Two reviews of Dr. David Landy’s ‘Jewish Identity and Palestinian Rights’

Below are two, essentially identical, reviews of Dr. David Landy’s Jewish Identity and Palestinian Rights: Diaspora Jewish Opposition to Israel, for LookLeft magazine and SIPTU’s Liberty newspaper.

Identity Crisis? Jewish Identity and Palestinian Rights. Diaspora Jewish Opposition to Israel by David Landy (Zed, 2011)
LookLeft #8, October 2011

Jewish Identity and Palestinian Rights is a ground-breaking investigation into the relatively recent phenomenon of organised international Jewish criticism of the Israeli state. From the outset Landy, an Irish-Jewish academic in Trinity, opposes the much touted rightwing view that those involved in this field are either “self-hating Jews” or suffering from “identity crises”. He instead asserts that such groups, in their various different forms, exist because those involved are universalist in outlook and feel that, as Jews, they can play a role in ending Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people.

While not uncritical of these groups, Landy points out that they have played a very important role in making both Jewish and non-Jewish criticism of Israel more “acceptable” in the mainstream than previously. This is especially true for Western Europe, where the shadow of the Nazi holocaust still looms large – no longer do people have the same fear of being painted as “self-haters” or “anti-Semitic” by Israel’s supporters. However, their positive role in wider society aside, outside of providing a relatively safe avenue for Israel-critical Jews to “come out”, these groups have thus far failed to make a serious impact within the Jewish diaspora. Landy also outlines some of the problems with the worldviews of some of these groups, a major one being that Palestinians can be essentially eliminated from their discourse, treating what is a national liberation issue instead as a “Jewish issue” that will only be solved by Jews.

In conclusion, Landy points out that although his is the first such study of this emerging movement, it is not the “definitive” account. These groups have grown and developed over the past decade – some even moving into the “boycott and solidarity” camp – and will continue to evolve in the future. Despite the sometimes slightly alienating academic jargon, for anyone interested in the Palestinian solidarity movement and/or the long history of progressive and critical Jewish thought, this book is highly recommended.

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Palestine’s Jewish Lobby: Book about Jewish opposition to Israel launched in Dublin
Liberty, November 2011

Prof. David Landy

The long-standing concern for Palestine in Ireland was evident in the capacity crowd which attended the launch of Professor David Landy’s Jewish Identity and Palestinian Rights: Diaspora Opposition to Israel (Zed, 2011) in Dublin’s New Theatre on the 1st November.

The book is a groundbreaking examination of the relatively recent phenomenon of organised international Jewish criticism of Israel. Landy, an Irish-Jewish lecturer in Trinity College, opposes the right-wing view that those involved in this field are either “self-hating Jews” or suffering from “identity crises”. His view is that such groups exist because those involved are universalist in outlook and feel that, as Jews, they can play a role in ending Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people.

While not uncritical of these groups, Landy points out that they have played an extremely important role in making both Jewish and non-Jewish criticism of Israel more “acceptable” in mainstream discourse – no longer do Israel’s critics harbour the same fear of being painted as “self-haters” or “anti-Semitic” by that state’s supporters. However, notwithstanding this positive role in wider society, outside of providing a relatively safe avenue for Israel-critical Jews to “come out”, these groups have so far failed to make a serious impact within the Jewish diaspora itself.

The book outlines the problems often associated with the world views of some of these groups. Often Palestinians can be essentially eliminated from their discourse, treating what is a national liberation issue instead as a “Jewish issue”. As Trinity Professor Ronit Lentin, herself an Israeli, said at the launch; “The book does not shirk from the difficult question as to whether movement members’
activism is about constructing a ‘better’ Jewish identity or about genuine solidarity.”

Wrapping up the event Professors Landy and Lentin said that although this is the first such study of this emerging movement it could not be considered “definitive” as these groups have developed significantly over the past decade, and that “the thing about social movements is they are always moving”.

A recording of the launch – which was a collaboration between Zed Books, the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Trinity College Department of Sociology and Poster Fish Promotionscan be heard online here (Note: I also spoke at the launch)

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