cover image The Necessity of Exile: Essays from a Distance

The Necessity of Exile: Essays from a Distance

Shaul Magid. Ayin, $22.95 trade paper (318p) ISBN 979-8-9867803-1-3

Magid (Meir Kahane), a distinguished fellow of Jewish studies at Dartmouth, examines modern notions of Jewish “exile” in this unflinching analysis of “significant problems of the Jewish national project... both in the diaspora and in Israel.” According to the author, “exile” is a spiritual and religious concept rather than a geographic reality (it “results because our Jewish ideal is unrealized anywhere in the world,” in the words of late theologian and rabbi Eugene Borowitz), and the birth of a Zionist nation-state provides a false solution, driving a “proprietary ethos that too easily slides into ethnonational chauvinism.” Instead, Magid proposes a “counter-Zionism” that views the state’s founding ideology as one that’s “both done its work and created damage,” and imagines a state that “protects... the rights, cultures, languages, and religions of all constituencies equally.” In the process, he takes aim at “liberal Zionism,” its “increasingly fantastical” belief in a two-state solution, and its practice of deploying “liberal language... to support an illiberal reality” (for example, framing a scaling-back of the occupation of the West Bank as “a dramatic shrinking of the immoral footprint of the occupation”). Magid’s willingness to broach inconvenient truths is enriched by his deep knowledge of debates around Israeli politics and history. The result is a must-read for those concerned about Israel’s future. (Nov.)