of The Crisis of Zionism and The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American Hubris and The Good Fight. A former editor of The New Republic, he is an associate professor of journalism and political science at the City University of New York, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, and the senior political writer for The Daily Beast. He lives with his family in New Yor ...more
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