Jews and Power

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Jews and  Power by  Ruth  R. Wisse,  Schocken,  December 24,  2008

Taking in everything from the Kingdom of  David to the Oslo Accords,  Ruth Wisse offers a radical  new  way to think about the  Jewish relationship to power.  Traditional  Jews  believed  that  upholding  the  covenant  with  G-d constituted a treaty with the most powerful force in the universe;  this later transformed itself  into a belief  that, unburdened by a military,  Jews could pursue their religious mission on a purely moral plain. Wisse,  an eminent professor of comparative literature at Harvard, demonstrates how Jewish political weakness both increased Jewish vulnerability to scapegoating and violence, and unwittingly goaded power-seeking  nations to cast Jews  as perpetual targets. Although she  sees hope in the State of Israel,  Wisse questions the way the strategies of  the Diaspora continue to drive the Jewish state,  echoing  Abba  Eban’s  observation that Israel was the only nation to win a war and then sue for peace.  And then she draws a persuasive parallel to the United States today, as it struggles to figure out how a liberal democracy can face off against enemies who view Western morality as weakness.  This deeply provocative book is sure to stir debate both inside and outside the Jewish world.  Wisse’s narrative offers a compelling argument that is rich with history and bristling with contemporary urgency (from the Hardcover edition).

About the Author
Ruth R. Wisse is Martin Peretz Professor of  Yiddish Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard University. Born in Czernowitz (now part of Ukraine) and raised in Montreal, she was the first professor to offer courses in Yiddish literature at McGill University, where she helped found the Department of Jewish Studies in the late 1960s. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts (from the Hardcover edition).

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