English Synopsis of Prof. Rabkin’s Book What is Modern Israel on Our Website

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we are very happy to publish the synopsis of Prof. Rabkin’s book “What is Modern Israel”. We had interviewed Prof. Rabkin and are very glad that his book can give so many insights about the historical development of Israel and Zionism.

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Dr. phil. Milena Rampoldi
Editorial Team of ProMosaik e.V.

Yakov Rabkin: What is Modern Israel?

What is Modern Israel?
french cover

In the late 19th century, a group of emancipated secular
Jews of Central and Eastern European origins came up with a
revolutionary idea. Leaving behind Judaism with its values and
commandments, they articulated the idea of Jewish nationalism, inspired
by many people in their region, from Hungarians to Estonians, who longed
for self-determination and national independence. Zionism found most of
its fervent adepts within the Russian Empire, where the secularized
youth in the Pale of Settlement not only eagerly embraced the idea, but
also volunteered to realize it in practice.

At the same time, the Zionist idea generated indifference and even
hostility around the world among Jews of various political and religious
persuasions. The book provides the reader with access to diverse
sources of Jewish opposition to Zionism. While spiritually the Land of
Israel is central to Jewish tradition, this same tradition also cautions
against any mass migration, let alone the use of force to accomplish
it, before the advent of the Messiah. Zionism appeared as a sharp break
with Jewish continuity.

In fact, the idea of a physical gathering of the Jews in the Holy
Land emerged among Christians intent on speeding up the Second Coming of
Christ. This book explores the little-known fact of Zionism’s Christian
origins, a characteristic that helps explain the powerful support for
the State of Israel in the United States, where Protestant Evangelical
groups are numerous and influential. They see in modern Israel an
embodiment of their faith and revere it as a bulwark against Islam.
Moreover, Israel’s example in matters of economic development, security
services and immigration control inspires right-wing politicians in many

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Ever since Emancipation promised equality to the Jews of Central and
Western Europe, Jews have faced a choice between liberal mixed societies
and a nation state of their own. This dilemma continues to determine
Jewish attitudes toward the politics and nature of the State of Israel,
ranging from unconditional support for Israel’s policies and practices
to the principled rejection of the Zionist—or nationalist definition of
the Jews. The issue of Jewish identity figures prominently in challenges
to the legitimacy of the State of Israel, which divides Jews far more
than any other political, social or religious question. This book puts
to rest the notion that every Jew is necessarily a Zionist and therefore
a natural advocate for the State of Israel, a myth, but one, upon which
contemporary anti-Semitism thrives.

Any work on Israel must consider the issue of anti-Semitism. This
book shows that Zionism is far from a simple reaction to anti-Semitic
persecution. It sheds light on how some Jews integrate the Holocaust
into the theological framework of the millennia-old Jewish tradition
while others transform the memory of the Nazi genocide into a powerful
argument for national unity in Israel and Zionist allegiance in the

This book is a timely contribution to an already abundant literature.
It will draw those interested in foreign affairs, contemporary Middle
East and Jewish history as well as readers curious about the future of
the Jews and of modern Israel. While bringing to light many pages of
history that have either been suppressed or simply forgotten, this book
offers a novel perspective on the accomplishments of the Zionist
founders of Israel, which has emerged as a scientific, technological and
military power.

Written in French, this book was published in Japanese in Tokyo in June 2012. Translation rights belong to the author. The Russian edition is due in early 2015. 

Japanese cover
Table of Contents

  1. The State of Israel today
  2. The Land of Israel in Jewish tradition
  3. European Jewry: between equality and extermination
  4. Return in history, and the return to the Promised Land
  5. The Zionist enterprise

5.1            Separate development vs. liberal society
5.2            In the footsteps of European nationalism
5.3            Colonization
5.4            The creation of a new language
5.5            The creation of a new man
5.6            The Russian dimension

  1. The Nazi genocide, its memory and its lessons
  2. Establishing and maintaining the Zionist state

7.1            Political and military aspects
7.2            Social and cultural aspects

  1. Jewish opposition to Zionism

8.1          Religious and spiritual
8.2          Political and social
8.3          Critics of the use of force

  1. Israeli society and Jewish communities in the throes of change
  2. International dimensions.

About the Author
what is modern israel 3 

Yakov M. Rabkin, is Professor of History at the University of
Montréal, where he has taught since 1973. His areas of interest include
contemporary Jewish history and the history of science. He has published
and edited five books and more than three hundred articles. His most
recent book, A Threat from Within: a Century of Jewish Opposition to Zionism (Palgrave
Macmillan/Zed Books) analyzes criticism of the State of Israel by
several leading Jewish thinkers. Now available in thirteen languages, it
was nominated for the Governor General’s Award in Canada, for the Hecht
Award in Israel and featured at the Rendez-vous de l’histoire in Blois,
France. The Japanese translation was selected as one of the three best
non-fiction books of the year by the daily Asahi Shimbun.

Professor Rabkin’s university courses and seminars include analyses
of the interface between religion and politics. He is also an active,
long-time participant in inter-faith dialogue as well as a frequent
commentator on international affairs in both print (Baltimore Sun,
Toronto Globe and Mail, La Presse, Le Devoir, Frankfurter Allgemeine
Zeitung, International Herald Tribune, Jerusalem Post, Haaretz) and
electronic media (Radio-Canada, CBC, PBS, Télé-Québec, CTV, Radio
Ville-Marie, RTV Belge, Radio France). He has also been interviewed for
several films on Jewish and Israeli history.

Telephone: 1-514-343-7218