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March 03 , 2009

The Unmaking of Israel


In this penetrating and provocative look at the state of contemporary Israel, acclaimed Israeli historian and journalist Gershom Gorenberg reveals how the nation’s policies are undermining its democracy and existence as a Jewish state, and explains what must be done to bring it back from the brink. Refuting shrilldefenses of Israel and equally strident attacks, Gorenberg shows that the Jewish state is, in fact, unique among countries born in the postcolonial era: It began as a parliamentary democracy and has remained one. An activist judiciary has established civil rights. Despite discrimination against its Arab minority, Israel has given a political voice to everyone within its borders.

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Yet shortsighted policies, unintended consequences, and the refusal to heed warnings now threaten thoseaccomplishments. By keeping the territories it occupied in the Six-Day War, Israel has crippled its democracy and the rule of law. The unholy ties between state, settlement, and synagogue have promoted a new brand of extremism, transforming Judaism from a humanistic to a militant faith. And the religious right is rapidly gaining power within the Israeli army, with possibly catastrophic consequences.

In order to save itself, Gorenberg argues, Israel must end the occupation, separate state from religion, and create a new civil Israeli identity that can be shared by Jews and Arabs. Based on groundbreaking historical research—including documents released through the author’s Israeli Supreme Court challenge to military secrecy—and on a quarter century of experience reporting in the region, The Unmaking of Israel is a brilliant, deeply personal critique by a progressive Israeli, and a plea for realizing the nation’s potential.

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