- Published on Thursday, 20 December 2012 00:00
- Category: Literature
We live in dangerous times. A troika of storms threatens to sink modern civilization: the failing economy, the war on terror and climate change all hang over us like a thick black fog. Politics have become more extreme; the specter of the radical right clouds the illumination of reason. It is into this political maelstrom that Ami Pedahzur sets his excellent new book, The Triumph of Israel’s Radical Right (Oxford University Press, 2012).
Pedahzur’s book fits perfectly into a new wave of scholarship about Israel, Jews and the Middle East. It is well-timed in its attempt to explain and account for the critical and precipitous place that Israel occupies in international relations.
A native of Haifa, Israel, Pedahzur has lived through the many tectonic shifts that have taken place within his own lifetime. His doctoral research centered on the growing discontent of the Israeli settlers in Golan Heights after the war in 1967. Pedahzur himself served in the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) during the outbreak of the Gulf War, and is currently a Professor of Government and a fellow of the Gale Chair of Judaic Studies at the University of Texas, Austin. Pedahzur’s personal experiences are true assets in this book, and they buttress his research. Pedahzur is more than a scholar on his subject; he is an eyewitness to history.
The book begins with an extensive and detailed timeline which immediately highlights the complexities of Israel’s rebirth as a modern state. Pedahzur unfurls Israel’s complex history with a fluidity that matches the war-drum of its military statesmen. We experience the birth of the modern Jewish state as its founders grappled with the ideals and founding ideologies of their new creation. Pedahzur also leads us on a journey to understand the principle actors, challenges and ideologies of the political parties that shaped Israel before the rise of the Radical Right. “The new radical Right which became the most significant ideological phenomena in contemporary Israel,” Pedahzur writes, “is united by the agenda that the democratic principles of the state should be secondary to the ethno-Jewish ones.” This is something we should take note of given the precarious sabre-rattling that has consumed the Middle East with its deafening cacophony since 1948.
Pedahzur masterfully pulls all the threads of his narrative together in his final chapter. It’s a candid and impartial account of the rise of Israel’s Radical right. Pedahzur identifies the important unresolved issues at the very core of the Israeli-Palestinian question.
This great academic book is a game-changer. It represents a paradigm shift in the way we think about Israel beyond the rhetoric of politicians and the narrow prism of the media. Any myth about a unified Israel rising out of the ashes of the Second World War is shattered. Pedahzur paints a picture of fractional society: Ultra-Orthodox and secular; new settlers and foreign immigrants; citizen and non-citizen; Jew and Arab; right and left politics.
His highly interesting account highlights the darker heritage of the modern Israeli state, critically important for academic discourse, policy-makers, and a wider audience beyond the artificial lines of the Holy Land.By Thomas Dowling
Thomas Dowling is a British writer living in Saudi Arabia. He is currently working on his masters in International Security. Dowling has also published an ecologically themed novel entitled: The Serengeti Plane (2011).