As the fiftieth anniversary of Israeli statehood approaches, along with the commemoration of the hundredth anniversary of the World Zionist Organization, the question of what is meant by a "Jewish" state is particularly timely. Alan Dowty takes on that question in a book that is admirable for its clarity and its comprehensive interpretation of the historical roots and contemporary functioning of Israel.
Israeli nationhood, democracy, and politics did not unfold in a social or political vacuum, but developed from power-sharing practices in pre-state Jewish communities in Palestine and in Eastern Europe. Dowty elucidates the broad cluster of cultural, historical, and ideological tenets which came to comprise Israel's contemporary political system. He demonstrates that such tenets were not arbitrary but in fact developed logically from Jewish political habits and the circumstances of time. Dowty illustrates how these traditions are balanced with those of ideology and modernization, and he provides an integrated, sophisticated analysis of the Israeli nation's formation and present state.
Dowty also proposes thoughtful answers to puzzles regarding the strengths and weaknesses of Israeli democracy in responding to the challenges of communal divisions, religious contention, the country's non-Jewish minority, and accommodation with the Palestinians. The Jewish State will be invaluable for anyone looking for that one book that gives an intelligent overview of both Israel today and of its origins.
"Not only has Dowty skillfully attached a tremendous amount of data to a sophisticated conceptual framework, but he has also produced a most readable volume. The Jewish State will surely become a core work in the field of Israeli domestic politics." (David Rodman, Israel Affairs)
"A careful, balanced and often highly insightful analysis of the making and workings of Israeli democracy. The strength of The Jewish State lies in its ability to elucidate the Israeli political system by examining the interaction between traditional Jewish politics, the pressures of security and immigration, ideological and religious conflicts and, not least, the struggle between Jews and Arabs. Dowty has an intimate knowledge of Israeli society and yet maintains the necessary detachment from the kind of political commitment that mars so many works by Israeli scholars." (Times Literary Supplement)
Author Biography: Alan Dowty is Professor of Government and International Studies at the University of Notre Dame and Fellow at Notre Dame's Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. His earlier books include Middle East Crisis (California, 1984) and Closed Borders: The Contemporary Assault on Freedom of Movement (1987).