David Barak-GorodetskyNov 18, 2021
The Prophetic Politics of a Religious Binationalist
University of Nebraska Press 2021
In this episode, I interview David Barak-Gorodetzky about his new book, Judah Magnes: The Prophetic Politics of a Religious Binationalist (U Nebraska Press, 2021). This comprehensive intellectual biography of Judah Magnes—the Reform rabbi, American Zionist leader, and inaugural Hebrew University chancellor—offers novel analysis of how theology and politics intertwined to drive Magnes’s writings and activism—especially his championing of a binational state—against all odds. Like a prophet unable to suppress his prophecy, Magnes could not resist a religious calling to take political action, whatever the cost. In Palestine no one understood his uniquely American pragmatism and insistence that a constitutional system was foundational for a just society. Jewish leaders regarded his prophetic politics as overly conciliatory and dangerous for negotiations. Magnes’s central European allies in striving for a binational Palestine, including Martin Buber, credited him with restoring their faith in politics, but they ultimately retreated from binationalism to welcome the new State of Israel. In candidly portraying the complex Magnes as he understood himself, Barak-Gorodetsky elucidates why Magnes persevered, despite evident lack of Arab interest, to advocate binationalism with Truman in May 1948 at the ultimate price of Jewish sovereignty. Accompanying Magnes on his long-misunderstood journey, we gain a unique broader perspective: on early peacemaking efforts in Israel/Palestine, the American Jewish role in the history of the state, binationalism as political theology, an American view of binationalism, and the charged realities of Israel today.
Bar Guzi is PhD candidate at Brandeis University. His research focuses on modern Jewish thought and theology. Bar’s dissertation discerns and conceptualizes a non-supernaturalistic current of American Jewish thought that is nevertheless profoundly concerned with God. He can be found on Twitter and reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.