The State of Israel vs. the Jews (Hardcover)
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PopMatters: Best Book of the Year
From an award-winning journalist, a perceptive study of how Israel’s actions, which run counter to the traditional historical values of Judaism, are putting Jewish people worldwide in an increasingly untenable position.
More than a decade ago, the historian Tony Judt considered whether the behavior of Israel was becoming not only “bad for Israel itself” but also, on a wider scale, “bad for the Jews.” Under the leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu, this issue has grown ever more urgent. In The State of Israel vs. the Jews, veteran journalist Sylvain Cypel addresses it in depth, exploring Israel’s rightward shift on the international scene and with regard to the diaspora.
Cypel reviews the little-known details of the military occupation of Palestinian territory, the mindset of ethnic superiority that reigns throughout an Israeli “colonial camp” that is largely in the majority, and the adoption of new laws, the most serious of which establishes two-tier citizenship between Jews and non-Jews. He shows how Israel has aligned itself with authoritarian regimes and adopted the practices of a security state, including the use of technologies such as the software that enabled the tracking and, ultimately, the assassination of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Lastly, The State of Israel vs. the Jews examines the impact of Israel’s evolution in recent years on the two main communities of the Jewish diaspora, in France and the United States, considering how and why public figures in each differ in their approaches.
About the Author
Sylvain Cypel is a writer for Le 1, the magazine America, and the online news website Orient XXI. He is a former senior editor at Le Monde, which he joined in 1998 as deputy head of the international section, following a five-year tenure as editor in chief of Courrier International. From 2007 to 2013 he was Le Monde’s permanent US correspondent in New York. Cypel holds degrees in sociology, contemporary history, and international relations, the last of which he earned at the University of Jerusalem. He lived in Israel for twelve years and is now based in Paris. His book Walled: Israeli Society at an Impasse was published by Other Press in 2007.
William Rodarmor has translated some forty-five books and screenplays in genres ranging from literary fiction to espionage and fantasy. His translations for Other Press include Article 353, by Tanguy Viel; The Blumkin Project, by Christian Salmon; The State of Israel vs. the Jews, by Sylvain Cypel; and And Their Children After Them, by Nicolas Mathieu, which won the 2021 Albertine translation prize.
“Cypel shows us, in strident but truthful tones, the dystopian world of an ethnocratic polity immersed in systemic repression, institutionalized hatred toward Palestinians, and quotidian criminal acts in the occupied territories, where a colonial settler regime is firmly in place…[an] eloquent J’accuse.” —New York Review of Books
“Cypel writes with the passion of the convert: someone who believes he has been betrayed by the faith in which he was raised…His accusations carry particular power because of the nationality of his sources: nearly all are Israeli journalists, intellectuals, and activists.” —The Guardian
“The State of Israel v. the Jews offers rare and refreshing clarity on Israel’s policy toward Palestinians and its effect on Jews throughout the world…indispensable.” —PopMatters, Best Books of the Year
“In Israel, Cypel effectively argues, force has triumphed over international law.” —Kirkus Reviews
“An impassioned…critique of Israel’s ‘rightward drift’ since the 1967 Six-Day War that resulted in the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.” —Publishers Weekly
“Cypel’s book convincingly demonstrates that his conscientious, eminently Jewish, self-criticism, while full of moral outrage and righteous censure, addresses both sides of the Homeland-Diaspora divide” —Muslim World Book Review
“When the Israeli human-rights organization B’Tselem condemned the State of Israel for practicing ‘apartheid,’ an analogy that had long been seen as unacceptable in mainstream public opinion could no longer be denied, and Jews across the globe were at last confronted with a choice: Can they continue to see themselves as adherents to an ancient and prophetic tradition that sustains a commitment to peace and justice? Or will they break this bond and declare their higher allegiance to sheer power alone, even if they must continue to deny not only the rights but the very humanity of another people? In a book that is carefully documented yet burns with moral outrage, veteran French journalist Sylvain Cypel reflects on the growing divide between Israel and the Jewish diaspora in both France and the U.S. Composed with the general reader in mind, this is a superb summary of the current impasse.” —Peter E. Gordon, Harvard University
“The content of Sylvain Cypel’s new book, The State of Israel vs. the Jews, is as stunning as the title. A distinguished journalist at the top of his profession, Cypel documents the systematic injustice that Israel perpetrates against Palestinians. Ultimately, he shows that Israel is (in the words of the late Tony Judt) ‘bad for the Jews’: Jews in Israel and elsewhere in the world. Israel is ‘bad for the Jews’ precisely to the extent that it is ruinous for the Palestinians. This original angle makes The State of Israel vs. the Jews stand out in the vast literature on Israel-Palestine. Cypel, moreover, writes as an insider: a Jew who lived in Israel for twelve years and studied at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Holding a mirror up to reality, denouncing injustice, Cypel is an exponent of an ancient Jewish art that began with Amos, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the other Hebrew prophets: iconoclasts who shattered the false self-images of their contemporaries.” —Dr. Brian Klug, Senior Research Fellow in Philosophy, St. Benet’s Hall, University of Oxford, and author of Being Jewish and Doing Justice: Bringing Argument to Life
“Alarmed, angry, and appalled, Sylvain Cypel accurately and succinctly describes an Israel that, if it were not Jewish, would have reminded all Diaspora Jews of regimes they suffered and fled from.” —Amira Hass, Haaretz correspondent in the Occupied Palestinian Territory
“This book often feels like a high-precision scalpel on the skin: its incisiveness may hurt, but it is always put at the service of the reader’s betterment. This is one of the most poignant and accurate accounts of the moral demise of a complex society, both brutal and vulnerable. Sylvain Cypel demonstrates in this book why he is one of the most important journalists in France.” —Eva Illouz, author of The End of Love: A Sociology of Negative Relations
“Cypel offers an unflinching and unrelenting survey of the many ways in which the occupation occupied Israel, and Israel repeatedly chose the occupation over the Jews of the diaspora.” —Gershon Shafir, Distinguished Professor of Sociology, University of California, San Diego, and author of A Half Century of Occupation: Israel, Palestine, and the World’s Most Intractable Conflict
Praise for Walled:
“[Cypel] writes with the ardor of a believer and the critical eye of a distant observer, producing a nuanced assault on the blindness and inertia that have afflicted both sides [of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict].” —The New Yorker
“This scathing indictment probes Israel’s soul as much as the substance of its treatment of the Palestinians…an impassioned, often perceptive challenge to the Israeli consensus.” —Publishers Weekly
“With the passion of an investigative journalist and the patience of a historian, Cypel describes how a culture of denial has strangled both [Israeli and Palestinian] societies…Cypel is a gifted writer, and his book is recommended for anyone with a background and interest in this timely topic…[His] arguments are riveting.” —Foreword Reviews