The Tauber Institute for the Study of European Jewry

Between Jew and Arab: The Lost Voice of Simon Rawidowicz

David N. Myers

David N. Myers "Between Jew & Arab" The Lost Voice of Simon Rawidowicz" book cover with painting of a  man on a winding road through a Middle East village.

An exploration of the fascinating Jewish thinker Simon Rawidowicz and his provocative views on Arab refugees and the fate of Israel, this book brings new attention to Rawidowicz (1896–1957), who taught at Brandeis University in the 1950s.

At the heart of Myers’ book is a chapter that Rawidowicz wrote as a coda to his Hebrew tome, "Babylon and Jerusalem," (1957) but never published. In it, Rawidowicz shifted his decades-long preoccupation with the "Jewish Question" to what he called the "Arab Question." Asserting that the Arab Question had become a most urgent political and moral matter for Jews after 1948, Rawidowicz called for an end to discrimination against Arabs resident in Israel — and more provocatively, for the repatriation of Arab refugees from 1948.

Myers’ book is divided into two main sections. Part I introduces the life and intellectual development of Rawidowicz. It traces the evolution of his thinking about the Jewish Question, namely, the status of Jews as a national minority in the Diaspora. Part II concentrates on the shift occasioned by the creation of the State of Israel, when Jews assumed political sovereignty and entered into a new relationship with the native Arab population. Myers analyzes the structure, content and context of Rawidowicz’s unpublished chapter on the Arab Question, paying particular attention to Rawidowicz’s calls for an end to discrimination against Arabs in Israel, on the one hand, and for the repatriation of those refugees who left Palestine in 1948, on the other.

The volume also includes a full English translation of "Between Jew and Arab," a timeline of significant events and an appendix of official legal documents from Israel and the international community pertaining to the conflict.

"This stirring and exquisite volume restores to vitality an essential principle and an essential man. The principle is that power must answer to morality — and that this is a central teaching of the experience of the Jews in exile, which the Jews in their state cannot evade. The man is Simon Rawidowicz, one of the most original Jewish thinkers of the 20th century, whose ideas are uncannily pertinent to the Jewish situation now. In the skill with which he blends erudition and engagement, David Myers reminds me distinctly of his hero." — Leon Wieseltier

"Simon Rawidowicz was one of the most penetrating and original Jewish thinkers of our time. As this volume demonstrates, he was also among the most controversial. At once a ‘lonely man’ of conscience and a ‘lover of Israel,’ Rawidowicz was unafraid to advocate unpopular views that he believed reflected the highest ideals of the Jewish people. David Myers deserves our gratitude for introducing us to this unknown, challenging essay." — Michael A. Meyer, Adolph S. Ochs Professor of Jewish History, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion

"In 'Between Jew and Arab: The Lost Voice of Simon Rawidowicz,' David Myers provides the crucial service of recovering the prescient words that one of the most profoundly learned and morally sensitive Jewish thinkers of the 20th century put forward on the question of Israel and its relationship to the Palestinians. By translating and contextualizing this Hebrew essay written more than 50 years ago by the first head of the Near Eastern and Judaic studies department at Brandeis University, Myers has done more than written a work of great intellectual interest for students of modern Jewish history and thought. He has also broadcast a thought-provoking and morally challenging book that is of the utmost importance for anyone concerned about the contemporary state of Israeli-Palestinian relations." — David Ellenson, President, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion

"This well-written and insightful book by David Myers has unearthed the voice of Simon Rawidowicz, a Jewish intellectual and man of letters, who was completely forgotten over the last 50 years. Rawidowicz proposed an alternative vision of the relations between Jew and Arab in the Holy Land, and between the Jewish state and the Jewish Diaspora. Though controversial and considered out of touch with reality, the moral issues he raised are relevant to this very day." — Anita Shapira, Tel Aviv University

About the Author

David N. Myers is professor of history and director of the UCLA Center for Jewish Studies. He is the author of "Re-Inventing the Jewish Past" (1995) and "Resisting History" (2003).