Israel's Holocaust and the Politics of Nationhood

Israel's Holocaust and the Politics of Nationhood

The ghost of the Holocaust is ever present in Israel, in the lives and nightmares of the survivors and in the absence of the victims. In this compelling and disturbing analysis, Idith Zertal, a leading member of the new generation of revisionist historians in Israel, considers the ways Israel has used the memory of the Holocaust to define and legitimize its existence and politics. Drawing on a wide range of sources, the author exposes the pivotal role of the Holocaust in Israel's public sphere, in its project of nation building, its politics of power, and its perception of the conflict with the Palestinians. She argues that the centrality of the Holocaust has led to a culture of death and victimhood that permeates Israel's society and self-image. For the updated paperback edition of the book, Tony Judt, the world-renowned historian and political commentator, has contributed a foreword in which he writes of Zertal's courage, the originality of her work, and the “unforgiving honesty with which she looks at the moral condition of her own country.”


"This is a brilliant and unsettling book that charts new, deeply submerged territories of the collective consciousness and sub-consciousness of Israeli society. The book is a major contribution to our understanding of the history of Israeli life and mentality." Shlomo Ben Ami, Emeritus Professor of Modern History, Tel Aviv University, and former foreign minister of Israel

"The book is admirably perceptive, nuanced, and sophisticated... Dr Zertal is not a linear historian or mere chronicler of events. She is an intellectual and cultural historian of the highest distinction." Avi Shlaim, Professor of International Relations, University of Oxford

"A moving and profound reflection on the role of mourning, death and victimhood in Israel." Henry Rousso, L'Express

"Idith Zertal's excellent book follows the history of the manipulation of the Holocaust from the inception of Israel to the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin." --Ilan Pappe, Bookforum Oct/Nov 2005

“For those seeking insight into the differences in current Israeli politics, Zertal provides a unique analysis of the intersection between past and present. Highly recommended.”

"A major contribution to a debate and conversation which will only grow more important in years to come...No one interested in the history and politics of the contemporary Middle East can ignore this book." -Tony Judt, University Professor and Director of the Remarque Institute, New York University

'… can hardly be faulted on matters of detail and accuracy … Zertal successfully deconstructs a number of myths in recent Israeli historiography.' The Times Literary Supplement

'Zertal successfully deconstructs a number of myths in recent Israeli historiography … and the young generation in Israel today will not have heard of many of the myths deconstructed with so much admirable gusto in this book.' The Times