"The Lions' Den" by Susie Linfield

The Lions' Den Zionism and the Left from Hannah Arendt to Noam Chomsky Susie Linfield

Publication date:
13 Oct 2020
Yale University Press
400 pages: 235 x 156mm
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A lively intellectual history that explores how prominent midcentury public intellectuals approached Zionism and then the State of Israel itself and its conflicts with the Arab world

In this lively intellectual history of the political Left, cultural critic Susie Linfield investigates how eight prominent twentieth-century intellectuals struggled with the philosophy of Zionism, and then with Israel and its conflicts with the Arab world. Constructed as a series of interrelated portraits that combine the personal and the political, the book includes philosophers, historians, journalists, and activists such as Hannah Arendt, Arthur Koestler, I. F. Stone, and Noam Chomsky. In their engagement with Zionism, these influential thinkers also wrestled with the twentieth century’s most crucial political dilemmas: socialism, nationalism, democracy, colonialism, terrorism, and anti‑Semitism. In other words, in probing Zionism, they confronted the very nature of modernity and the often catastrophic histories of our time. By examining these leftist intellectuals, Linfield also seeks to understand how the contemporary Left has become focused on anti‑Zionism and how Israel itself has moved rightward.

Susie Linfield teaches cultural journalism at New York University. A former editor at the Washington Post and the Village Voice, she has written for a wide variety of publications including the New York Times,The Nation,Dissent, and the New Republic. Her previous book, The Cruel Radiance: Photography and Political Violence, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

"Original . . .Interesting . . . Important . . . Urgent."—J.J. Goldberg, New York Times Book Review 

“Linfield explores her theme through the writing of a galaxy of intellectuals”– David Feldman, Financial Times

“The book is a brilliant, intellectual, sociological exploration of eight popular, prolific thinkers and writers”— Harold Goldmeier, American Thinker

Named one of two Fall 2019 Natan Notable Books, sponsored by The Jewish Book Council  

"The Lions’ Den is a brilliantly incisive commentary on eight intellectuals who wrote about the Israel/Palestine conflict. Susie Linfield is herself the ninth intellectual in this book, with a strong and persuasive position of her own."—Michael Walzer, author of A Foreign Policy for the Left

"You don’t have to be enthralled by the Left, Judaism, or Zionism to enjoy this riveting book. Wherever you stand on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, this is a must for devotees of fascinating, intriguing, exhilarating, and exciting debates."—Hussein Agha, coauthor of A Framework for a Palestinian National Security Doctrine

“Why have some of the brightest minds in the American and European Left been unable to understand Jewish nationalism? The Lions’Den is a fascinating, uniquely incisive inquiry into the limits of the intellectual Left as it tries to deal with the harsh realities of our world.”—Zeev Sternhell, author of The Founding Myths of Israel: Nationalism, Socialism, and the Making of the Jewish State

“How has the stormy yet often devoted marriage of the Left and Zionism devolved into a minefield of acrimonious disputes? Susie Linfield approaches this polarizing subject with her customary brilliant vision and generous spirit. An original and essential contribution.”—Ruth Franklin, author of A Thousand Darknesses: Lies and Truth in Holocaust Fiction

"The Lions’ Den is an exemplary intellectual history that comes to grips with both the tragedy of Zionism and the way in which anti-Zionism became a touchstone for the global Left. It is scrupulous, unflinching, lucid, timely, and morally serious.”—Todd Gitlin, author of The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage