Genesis: Truman, American Jews, and the Origins of the Arab/Israeli Conflict

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A probing look at one of the most incendiary subjects of our time—the relationship between the United States and Israel

There has been more than half a century of raging conflict between Jews and Arabs—a violent, costly struggle that has had catastrophic repercussions in a critical region of the world. In Genesis, John B. Judis argues that, while Israelis and Palestinians must shoulder much of the blame, the United States has been the principal power outside the region since the end of World War II and as such must account for its repeated failed diplomacy efforts to resolve this enduring strife.

The fatal flaw in American policy, Judis shows, can be traced back to the Truman years. What happened between 1945 and 1949 sealed the fate of the Middle East for the remainder of the century. As a result, understanding that period holds the key to explaining almost everything that follows—right down to George W. Bush's unsuccessful and ill-conceived effort to win peace through holding elections among the Palestinians, and Barack Obama's failed attempt to bring both parties to the negotiating table. A provocative narrative history animated by a strong analytical and moral perspective, and peopled by colorful and outsized personalities and politics, Genesis offers a fresh look at these critical postwar years, arguing that if we can understand how this stalemate originated, we will be better positioned to help end it.

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About the author

John B. Judis is a senior editor at The New Republic and has also written for GQ, Foreign Affairs, Mother Jones, The New York Times Magazine, and The Washington Post. He is the author of The Folly of Empire and The Emerging Democratic Majority, among other books.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Published on
Feb 4, 2014
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Pages
448
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ISBN
9781429949101
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Middle East / Israel & Palestine
History / United States / 20th Century
Political Science / International Relations / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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A century ago, the Theodore Roosevelt administration believed building an American empire was the only way the U.S. could ensure its role in the world, but came to see the occupation of the Philippines as America's "heel of Achilles." Woodrow Wilson, shocked by the failure of American intervention in Mexico and by the outbreak of World War I, came to see imperialism as the underlying cause of war and set about trying to create an international system to eliminate empires. But, the current Bush administration, despite the lessons of the past, has revived the older dreams of American empire--under the guise of democracy--even touting the American experience in the Philippines as a success upon which the United States could build in attempting to transform the Middle East. With The Folly of Empire, John B. Judis shows that history can teach us lessons and allow political leaders, if sensitive to history, to change their strategy in order to avoid past mistakes. Judis shows how presidents from Franklin Roosevelt to Bill Clinton drew upon what Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson learned about the pitfalls of using American power unilaterally to carve out a world in America's image. Exercising leadership through international institutions and alliances, the United States was able to win the Cold War and the first Gulf War. But by ignoring these lessons, the Bush administration has created a quagmire of terror and ethnic conflict. By examining America's role in the international community--then and now--The Folly of Empire is a sharp and compelling critique of America's current foreign policy and offers a direct challenge to neo-conservatives.
"NEW YORK TIMES "BESTSELLER - NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY "THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW "AND" THE ECONOMIST"
Winner of the Natan Book Award, the National Jewish Book Award, and the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award
"An authoritative and deeply personal narrative history of the State of Israel, by one of the most influential journalists writing about the Middle East today"
Not since Thomas L. Friedman's groundbreaking "From Beirut to Jerusalem" has a book captured the essence and the beating heart of the Middle East as keenly and dynamically as "My Promised Land." Facing unprecedented internal and external pressures, Israel today is at a moment of existential crisis. Ari Shavit draws on interviews, historical documents, private diaries, and letters, as well as his own family's story, illuminating the pivotal moments of the Zionist century to tell a riveting narrative that is larger than the sum of its parts: both personal and national, both deeply human and of profound historical dimension.
We meet Shavit's great-grandfather, a British Zionist who in 1897 visited the Holy Land on a Thomas Cook tour and understood that it was the way of the future for his people; the idealist young farmer who bought land from his Arab neighbor in the 1920s to grow the Jaffa oranges that would create Palestine's booming economy; the visionary youth group leader who, in the 1940s, transformed Masada from the neglected ruins of an extremist sect into a powerful symbol for Zionism; the Palestinian who as a young man in 1948 was driven with his family from his home during the expulsion from Lydda; the immigrant orphans of Europe's Holocaust, who took on menial work and focused on raising their children to become the leaders of the new state; the pragmatic engineer who was instrumental in developing Israel's nuclear program in the 1960s, in the only interview he ever gave; the zealous religious Zionists who started the settler movement in the 1970s; the dot-com entrepreneurs and young men and women behind Tel-Aviv's booming club scene; and today's architects of Israel's foreign policy with Iran, whose nuclear threat looms ominously over the tiny country.
As it examines the complexities and contradictions of the Israeli condition, "My Promised Land" asks difficult but important questions: Why did Israel come to be? How did it come to be? Can Israel survive? Culminating with an analysis of the issues and threats that Israel is currently facing, "My Promised Land" uses the defining events of the past to shed new light on the present. The result is a landmark portrait of a small, vibrant country living on the edge, whose identity and presence play a crucial role in today's global political landscape.
Praise for "My Promised Land"
"This book will sweep you up in its narrative force and not let go of you until it is done. [Shavit's] accomplishment is so unlikely, so total . . . that it makes you believe anything is possible, even, God help us, peace in the Middle East."--Simon Schama, " Financial Times"
" "
"[A] must-read book."--Thomas L. Friedman, "The New York Times"
" "
"Important and powerful . . . the least tendentious book about Israel I have ever read."--Leon Wieseltier, "The New York Times Book Review "
"Spellbinding . . . Shavit's prophetic voice carries lessons that all sides need to hear.""--The Economist"
" "
"One of the most nuanced and challenging books written on Israel in years.""--The Wall Street Journal"

"From the Hardcover edition."

The Israel Lobby," by John J. Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen M. Walt of Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, was one of the most controversial articles in recent memory. Originally published in the London Review of Books in March 2006, it provoked both howls of outrage and cheers of gratitude for challenging what had been a taboo issue in America: the impact of the Israel lobby on U.S. foreign policy.

Now in a work of major importance, Mearsheimer and Walt deepen and expand their argument and confront recent developments in Lebanon and Iran. They describe the remarkable level of material and diplomatic support that the United States provides to Israel and argues that this support cannot be fully explained on either strategic or moral grounds. This exceptional relationship is due largely to the political influence of a loose coalition of individuals and organizations that actively work to shape U.S. foreign policy in a pro-Israel direction. Mearsheimer and Walt provocatively contend that the lobby has a far-reaching impact on America's posture throughout the Middle East—in Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, and toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—and the policies it has encouraged are in neither America's national interest nor Israel's long-term interest. The lobby's influence also affects America's relationship with important allies and increases dangers that all states face from global jihadist terror.

Writing in The New York Review of Books, Michael Massing declared, "Not since Foreign Affairs magazine published Samuel Huntington's ‘The Clash of Civilizations?' in 1993 has an academic essay detonated with such force." The publication of The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy is certain to widen the debate and to be one of the most talked-about books in foreign policy.

John B. Judis, one of our most insightful political commentators, most rational and careful thinkers, and most engaged witnesses in Washington, has taken on a challenge that even the most concerned American citizens shrink from: forecasting the American political climate at the turn of the century. The Paradox of American Democracy is a penetrating examination of our democracy that illuminates the forces and institutions that once enlivened it and now threaten to undermine it. It is the well-reasoned discussion we need in this era of unrestrained expert opinions and ideologically biased testimony.

The disenchantment with our political system can be seen in decreasing voter turnout, political parties co-opted by consultants and large contributors, the corrupting influence of "soft money," and concern for national welfare subverted by lobbying organizations and special-interest groups. Judis revisits particular moments—the Progressive Era, the New Deal, the 1960s—to discover what makes democracy the most efficacious and, consequently, most inefficacious. What has worked in the past is a balancing act between groups of elites—trade commissions, labor relations boards, policy groups—whose mandates are to act in the national interest and whose actions are governed by a disinterested pursuit of the common good. Judis explains how the displacment of such elites by a new lobbying community in Whashington has given rise to the cynicism that corrodes the current political system.

The Paradox of American Democracy goes straight to the heart of every political debate in this country.
John B. Judis, one of our most insightful political commentators, most rational and careful thinkers, and most engaged witnesses in Washington, has taken on a challenge that even the most concerned American citizens shrink from: forecasting the American political climate at the turn of the century. The Paradox of American Democracy is a penetrating examination of our democracy that illuminates the forces and institutions that once enlivened it and now threaten to undermine it. It is the well-reasoned discussion we need in this era of unrestrained expert opinions and ideologically biased testimony.

The disenchantment with our political system can be seen in decreasing voter turnout, political parties co-opted by consultants and large contributors, the corrupting influence of "soft money," and concern for national welfare subverted by lobbying organizations and special-interest groups. Judis revisits particular moments—the Progressive Era, the New Deal, the 1960s—to discover what makes democracy the most efficacious and, consequently, most inefficacious. What has worked in the past is a balancing act between groups of elites—trade commissions, labor relations boards, policy groups—whose mandates are to act in the national interest and whose actions are governed by a disinterested pursuit of the common good. Judis explains how the displacment of such elites by a new lobbying community in Whashington has given rise to the cynicism that corrodes the current political system.

The Paradox of American Democracy goes straight to the heart of every political debate in this country.
The New York Times hailed John B. Judis's The Emerging Democratic Majority as "indispensable." Now this brilliant political writer compares the failure of American imperialism a century ago with the potential failure of the current administration's imperialistic policies.

One hundred years ago, Theodore Roosevelt believed that the only way the United States could achieve peace, prosperity, and national greatness was by joining Europe in a struggle to add colonies. But Roosevelt became disillusioned with this imperialist strategy after a long war in the Philippines. Woodrow Wilson, shocked by nationalist backlash to American intervention in Mexico and by the outbreak of World War I, began to see imperialism not as an instrument of peace and democracy, but of war and tyranny. Wilson advocated that the United States lead the nations of the world in eliminating colonialism and by creating a "community of power" to replace the unstable "balance of power." Wilson's efforts were frustrated, but decades later they led to the creation of the United Nations, NATO, the IMF, and the World Bank. The prosperity and relative peace in the United States of the past fifty years confirmed the wisdom of Wilson's approach.

Despite the proven success of Wilson's strategy, George W. Bush has repudiated it. He has revived the narrow nationalism of the Republicans who rejected the League of Nations in the 1920s. And at the urging of his neoconservative supporters, he has revived the old, discredited imperialist strategy of attempting to unilaterally overthrow regimes deemed unfriendly by his administration. Bush rejects the role of international institutions and agreements in curbing terrorists, slowing global pollution, and containing potential threats. In The Folly of Empire, John B. Judis convincingly pits Wilson's arguments against those of George W. Bush and the neoconservatives.

Judis draws sharp contrasts between the Bush administration's policies, especially with regard to Iraq, and those of every administration from Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman through George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton. The result is a concise, thought-provoking look at America's position in the world -- then and now -- and how it has been formed, that will spark debate and controversy in Washington and beyond. The Folly of Empire raises crucial questions about why the Bush administration has embarked on a foreign policy that has been proven unsuccessful and presents damning evidence that its failure is already imminent. The final message is a sobering one: Leaders ignore history's lessons at their peril.
A century ago, the Theodore Roosevelt administration believed building an American empire was the only way the U.S. could ensure its role in the world, but came to see the occupation of the Philippines as America's "heel of Achilles." Woodrow Wilson, shocked by the failure of American intervention in Mexico and by the outbreak of World War I, came to see imperialism as the underlying cause of war and set about trying to create an international system to eliminate empires. But, the current Bush administration, despite the lessons of the past, has revived the older dreams of American empire--under the guise of democracy--even touting the American experience in the Philippines as a success upon which the United States could build in attempting to transform the Middle East. With The Folly of Empire, John B. Judis shows that history can teach us lessons and allow political leaders, if sensitive to history, to change their strategy in order to avoid past mistakes. Judis shows how presidents from Franklin Roosevelt to Bill Clinton drew upon what Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson learned about the pitfalls of using American power unilaterally to carve out a world in America's image. Exercising leadership through international institutions and alliances, the United States was able to win the Cold War and the first Gulf War. But by ignoring these lessons, the Bush administration has created a quagmire of terror and ethnic conflict. By examining America's role in the international community--then and now--The Folly of Empire is a sharp and compelling critique of America's current foreign policy and offers a direct challenge to neo-conservatives.
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