Palestine: Learning from the rabbi

Wrestling in the Daylight: a rabbi’s path to Palestinian solidarity, by Brant Rosen, reviewed by Richard Kuper

December 3, 2012 · 2 min read

Rabbi Brant Rosen of the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation of Evanston, Illinois, had been wrestling with his conscience for almost three decades, troubled by the ethnic nationalism at the heart of his liberal, Zionist philosophy.

On 28 December 2008, as the war on Gaza began, he felt he could no longer excuse the inexcusable: ‘We good liberal Jews are ready to protest oppression and human rights abuses anywhere in the world but are all too willing to give Israel a pass,’ he wrote. ‘It’s a fascinating double standard, and one I understand all too well. I understand it, because I’ve been just as responsible as anyone else for perpetrating it.’

Wrestling in the Daylight collects his blog posts, and responses they evoked, from the above-quoted ‘Outrage in Gaza: No More Apologies’ to the end of 2010.

I started the book with misgivings. I do not come to the conflict from a religious perspective but as a Palestine solidarity activist and a secular, indeed militantly atheist, Jew. What then could the rabbi have to teach me? As it turned out, a lot.

This is a profoundly humanistic work. You watch Brant Rosen reflecting and reappraising as he is forced to redefine ‘his love for his people’, to reconcile it with Israel’s unforgivable treatment of the Palestinians. You feel his anguish as he wrestles ‘in the daylight’ with the profound contradictions of liberal Zionism. You read the responses of those who cannot follow him and his thoughtful engagement with both their arguments and their passionate feelings and beliefs. And you see his commitment to do something about it – of which this book is one part.

This collection is a dialogue within the Jewish community. But it also is far more than that. The stress is on the word dialogue. Everyone will learn from it: both how to organise the confrontation of deeply conflicting approaches in an atmosphere of courtesy and mutual respect, and why the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is so ideologically intractable. Everyone who cares about Palestine should read this book.


Review – This Is Not A Drill: An Extinction Rebellion Handbook

Suki Ferguson reviews the XR guide to climate activism

Review – Decolonial Communism, Democracy and the Commons

A collection of essays which could be a key resource for those seeking to create economic alternatives, edited by Catherine Samary and Fred Leplat. Reviewed by Derek Wall

Review – We Need New Stories: Challenging the Toxic Myths Behind Our Age of Discontent

A book that systematically unpicks the myths that are spread in order to preserve the status quo, written by Nesrine Malik. Reviewed by Leah Cowan


Review – Letters of Solidarity and Friendship: Czechoslovakia 1968-71

Letters between Leslie Parker and Paul Zalud, edited by David Parker. Reviewed by Mary Kaldor

Review – Finding a Voice: Asian women in Britain

Finding a Voice: Asian women in Britain, by Amrit Wilson, reviewed by Maya Goodfellow

Chav Solidarity

Ewa Jasiewicz reviews the new book by D Hunter