ISRAELISM: Arab Scholarship on Israel, a Critical Assessment

ISRAELISM: Arab Scholarship on Israel, a Critical Assessment

Some researchers have done fact-findings about Israel unilaterally, but Israelism: Arab Scholarship on Israel, a Critical Assessment aspires to stress the critique of Israeli studies in the Arab world. This book also points out to the underdevelopment of Israeli studies in Arab society. Since the onset of the Israel-Palestine controversy, the studies and research about Israel have lacked objectivity being too much viewed through the conflict prism. Nevertheless, Hassan A. Barari emphasizes that providing a critique of the Israeli studies in the Arab World should provide an academic perspective in order to understand what and how to deal with Israel.

The book encompasses five sections: Conceptual Framework, Pan-Arabist and Leftist Discourses, Religious Discourse, Arab Regimes and Conclusions; each chapter has its own basis and concern on Israeli studies. Hassan A. Barari shows the lack of knowledge of Israel  in the Arab World and analyzes different Arab schools of thought, such as Pan-Arabism, Marxist theory and religious thought, applied to this topic.

Regarding the first chapter, it is clear that the crucial aim of the book is to identify whether Israeli studies have progressed in the Arab world as a field of area studies or not.  Analyzing the basic discourses dominant among the Arab scholars, it shows they have failed to provide a sound and well-informed research and analysis  on Israel despite of theplentifulness of  scholarly books and articles, having been written on the topicin Arabic. While trying to understand Israel, Arabs scholars presume that srael could not be understood separately from Zionism . Moreover, the epistemology and ontological views of Israel studies have been neglected in Arab society. “Whereas E. Said wrangles that Orient is studied in order to dominate in the East by the West, Israelism is studied to single it out as the main enemy that needs to be checked at every step.”  

Pursuant to next chapter, the book attempts at claiming  that during the first two decades of the Israel-Palestine conflict, due to the increasing influence of Pan-Arabist and Marxist discourses in the Arab society, there was no room for studying  Israel within this context. Here, H. Barari juxtaposes two main discourses on the both sides, Pan-Arabism-Zionism and Marxism-Imperialism. In terms of the Pan-Arabist and Marxist schools, Zionism in the name of Israel will vanish one day. Also, Marxists believe that Israel was a product of the British imperialism. 

The third part of the book talks about Religious Discourse and Islamic Scholars from M. Rashid to Sayyid Qutb viewed  within a religious context. After the 1967 war in Israel,  the new term-Political Islam came to the fore instead of Pan-Arabism and Marxism. Political Islam has been the dominant force  struggling with the corrupt regimes in the Middle East. According to  Islamic scholar Mohammed Rashid Rida’s opinion, in order to confront Zionism, it needs to understand it first.  The Author points out that the conflict between Israel and the Arab countries in the eyes of the Islamic movementswas rooted in the historical controversy between  Muslims and Jews . And he also emphasizes that Islamic societies have always attached critical importance to Israel and Zionism. From that point, during that time, it was difficult to move on studying Israel. 

The book also discusses the topic of Arab regimes and the making of a Discourse". In that chapter, theauthor mainly mentions that Arab regimes have been divided into political and ideological parts, and between political and academic freedom. The main argument is emphasized that governments of the Arab countries reportedly used the Arab-Israel controversy in order to manipulate and shape its internal political and socio-economic position in an effective way. These corrupted Arab regimes used “Israel” in order to draw away people's minds from their poor economic condition.  Moreover, the political-cultural atmosphere of most Islamic countries lacks democracy and freedom. According to Bernard Lewis, he blames it on Islam due to the religious duty of citizens’ obedience.

This book is a good point of reference for political scientists, especially for those with a focus in area studies. If one's main research concerns the Middle East, it will inevitably deal with the Arab-Israeli conflict at some point. Arab Scholarship on Israel provides an objective look at Israel studies in the Arab world, and why it did not latch on. The extent to which Israel is studied in Arab world should also be taken into consideration in order to provide a comprehensive understanding of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Israelism: Arab Scholarship on Israel, a Critical Assessment focuses on the underdevelopment of Israeli studies in the Mashreq Arab countries. The book encompasses  major historical, political and intellectual contexts throughout the chapters and how they helped to form the dominant method and point of view on Israeli studies. Regarding the analyzed works, the book also demonstrates the image of Israel as createdby scholarly research in the Arab countries. Nevertheless, except for a critique of the status of Israeli studies in the Arab world, one of the main points is to attract people's minds to the problem and look through how to improve further Israeli studies in Arab World.


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