Peter Beinart's much talked-about book, The Crisis of Zionism, which was published in March, "discusses recent research that shows a dangerous erosion in the commitment by ordinary Israelis to basic democratic values and the concomitant rise of hypernationalist, racist, and totalitarian tendencies, some of them well represented in the ultra-right parties in the Knesset and in the current Israeli cabinet," wrote David Schulman (who lives in Israel) in the Jun. 7 number of the New York Review of Books.[1]  --  "We could also describe what is happening, more simply, as a takeover by the settler mini-state of the central institutions of the Israeli state system as a whole."  --  "By now, Israeli policy is almost entirely mortgaged to the settler enterprise."  --  "[W]hat goes on in the territories is not a matter of episodic abuse of basic human rights, something that could be corrected by relatively minor, ad hoc actions of protest and redress.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The occupation is systemic in every sense of the word. . . . The security aspect of the occupation is, in my view, close to trivial; were it a primary goal, the situation on the ground would look very different."  --  "Beinart’s deliberately understated description of the occupation seem, from a local perspective in Israel-Palestine, far too mild."  --  COMMENT: The thesis advanced by Beinart, a graduate of Yale and a former Rhodes scholar, is that a good Zionism has been increasingly displaced by a bad Zionism.  --  Though he inveighs against “comfortable” Zionism, Beinart is too comfortable himself, choosing to ignore a growing body of historical work by figures like Ilan Pappe (The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine [2006]), Shlomo Sand (The Invention of the Jewish People [2009; orig. ed. 2008]), and Norman Finkelstein (Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, 2nd. ed. [2003; orig. ed. 1995]), that sees the roots of Zionism themselves as morally suspect.  --  As Finkelstein puts it:  Zionism is “a kind of Romantic nationalism fundamentally at odds with liberal values” (Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, p. xxxix).  --  Indeed, “political Zionisms’s point of departure was the presumed bankruptcy of the democratic idea” (ibid., p. 8).  --  This would suggest that the development of Zionism we are now witnessing is part of its inner logic, as it were, and that Beinart’s nostrum of encouragement for liberal values within Zionism is merely a pipe dream....

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Steve Coll's new book about ExxonMobil explores the closed, strict, quasi-military corporate culture of the world's largest company by revenue.  --  A brief interview with Coll was published Sunday by Reuters.[1] ...

A "thorough and admirable new book about the history of Islamic law" reports that there are only four crimes whose punishment the Koran authorizes:  "theft, fornication, false witness and waging war against Islam," said a review published in Tuesday's New York Times.[1]  --  All the other provisions in what is called "Shariah" or Islamic law are later accretions.  --  "Stoning, for example, is not mentioned in the Koran as a punishment for adultery."  --  The author, who has done work for the ACLU, is Sadakat Kadri, is Muslim by birth born in London who is "a half-Finnish and half-Pakistani English barrister with a master’s degree from Harvard Law School."  --  "He is furious that fundamentalists 'have associated the Shariah in many people’s minds with some of the deadliest legal systems on the planet.'  He calls them traditionalists who ignore tradition.  He is disgusted that warped opinions 'are mouthed today to validate murder after murder in Islam’s name.'"  --  A London Guardian review of the British edition, published in January, said that Heaven on Earth thematizes "the tension between text and context."[2]  --  While Dwight Garner in the Times preferred the second, journalistic part of the book, Aatish Taseer greatly prefers the first, historical part:  "I have read few books that give as humane and believable a portrait of the Prophet as this."  --  Another British reviewer in the London Telegraph said his favorite story from the book was this:  "One day while saying his prayers, a Sufi mystic was addressed by God.  'Do you want me to tell people what I know about your sins?' asked God.  The Sufi replied by asking whether he should reveal the extent of His mercy, which if believers knew would make them ignore the sharia.  'Keep your secret,' replied God, 'and I will keep mine.'"[3] ...