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If I Am Not for Myself...: The Liberal Betrayal of the Jews [Hardcover]

Ruth R. Wisse

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Book Description

August 1992
A powerful look at Jewish politics and culture urges Jews not to abandon their liberal values despite the persistence and recent resurgence of anti-Semitism.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 270 pages
  • Publisher: Free Pr (August 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 002935434X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0029354346
  • Product Dimensions: 21.3 x 16.3 x 2.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 295 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,818,538 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Although it has since been retracted, in 1975 Arab leaders introduced the "Zionism equals racism" equation to the United Nations. Wisse views this move as part of an Arab propaganda campaign against Israel, which she believes the predominantly Arab states seek to annihilate. This ongoing campaign, Wisse writes, has caused Americans on the political left and right alike to reflexively blame Israel for Middle East problems. As a result, American liberals' support for Israeli rights has weakened, and Jews in the Diaspora can no longer seek refuge behind the banner of liberalism, she cautions. A professor of Yiddish and English literature at McGill University in Montreal, Wisse has produced an impassioned, hard-line polemic. Calling anti-Semitism "the most durable ideology of the twentieth century," she judges liberals' perennial hope that Arabs will turn friendly and tolerant of Israel to be misguided. She chides modern Israeli writers who, ambivalent about Zionism, "deliver up the image of the ugly Israeli." Her contentious essay is framed by a personal letter to an ex-lover who emigrated to Israel.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Jews are associated with liberalism the way the French are with wine: it is consider native to their region. Read the first page
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still relevant after twelve years Dec 2 2004
By Jill Malter - Published on Amazon.com
For quite a while, most Jews, especially European Jews, have been liberals. It is easy to understand why. As the author explains, liberals believe in a rational approach to political questions, individual freedom, progress, and cultural pluralism. Jewish emancipation appeared to require liberalism.

Wisse points out that there is a problem with all this. Where were the liberals when Jews were slaughtered in World War Two? And where are they now, when antizionists threaten them? Just prior to World War Two, most people underestimated the destructive power of antisemitism. Are we doing the same thing now?

Wisse also points out the dilemma of many Jewish liberals. In the past, Jews had to agree with many political views of non-Jews to fit more easily into society as a whole. That's true today, as many Jews see support for Israel as politically incorrect. So it makes sense that many Diaspora Jews refuse to support Israel: these Jews are trying to gain acceptance. But Wisse reminds us that it won't work: antisemitism bears no relation to Jewish achievements or behavior.

I think Wisse's best point is that it makes little sense for Jews to try to arouse sympathy by reminding people of the murder of the European Jews. While it may be a good idea for non-Jews to know about this in order to try to avoid repeating it, it doesn't do Jews much good. As the author explains, all it does is give people the impression that Jews are an easy target, that there must be something wrong with the Jews (or they would not have been picked as a target), and that it isn't a good idea to be a Jew.

The author points out the significance of the massacres at Sabra and Shatilla. The world reacted as if it were a major crime. So major that it even wanted to blame Israel for its role. But was it major? Did they want to do anything about the actual murderers?

Wisse discusses the Arab Big Lie. She explains that this is "the attribution to one's target of one's intentions against it." That's why the Arab antizionists had no trouble equating Zionism and racism.

The author concludes that the ultimate test of liberalism today is whether it will defend the Jews. After all, joining those who blame Israel exacts almost no political price, and it sure is easier than standing up to the antizionists.

Wisse thinks that many Jews would benefit by some serious soul-searching. And that if they did, they would have to confess to something. Not a false confession to Arab crimes. But a real one to their own idealism and their readiness to sacrifice other Jews in their attempts to be accepted by non-Jews.

Edward Alexander has a little test for liberals: do you demand for yourselves the same rights that you demand for others? I think Wisse passes this test.
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Telling it like it is to Jewish liberals Jan. 10 2005
By Shalom Freedman - Published on Amazon.com
The contemptible practice of selling one's own people out in order to court favor with others is sadly not strange to Jewish history. Ruth Wisse is a tremendously sensible and solid thinker who analyzes the condition of Jewish liberalism and finds it wanting. The case she makes for Jews having the courage to stand for their own interests especially in regard to the defense of Israel rather than curry favor in the eyes of those whose favor they will not have anyway, is very strong. I think that she also understands that underlying much Jewish liberal self- criticism is a real ignorance not only of Jewish history but of present world- realities. This work should be a basic text most especially for all those Jews engaged in civil rights activities.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Painful Truth Nov. 18 2008
By Concerned about the future - Published on Amazon.com
This is a short, well-written book, but it was not a quick read. Prof. Wisse pulls no punches and what she has to say hurts. Every Liberal Jew and every Liberal who is not a Jew should read this book. Liberals live in fantasy land. The world is not filled with reasonable folks just waiting to negotiate a "just peace", or anything else, for that matter. For much of humanity, hate is a steady diet and, as Prof. Wisse points out, when liberals deny what underlies much of human conduct, they are simply trying to create all of humanity in their own self-image. This is a prescription for disaster. It is not only the Jews of Israel who are in deadly peril from such puerile sentimentalism, for, as has been noted so often, Jews are the canaries in the mineshaft.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the propaganda machine of... Sept. 28 2010
By mark829eaton - Published on Amazon.com
I'm in the middle of reading this invaluable little book and felt so compelled to write a review, my first on Amazon. For years, no, decades, I had been wondering why anti-semitism still exists as the dominant ideology of the world. Now, with Wisse's acute perceptivity, i realize now why. We, as Westerners, have been assaulted and inculcated and "propagandized" by the Arab dissemination machine of anti-Israel bias, hatred and demonization, masked as liberal and even conservative political campaigning. And you know what? I, and i don't think i'm alone here, now feel victimized by the relentless Arab campaigning. This is just like the 1930's, folks. I'm hoping we all awake from our slumbering yet impassioned masking. AND, do you think Palestinian statehood will achieve "peace?" Let us not fool ourselves. Read this important book.
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wise book Nov. 25 2008
By Isel Breshinski - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I strongly recomend book. A book by Marqusee which carries a similar title is a terrible mudd slinging of Zionism and Israel and is short of mentioning role of Palestinians in the conflict. Wisse book gives a warm feeling consistent with her Yiddish specialty that Jews do not need to be led to their destiny. They can and should find their way on their own.

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