A compelling view of Israel

by | May 15, 2015 | Book Reviews

The Victory of Zionism
Emmanuel Navon 2014
366 pages, $18 (paper)
ISBN 1-502-32794-5

Ari Shavit’s best-selling cri de coeur, My Promised Land, was naturally not a hit with the American Israel Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and its supporters. Yet despite its rather liberal take on the history and present condition of the state of Israel, it was clearly the work of an individual deeply in love with his country.

Emmanuel Navon, director of the Political Science and Communications Department of Jerusalem Orthodox College and a teacher of International Relations at Tel Aviv University, has collected four years worth of his articles on Israeli politics, the Arab-Israeli conflict and Israel’s foreign policy. The articles challenge conventional wisdom and offer a different reading in three areas of concern as expressed by government officials and Middle East commentators: (1) Israel will lose its Jewish majority and, thus, its democratic regime and its international support if a Palestinian state is not established in the near future; (2) Solving the conflict depends mainly on Israel making concessions; and (3) Israeli democracy and the Israeli-Jewish Diaspora relationship are endangered by Israeli politics shifting to the right.

Navon, an intellectual fluent in English, Hebrew and French and conversant in German, in a more than 50-page introduction pretty well debunks the conclusions of what H.L. Mencken brilliantly termed the “booboiserie” on the above three matters and offers a crystal clear summation of the past and current condition from a conservative vantage point. What follows this substantial introduction are 100 brief pieces—“op-ed” variety if you will. These each explore individual issues, but are interconnected by a drum-beat repetition of basic right-wing principles as applied to Israeli politics—the Arab-Israeli conflict and Israel’s relationship with the United Nations, Europe and the United States.

American Jews, increasingly polarized by the dichotomous desire to support liberal social legislation and conservative support for Israel, may find Navon compelling on the matter of Israel’s borders, Palestine’s inability to create a government, the tragic recognition that peace may not be possible in the long run. In the author’s view, Islam will never come to terms with Jewish sovereignty and the European Union is a major obstacle to peace in the Middle East.

Among other “dissident” views is Navon’s belief that the concept of a demographic time bomb is obsolete; Arab birthrates are declining and Jewish birthrates have been increasing for the past 20 years. It may be time after all to achieve Menachem Begin’s dream and simply annex Samaria and Judea. Regardless of its leadership over the years, from Hajj Amin al-Husseini or Yasser Arafat, whether Hamas or Fatah, the Palestinian national movement’s goals are unchanged—Muslim rule over all of Palestine with no Jewish state at all.

Professor Navon has spoken at more than a dozen North American Jewish federations as well as to the umbrella organization, Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA). A visit by him to Tidewater might be a shot in the arm for our community which encourages us to accept the fact that “in the absence of a solution, settling with [Israel’s] being a success story surrounded by failed states is not that terrible after all.” Short of bringing Emmanuel Navon to Tidewater, The Victory of Zionism, albeit one-sided, is consistently powerful in forwarding that point of view.

—Hal Sacks is a retired Jewish communal worker who has reviewed books for Jewish News for more than 30 years.