Jews Against Themselves

Jews Against Themselves

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ISBN: 978-1-4128-5682-9
Pages: 178
Binding: Paperback
Publication Date: 07-01-2015
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This volume features powerful essays by Edward Alexander on the phenomenon of anti-Zionism on the part of the Jewish intelligentsia. It also analyzes the explosive growth of traditional anti-Semitism, especially in Europe, among intellectuals and Muslims. Alexander notes that anti-Zionism has established a presence even in Israel, where it frequently takes the form of intellectuals sympathizing with their country’s enemies and perversely apologizing for their own existence.

Alexander begins with an examination of the origins of Jewish self-hatred in nineteenth-century Europe. He then explores the mindset of disaffected Jews in reacting, or failing to react, to the two events that shape modern Jewry: the Holocaust and the founding of the State of Israel.

The book concludes with a focus on contemporary anti-Zionism, including three essays about the role played by Jews in the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement to expel Israel from the family of nations. A final essay addresses the need for American Jews to decide whether they are going to judge Judaism by the standards of The New York Times or The New York Times by the standards of Judaism.

Editorial Reviews

"Rarely has a book so thoroughly and eloquently identified, analyzed, and rebuked a form of thinking that endangers the very democracy from which that thinking arose. . . . Many texts try to explain why some Jews turn on their own people . . . Never have I read one with such moral clarity, subtlety of thought . . . If future generations don’t look back and read this New York Times 'moral standard' as one of the defining manifestations of cognitive and moral disorientation of the early twenty-first century, it will only be because jihadis prevailed in convincing a foolish and even suicidal West into sacrificing its most valuable ally. And if that happens, it will be in no small measure thanks to the Jews portrayed in Alexander’s book."

—Richard Landes, Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs

"Alexander proffers numerous case studies, old and new, of the moral and intellectual bankruptcy behind the peculiar phenomenon of Jewish Israel-hatred. The book . . . is a collection of concise and informative essays on a variety of subjects (Zionism and Liberalism; the lessons of the Holocaust; the intellectual roots of the Oslo Accords) written over several decades."

—Tibor Krausz, The Jerusalem Report

“[S]hort and well-written . . . How is it possible, this book asks, for Jewish intellectuals not only to live under the shadow of a second genocide but to furnish arguments that prepare for it? Jews who take a strong and public position against Israel are putting themselves in the same position as those apostates in the Middle Ages. They, too, seemingly talk with inside knowledge. . . . Granted their history, Jews have every reason to think through the demands of identity. Superficially, it is plausible that the men and women who so provoke Alexander are acting out of self-hatred. . . . Alexander is not asking for a tribal closing of the ranks, merely for common humanity; in the testing years ahead, a lot of it will be needed.”

—David Pryce-Jones, National Review

"I am overjoyed by the gathering of these essays and at the same time wildly depressed, because to read them again, not one by one as before, but in the hideous Niagara force of their phalanxes is frightening. As a virtuoso polemical work, as a literary tour de force, Jews Against Themselves is a masterpiece."

 —Cynthia Ozick, short story writer, novelist, and essayist

"These remarkable essays by Edward Alexander bring intellectual precision, moral fearlessness and literary elegance to bear on a syndrome that could be called 'Jewish suicidalism.' That is almost the right name for it, save that the leaders of this trend – portraits delineated by Alexander – exempt themselves from the condemnations they rain down on their fellows. The motivational patterns that Alexander exposes cannot, as is sometimes claimed, reduce to self-hatred. Rather, shown in vivid detail are the workings of opportunistic self-love. . . .  If there is such a thing as tone deafness for what is consequential in history, it is the achievement of Edward Alexander’s Jews Against Themselves to refine our capacity to recognize it."

—Abigail L. Rosenthal, Jewish Center for Public Affairs (

"Every Anglophone reader, Jew and non-Jew, owes it to him or herself to read Jews against Themselves. And every non-Anglophone country that aspires either to establish or maintain democracy owes itself a good translation."

—Richard Landes, The Augean Stables

"[Edward Alexander] profiles in this powerful little book a rogues’ gallery of Jews who have decided, as he puts it, that Israel is “the devil’s own experiment station” and either barely sustains a right to exist or has forfeited it altogether. . . why—as a recurrent phenomenon spanning centuries—have Jews turned so virulently against Jews? . . . [W]hatever the wellsprings of the malaise, Alexander’s book depicts it masterfully and exposes these scoundrels in their true infamy."

— P. David Hornick, PJ Media

"In Jews against Themselves, Alexander takes up the curious and disturbing phenomenon of his volume’s title. A professor emeritus at the University of Washington, Alexander is a distinguished student of American and English literature and an essayist whose erudition is ornamented by a coruscating wit. . . . We live in an era when survivors of the greatest catastrophe ever to befall the Jewish people are still living among us, yet a small but influential cadre of Jews, mimicking the disreputable conduct of a smaller number of their forebears, are fortifying the intentions of today’s most virulent anti-Semites, including the genocidal among them. Hatred of Jews, a lengthy history suggests, has an infectious character. By the evidence compiled here, the virus has found a ready host even in some of those whom it would first destroy."

— Gabriel Schoenfeld, Mosaic

“In Deuteronomy, the people of Israel are told that their enemies will come from one direction but will flee in seven. Nowadays, something like the opposite seems to be true, with Israel’s enemies coming at her from many directions. One of these is from within. These internal enemies are the subject of Jews Against Themselves. . . . Like Jewish apostates of medieval times, these ‘modern Jewish apostates,’ carry out with greater zeal than non-Jews the persecution of their bretheren. . . . Alexander is a superb writer and wields a very sharp pen.”

—David Isaac, The Washington Free Beacon

“Many of the mordant Jewish critics of Israel, as the author indicates, are wedded to Enlightenment and liberal values and believe that Israel has betrayed the ideals of those legacies. Alexander put it beautifully: For members of the anti-Israel coalition, he says, there is a straight line from the revelation at Sinai to the left wing of the Democratic Party. In his survey of the leading Jewish anti-Israel mob, Alexander uses a skillful scalpel in eviscerating Bernard Avishai, Michael Lerner and Peter Beinart—all of whom, as Mark Anthony said, ‘are honourable men.’ . . . Those who derive their political ethos from the Enlightenment and liberalism and translate it into a violent critique of Israel are mistranslating the legacy of those two movements, and demonstrating a paralyzing rigidity in their understanding of reason.”

—Arnold Ages, Chicago Jewish Star

“[Edward Alexander] exposes and eviscerates Jewish self-hatred, the liberal betrayal of Zionism, the “moral failure of American Jewish intellectuals,” and – as only an academic could – the rampant anti-Semitism that infests American universities and how it came to lodge there. Alexander’s intellectual weapons are formidable. A literary scholar, he weaves Matthew Arnold, George Eliot and Franz Kafka into his narrative. A knowledgeable student of history, he integrates Benjamin Disraeli, Karl Marx and George Orwell into his analysis. He is as familiar with the Israeli apologetics of Amos Oz and David Grossman as he is with the tortured American Jewish gyrations of Hannah Arendt, Michael Lerner, and anguished Jews at The New York Times. His distinctive voice is audible and powerful.”

—Jerold S. Auerbach, The Algemeiner

"Alexander, a professor emeritus at the University of Washington, is a combat veteran of the intra-Jewish quarrels of the past several decades, and he is one of the most skilled. In this, perhaps the most important of his many books, Professor Alexander takes on the painfully relevant topic of what he calls 'the new forms taken by Jewish apostasy.'. . . Jews Against Themselves sheds much-needed light on the subject and deserves to be on everyone’s “must reading” list."

 —Benyamin Korn, The Algemeiner

"An excoriating assault on Jewish “apostates”—Jews who, in the words of Maimonides, separate themselves “from the community” or “hold aloof from the congregation of Israel” and is “indifferent when they are in distress.”

—Peter J. Leithart, First Things

"Alexander’s no-nonsense tone is a tonic."

—Shmuel Ben-Gad, Association of Jewish Libraries Review

"[O]ne of my all time favorite books of the last several years . . . definitely read the book. Words were invented in the first place, it seems to me, so that Edward Alexander could shape them to such powerful effect, and on such a perennial (and perennially important) subject."  

—Andrew Pessin, The Unabashed Zionist

“Edward Alexander’s elegant prose is a salve for the monstrous irritation of his subject.” 

—Victor Erlich, author of Ancient Zionism

"Edward Alexander is one of those rare academics whose prose is a delight to read. These richly informative and trenchantly critical essays, dating from 1986 to 2014, range widely over the landscape of contemporary Jewish denunciation of Israel. Most of his subjects see themselves as defenders of Enlightenment values against what they presume to be “Jewish” sectionalism and obscurantism. Alexander brilliantly dissects the ideological confusions and broken-backed arguments that litter this stance. To a non-Jew like myself, however, with few illusions left concerning the complicity of the present-day liberal-left with kinds of antisemitism that used to be the sole province of the extreme Right, there is also a good deal of pathos about these refugees from Judaism as they leap, with unerring agility, from the frying-pan into the fire."

—Bernard Harrison, University of Utah and University of Sussex

“Edward Alexander is a must-read for anyone wishing to understand the culture wars raging among Jews in recent years. A knowledgeable guide to these fractious debates, and also an energetically engaged participant in many of them, Alexander writes as both critical analyst and intellectual combatant. His passionate, provocative essays, composed in a polemical style all his own, unsettle as well as inform.”

Alvin H. Rosenfeld, Indiana University

"Edward Alexander’s elegant prose is a salve for the monstrous irritation of his subject."

Avi Erlich, author of Ancient Zionism: The Biblical Origins of the National Idea

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Table of Contents



1.       Jewish Self-Hatred

2.       Disraeli and Marx: Stammgenosse?

3.       Liberalism and Zionism

4.       What the Holocaust Does Not Teach

5.       Why Jews Must Behave Better than Everybody Else: The Theory and Practice of the Double Standard 31

6.       The Moral Failure of American Jewish Intellectuals: Past and Present

7.       The Holocaust . . . and Me

8.       Noam Chomsky and Holocaust Denial

9.       Antisemitism Denial: The Berkeley School

10.     Michael Lerner: Hillary Clinton’s Jewish Rasputin

11.     Ashamed Jews: The Finkler Question

12.     Israelis against Themselves: The Intellectual Origins of Oslo and Intifada II

13.     Jewish Israel-Haters Convert Their Dead Grandmothers: A New Mormonism?

14.     Jewish Boycotters of Israel: How the Academic Boycott Began

15.     America’s Academic Boycotters: The Enemies of Israel Neither Slumber nor Sleep

16.     Jews against Themselves: The BDS Movement and Modern Apostasy

17.     Jewish Survivors and Their Progeny against Israel

18.     Choose Your Side: The New York Times or Judaism

Selected Bibliography