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the Complete Review
the complete review - travel


The Israeli Republic

Jalal Al-e Ahmad

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To purchase The Israeli Republic

Title: The Israeli Republic
Author: Jalal Al-e Ahmad
Genre: Non-fiction
Written: (1964/7) (Eng. 2014)
Length: 71 pages
Original in: Persian
Availability: The Israeli Republic - US (Kindle)
The Israeli Republic - UK (Kindle)
The Israeli Republic - Canada (Kindle)
  • Persian title: سفر به ولایت عزراییل
  • Currently only available in e-format
  • Translated and with an essay by Samuel Thrope
  • Previously translated as Journey to the Realm of Azrael by Siamak Adhami (2012)

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Our Assessment:

B : limited but interesting document of the times

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Foreign Affairs . 3-4/2014 Bernard Avishai

  From the Reviews:
  • "It makes for fascinating reading, not least because it is strikingly positive. The travelogue conjures up a long-lost era of calmness and curiosity between Iranians and Israelis, as well as the naive yet potent Third World ideology so common in developing countries at the time. (...) The admiration Al-e Ahmad showed for the Israel he saw in 1963 is one reflection of the confident piety one saw at the founding of the Islamic Republic: the human face of the revolution (.....) Al-e Ahmadís little chronicle is instructive. It is not instructive in the way he intended." - Bernard Avishai, Foreign Affairs

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Israeli Republic -- not actually published until 1984 -- is a short, five-section book occasioned by Jalal Al-e Ahmad's 1963 visit to Israel. While Israeli-Arab tensions were already high at that time, Iran still had closer ties to Israel; with the 1967 War this, and Al-e Ahmad's attitude, changed -- and the final of the five chapters, added in 1967, (and titled: 'The Beginning of Disgust') addresses this, but much of the book is one that sees in the Israeli example a sort of political ideal.
       Al-e Ahmad's hajj-account, Lost in the Crowd, is more of a travel diary than The Israeli Republic is. While Al-e Ahmad also describes parts of his two-week trip, and his encounters, here, the book is more focusedly polemical.
       Al-e Ahmad opens with his major point, of seeing Israel as a "guardianship state" -- a velayat, "a model state shepherded by clerical guardians, less than prophets but much more than politicians.", as translator Samuel Thrope explains in his helpful and thorough Introduction. This is, Thrope notes, a: "provocative and electrifying" claim. The Jewish state might seem an unlikely one for Muslim ones -- and specifically Iran -- to emulate, but Al-e Ahmad suggests that such a system could apply equally well -- and is certainly preferable to the then (and presumably also now) current states of affairs in the Arab states and Iran (even as the modern Islamic Republic claims to rely on a form of velayat).
       Persian Al-e Ahmad offers a perspective as a: "a non-Arab Easterner" -- on the same side of the (colonial) West/(colonized and capitalistically exploited) East divide as the Arabs, but with a different sort of historical awareness of and attitude towards the Jewish presence in the Middle East. While even before 1967 he sees the Israeli-land grab as problematic, he remains highly critical of how the Arab world approaches the issue -- and suggests, for example, that Israel's very existence is pretty much the only thing that: "has instilled in the Arab heart" any sort of sense of unity (and wondering what they'd do if they didn't have Israel as a common enemy any longer).
       While Al-e Ahmad offers little more than a quick survey of the evolution of the Jewish state, his perspective on the historic Jewish presence in Palestine and, for example, the changing demographics over the many decades both before and now after the establishment of the state of Israel, are of some interest. The final section, written in light of -- and describing the events of -- the 1967 war are considerably sharper and more critical; they're also presented as: "a freind's letter", to which Al-e Ahmad reports adding:

a thing or two of my own. The nonsense and beard-pulling is mine; the reasonable speech his.
       In conclusion Al-e Ahmad comes down against the "ridiculous demagoguery" of Nasser et al., and argues that:
The only solution to the problem is forming a federal government of Arabs and Jews called Palestine.
       The Israeli Republic is a slim volume, but Al-e Ahmad's text, supported by Samuel Thrope's useful Introduction and Endnotes, make for an interesting perspective. In particular, as some commentators have already noted, Al-e Ahmad's view of the Israeli "guardianship state" is also still relevant in the present day, as Israel continues to struggle with the contours of its political system.

- M.A.Orthofer, 22 February 2015

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The Israeli Republic: Reviews: Jalāl Āl-e Ahmad: Other books by Jalal Al-e Ahmad under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Seyyed Jalaloddin Sadat Al-e Ahmad (جلال آل احمد) (1923-1969) was a leading Iranian author.

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© 2015 the complete review

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