September 1, 2007


A People and a Nation: a review of JEWS AND POWER By Ruth R. Wisse (ANTHONY JULIUS, NY Times Book Review)

A book...that celebrates the Jewish return to sovereign power, in all its promise and complexity, is as unusual as it is welcome. Wisse has written just such a work. “Jews and Power,” a volume in a series that contains somewhat more pacific titles (“The Dairy Restaurant” is forthcoming), is a good, fighting book that contains much information in few pages, and offers a simple argument. Zionism is the solution to Jewish powerlessness; Israel is the guarantor of the Jews’ safety. Further, the Jewish nation’s resumption of sovereignty in 1948 created opportunities for the Jews to bring benefits to humanity as a whole.

“Jews and Power,” then, is a Jewish book, though the topic is of immense — one might say disablingly immense — interest to anti-Semites, too. What is the difference between “Jews and power” and “Jewish power”? “Jews and power” is empirical, while “Jewish power” is fantastical. “Jews and power” identifies a real, changing relationship between, on the one hand, the Jews conceived as a nation, plural but one; and on the other hand, political power conceived, at its apex, as self-government by a people in a nation-state. Jews’ relation with political power, and more particularly sovereign political power, has been very remote indeed for the longest periods of human history. This distance has rarely worked to the Jews’ advantage; too often, it has ensured catastrophe. “Jewish power,” by contrast, is an imaginary, unwavering project, malign in its intentions. None of this is apparent to the anti-Semite, for whom Jewish power has been a constant, ever working to the disadvantage of non-Jews.

Wisse begins her book, “The loss of Jewish sovereignty was the defining political event in the life of the Jewish people.” And she ends it, “In defending themselves, Jews have been turned into the fighting front line of the democratic world.” Within these boundaries, marked by loss and retrieval, Wisse offers an entire history of the Jews. What begins with a reverse for the Jews concludes with a gain for the world, or the democratic world. It is a story, then, with a provisional happy ending.

Sadly though, the Jewish demographic implosion makes it likely that Jews will end under the sovereignty of others.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 1, 2007 7:42 AM

Ah! Ponder what the enemies of permanent things really have against the Jews.

At the very end of Houston Stewart Chamberain's Foundations of the Nineeenth Century is a long footnote setting out how the proto-Nazi author blames the Jews for all the ills of the world. The Jews would be fine, he wrote, if their ideas stayed with them. Only the Jewish idea, Yahwehism, a transcendant, but personal God,was imposed on Europe and the world by the Catholic church, to the detriment of world civilization.

Alfred Rosenburg, the Nurenburg-convcicted Nazi ideologue, wrote much the same thing in his Mythus of the Twentieth Century.

The pagans hate the Jews because they hate God, and be assured, when they come for the Jews they shall come for the rest of us in short order.

Posted by: Lou Gots at September 1, 2007 9:25 AM

It is interesting that at the same time Wisse's book is being published, another book relating to Jewish power 'Walt and Mearsheimer's' 'The Israel Lobby'is winning far more attention than the Wisse book can dream to get. The Walt- Mearsheimer book is one aimed at cutting off Israel from the U.S. and in this sense diminishing Jewish power, endangering Israel truly. It is an evil book. I have not read the Wisse book yet but have read many reviews. She is certainly right about the essential importance of Jewish power for Jewish survival. But I doubt that she or anyone else can possibly even survey the kinds of threats facing the Jewish people, and more specifically Israel today. We have a lot of haters for a lot of very bad reasons. Iran may be the most dangerous at the moment. But there are many many others.
I would conclude by saying that without Jewish power our losses and sufferings have been tremendously great. But Jewish power too is no absolute guarantee of Jewish survival and well- being, though it be a crucial element in the struggle.

Posted by: Shalom Freedman at September 3, 2007 2:17 AM