Jewish Identity and Palestinian Rights: Diaspora Jewish Opposition to Israel

By Hesse, Isabelle | New Formations, October 1, 2012 | Go to article overview
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Jewish Identity and Palestinian Rights: Diaspora Jewish Opposition to Israel


Hesse, Isabelle, New Formations


David Landy, Jewish Identity and Palestinian Rights: Diaspora Jewish Opposition to Israel, London, Zed Books, 201 1; 250pp, £19.99 (US $34.95) paperback

'Our mission was simple. Above all it was to show that Jews could try to build bridges rather than walls, come with an olive branch and not with a bulldozer to destroy olive trees' (Neslen cited in Landy, ? 1 ). Thus opens David Landy's timely and astute book, at the centre of which are, what he terms, 'Jewish Israel-critical' movements in North America, Australia and Europe. He examines the roots, structures and strategies of these movements and interrogates the roles they play in contemporary Jewish communities and Jewish identity formation.

Considered in the context of well-rehearsed accusations of 'self-hatred', directed at Jews who are critical of Israel, Landy identifies activism as 'selfliberation, finding a voice to speak up (as a Jew) for values like human rights and justice' (p7). Israel-critical activism is construed as a possibility for members to create an alternative Jewish identity, which dissociates Jewishness from Zionism and challenges Israel's position as speaking for all Jews, and committing crimes against humanity in the name of all Jews. Landy stresses the ideological rather than territorial aspect of this identity, since many Jews feel at home in the diaspora, and describes this new identity as 'diaspora': ? diasporist identity, then, is a Jewish sense of self, forwarded by Jews in the diaspora and often constructed against hegemonic Zionism' (p41). The effectiveness of Jewish activism is not only evaluated on a personal level but equally on a collective one, for example through the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) strategy and its adoption, or denunciation, within Jewish circles.

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