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Israel's Holocaust and the Politics of Nationhood


Part of Cambridge Middle East Studies

  • Date Published: October 2010
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521616461

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About the Authors
  • The ghost of the Holocaust is ever present in Israel, in the lives and nightmares of the survivors and in the absence of the victims. In this compelling and disturbing analysis, Idith Zertal, a leading member of the new generation of revisionist historians in Israel, considers the ways Israel has used the memory of the Holocaust to define and legitimize its existence and politics. Drawing on a wide range of sources, the author exposes the pivotal role of the Holocaust in Israel's public sphere, in its project of nation building, its politics of power and its perception of the conflict with the Palestinians. She argues that the centrality of the Holocaust has led to a culture of death and victimhood that permeates Israel's society and self-image. For the updated paperback edition of the book, Tony Judt, the world-renowned historian and political commentator, has contributed a foreword in which he writes of Zertal's courage, the originality of her work, and the 'unforgiving honesty with which she looks at the moral condition of her own country'.

    • A powerful analysis of how the memory of the Holocaust has been used in Israel's politics to create a culture of victimhood
    • Written by one of a new generation of Israeli revisionists
    • Anyone with an interest in Israel's past, its future and the politics of the Middle East should read this book
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    Reviews & endorsements

    '… a path-breaking analysis of how the memory of the Holocaust has been used in Israel not only to equate Palestinians with Nazis and justify the West Bank occupation and the building of settlements there but also to provide the rationale for nuclear weapons systems.' Amos Elon, New York Review of Books

    'This is a brilliant and unsettling book that charts new, deeply submerged territories of the collective consciousness and sub-consciousness of Israeli society. The book is a major contribution to our understanding of the history of Israeli life and mentality.' Shlomo Ben Ami, Emeritus Professor of Modern History, Tel Aviv University, and former foreign minister of Israel

    'The book is admirably perceptive, nuanced, and sophisticated … Dr Zertal is not a linear historian or mere chronicler of events. She is an intellectual and cultural historian of the highest distinction.' Avi Shlaim, Professor of International Relations, University of Oxford

    'A moving and profound reflection on the role of mourning, death and victimhood in Israel.' Henry Rousso, L'Express

    'Idith Zertal's excellent book follows the history of the manipulation of the Holocaust from the inception of Israel to the assassination of Prime Minster Yitzhad Rabin.' Book Forum

    '… interesting and worthy of discussion …' Birmingham Jewish Recorder

    '… can hardly be faulted on matters of detail and accuracy … Zertal successfully deconstructs a number of myths in recent Israeli historiography.' The Times Literary Supplement

    'Zertal successfully deconstructs a number of myths in recent Israeli historiography … and the young generation in Israel today will not have heard of many of the myths deconstructed with so much admirable gusto in this book.' The Times

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    Product details

    • Date Published: October 2010
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521616461
    • length: 258 pages
    • dimensions: 230 x 152 x 15 mm
    • weight: 0.4kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Foreword Tony Judt
    1. The sacrificed and the sanctified
    2. Memory without rememberers
    3. From the people's hall to the wailing wall
    4. Between 'love of the world' and 'love of Israel'
    5. Yellow territories.

  • Author

    Idith Zertal, Universität Basel, Switzerland
    Idith Zertal is an Israeli historian and essayist, the author of many books and articles on Jewish, Zionist and Israeli history. She is currently teaching at the Institute of Jewish Studies at the University of Basel, Switzerland. Her works include From Catastrophe to Power: Holocaust Survivors and the Emergence of Israel (1998), and Lords of the Land: The War over Israel's Settlements in the Occupied Territories, 1967–2007 (co-authored with Akiva Eldar, 2007). Israel's Holocaust and the Politics of Nationhood has been published in eight languages.

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