ISBN: 9780521151665

Jørgen Jensehaugen


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The Israeli right is today the dominant political force in Israel. When Israel was founded, however, the political right was in the minority. The Israeli Labour party dominated the state for the first thirty years. In 1977 that changed with Menachem Begin and the Likud’s electoral victory. While the dominating role of Israeli right-wing politicians such as Begin, Shamir, Sharon, Olmert and Netanyahu has been well covered, few books deal with the intellectual underpinnings of those politicians with as great a depth as Colin Shindler’s. The first 300 pages deal with the period before Begin ’had slain the socialist dragon and Israel had moved to the right’. (p. 311) This focus on the intellectual history of the Israeli right makes this book a very important contribution, because most presentations of the Israeli right, even by themselves, are based on simplified versions of the thinking of Vladimir Jabotinsky, the ideological father of right wing Zionism. Shindler, on the other hand, probes the intellectual complexity of Jabotinsky and his engagement with the full spectrum of European thinking, his recognition of the Palestinian national aspirations, as well as his militarism. Today, only the extremes of Jabotinsky remain in the public debate. Shindler is clearly fascinated by Jabotinsky, and bemoans the development the Israeli right has taken: ’there has been a dilution of intellectual thought on the right. In its place there has been a rise of anti-intellectualism, coloured by a crude populism – political wisdom has drained away.’ (p. 12) While Shindler’s book does not provide the full answers as to what the Israeli right has become, it is an excellent investigation into where it came from.