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Shahak, Israel and Norton Mezvisnky. Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel, 2d ed.

Shahak, Israel and Norton Mezvisnky. Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel. 2nd edition. Ann Arbor, Michigan: Pluto Press, 2004, 176 pages. Paper $13.57.

Shahak and Mezvinsky's updated new edition of "Jewish Fundamentalism" unveils more than the nature and political sway of Jewish fundamentalism in Israel; it reveals unacknowledged, and largely unknown outside Israel, properties of such phenomenon that have become an integral force in the Israeli state and, by implication, Israeli society. The book places Jewish fundamentalism in a framework customarily applied to Islamic and Christian fundamentalism. It argues that Jewish fundamentalism possesses "nearly all the important social scientific properties of Islamic and Christian fundamentalism" (p. xvi).

The authors successfully show that Jewish fundamentalism is not limited to arcane religious practices or dress and food codes, as erroneously commonly believed, rather it has become a formidable and dangerous force not only "capable of influencing conventional Israeli policies but could also substantially affect Israel's nuclear policies." Beyond the political sway that Jewish fundamentalism has by virtue of its representation in the Israeli Knesset, "significant number of Israeli Jews who are not fundamentalists identify and support" some of their demands that would inevitably hinder any possibility of peace such as the building of the Temple (p. 5).

Confounding many people, the gist of Jewish fundamentalism is incompatible with and acts to undermine the very bases of democratic societies and practices. For despite the coquetting with Israel's Jewish democracy, Jewish fundamentalists' vision of Israel is one that is particularly highly undemocratic and considerably pulverizing to any prospects of peace with the Arabs. The understandably melancholic tone of the preface of the first edition continues throughout the new edition of the book; Shahak and Mezvinsky have an almost unvaryingly suspicious view of Jewish fundamentalism with regard to peace with the Arabs and democracy inside Israel.

This well and, for the most part, originally researched book investigates and illuminates on more than just Jewish fundamentalism. It embarks on explaining an ostensibly intriguing and puzzling association between secular Zionist political parties and religious fundamentalism in Israel. Jostling with one another, the combination of both views explain, in part, the inner workings of the Israeli society as much as they illuminate on the inner tension of Israeli society. Although doctrine wise, Jewish fundamentalism seem incompatible with Zionism, the strength of Jewish fundamentalism is not really doctrinal, but rather stems from the fact that significant number of Israelis as well as Zionist political parties identify with some of their core assertions and contentions.

This book is an insightful and informative reading about a highly important, yet widely ignored topic.
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Publication:Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ)
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 22, 2006
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