Knowing Too Much: A new view of Jerusalem

Knowing Too Much: why the American Jewish romance with Israel is coming to an end, by Norman Finkelstein, reviewed by Richard Kuper

September 15, 2012
2 min read

The thesis of Knowing Too Much is simple: American Jews are distancing themselves from Israel. An ethnic identification, combined with a belief that Israel and the US shared both interests and liberal values, led to a great love-in after 1967 when American Jews fell head over heels for Israel. But as the evidence piles up it is increasingly difficult to reconcile liberal values with continued support for Israel. And, rather than the predominantly liberal values of American Jews buckling, it is support for Israel that is giving way.

What has caused the change, argues Finkelstein, is that there is now too much information out there. The myths of the past and the early academic work in support of Israel’s foundational myths (‘Exodus with footnotes’) has given way to serious scholarship, much of it by critical Israelis. Increasing numbers of American Jews no longer buy Israeli policies, however strong their primal attachment to Israel. And among younger Jews, even that is not as strong as it was. The evidence of this alienation is carefully chronicled by Finkelstein. How to explain it?

Is it that the US’s national interests are diverging from those of Israel, and American Jews, forced to choose, are choosing the US? Not so, argues Finkelstein, demolishing the arguments of those like Mearsheimer and Walt whose book The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy presented the Iraq war as foisted on the US by the Israel lobby. National interests still coincide, he argues convincingly. It is Israeli policies, and especially human rights violations, that are increasingly offensive to liberal Jews.

In the face of accumulating evidence some supporters of Israel try to reground past myths. Most of Knowing Too Much is a forensic dissection of writers – Michael Oren, Jeffery Goldberg, Julius Stone, Dennis Ross, Benny Morris and others – who, in the face of the evidence, still try to justify Israeli actions past and present. But as Finkelstein says: ‘It is doubtful a new generation of American Jews can be inspired by the slogan: “Israel: Not the world’s only human rights violator.”’

Though occasionally too splenetic for my taste, Knowing Too Much is a carefully argued critique, and a mine of valuable information and argument. Definitely worth reading.


✹ Try our new pay-as-you-feel subscription — you choose how much to pay.

#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces

How progressive is the ‘progressive alliance’?
We need an anti-austerity alliance, not a vaguely progressive alliance, argues Michael Calderbank

The YPJ: Fighting Isis on the frontline
Rahila Gupta talks to Kimmie Taylor about life on the frontline in Rojava

Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'

Confronting Brexit
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond

On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network

Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter

#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement

Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.

Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees

Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides

The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari

Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next

Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace

Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill

Report from the second Citizen’s Assembly of Podemos
Sol Trumbo Vila says the mandate from the Podemos Assembly is to go forwards in unity and with humility

Protect our public lands
Last summer Indigenous people travelled thousands of miles around the USA to tell their stories and build a movement. Julie Maldonado reports

From the frontlines
Red Pepper’s new race editor, Ashish Ghadiali, introduces a new space for black and minority progressive voices

How can we make the left sexy?
Jenny Nelson reports on a session at The World Transformed

In pictures: designing for change
Sana Iqbal, the designer behind the identity of The World Transformed festival and the accompanying cover of Red Pepper, talks about the importance of good design

Angry about the #MuslimBan? Here are 5 things to do
As well as protesting against Trump we have a lot of work to get on with here in the UK. Here's a list started by Platform

Who owns our land?
Guy Shrubsole gives some tips for finding out

Don’t delay – ditch coal
Take action this month with the Coal Action Network. By Anne Harris

Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen

Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant

Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’

Utopia: Daring to dream
Imagining a better world is the first step towards creating one. Ruth Potts introduces our special utopian issue

A better Brexit
The left should not tail-end the establishment Bremoaners, argues Michael Calderbank

News from movements around the world
Compiled by James O’Nions


3