Publisher: Balfour Books
Today, Norm Goldman Publisher & Editor of Bookpleasures.com is honored to have as our guest the distinguished Professor Emeritus in political science at Rutgers University, Dr. Michael Curtis.
Dr. Curtis was born in London, England and was educated at the London School of Economics. He came to the USA to study American political systems and stayed to pursue a doctorate at Cornell University. In addition to his teaching career at Rutgers, Dr. Curtis has taught at Yale, Hebrew University, Tel Aviv University, University of Bologna, as well as given lectures at hundreds of institutions around the world. He is very highly regarded as an expert in several fields including political theory, comparative government, European politics and the Middle East.
His recent book Should Israel Exist? A Sovereign Nation Under Attack by the International Community has been described as “a tour de force which refutes the legal, political and historical attacks on Israel's right to exist that have been launched by Israel's enemies and detractors.”
Among his approximately 30 other books a few should be singled out as being particularly important and influential. His analysis of the rise of anti-democratic and antisemitic ideology in France after the Dreyfus affair in a book called Three Against the Third Republic is considered the definitive study of early 20th century French politics. Totalitarianism is a study of 20th century European totalitarian regimes. Antisemitism in the Contemporary World is a collection based on the papers delivered at a groundbreaking conference on antisemitism that Professor Curtis organized in the 1980s. This book continues to be referred to today as laying out some of the most important theories about the origins, rise, and persistence of antisemitism throughout the world. Professor Curtis is also the author of many textbooks that cover political theory, comparative government, and European government structure.
Michael Curtis has been an activist as well as a scholar. For many years, he was the president of American Professors for Peace in the Middle East and editor of the Middle East Review. As such he was often called upon by the press and television for comments on the Middle East conflict over the last decades.
Good day Dr. Curtis and thanks for participating in our interview.
Thank you for asking me.
How did you decide you were ready to write Should Israel Exist? As a follow up, what was the time-line between the time you decided to write your book and publication? What were the major events along the way?
I have been disturbed for a long time by the relentless, unremitting attacks on Israel, and the condemnations of the state, irrespective of any particular actions or policies. There is of course nothing wrong with criticism of Israeli activities on specific issues. But my concern is the continual, automatic, thoughtless, negative response to the state with one-sided approaches and application of a double standard by international bodies, non-governmental organizations, the media, and in the academy. I therefore decided to answer the false, and usually ridiculous, charges and accusations made against Israel which was condemned for racism, oppression, colonialism, imperialism, and, especially, for being an “apartheid” state.
I tried to do this, and I believe I succeeded, in doing so in a non-polemical, non-propagandistic fashion by rational arguments which might interest and appeal to individuals of good will, and those genuinely concerned for human rights, who would appreciate an objective analysis of the complex issues concerning Israel and its neighbors. I wrote in a style suitable for popular consumption, for the general reader interested in serious issues, a style that was devoid of jargon, academic or otherwise, and which was clear and comprehensible, and not capable of misinterpretation. I also wanted to make clear that the false charges were not only mischievous but that they were also counterproductive in hindering a possible peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.
It took about a year after the completion of the manuscript for it to be published by Balfour Books. During my career I have written a considerable number of books, the most recent of which have been published by Cambridge University Press, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, and Harper and Collins. To my surprise no major publishing house accepted the manuscript. I genuinely believe that Should Israel Exist? is the best of my books and I remain mystified why it was not immediately accepted. Perhaps you can offer an explanation.
However, the book was published by Balfour Books. This is a small firm with an excellent, energetic publisher, and I have been very happy with their efforts for the book to be well produced and to have maximum impact. The various processes necessary for publication proceeded smoothly and rapidly, without incident.
was the most difficult part in writing your book?
I enjoyed the research necessary, deciding how to tackle the many issues involved and to arrange the material in logical order. I tried to clarify all the terms used so by those groups and individuals hostile to Israel that one can immediately observe their bias or deliberate falsehood. I was particularly concerned to deal with the abuse and misuse of international law by international bodies and by Palestinians who have been engaging in what has been called “lawfare,” war by legal means. In view of the number of issues to be discussed and their importance the only problem I had was to keep the MSS down to a reasonable size, about 300 pages, so the reader would not suffer from fatigue or intellectual exhaustion.
are your hopes for your book and why and why do you think this is an
important book at this time? Is there a message in your book that you
want your readers to grasp?
I hope the book will be read by as wide an audience as possible, those people concerned to examine in a serious and objective way the complex issues of the Israeli-Arab conflict. At a time when extreme Islamist forces are becoming more important in a number of Muslim countries, when Iran is developing its nuclear facilities and calls for the destruction of Israel, when the Syrian government is slaughtering its own people, when the Palestinians are politically divided, the book is helpful in showing the real nature of the opponents of Israel.
It suggests that Western radicals and those fair- minded people genuinely concerned about violations of human rights will rethink their critical attitude towards Israel. The book makes clear the way in which the operation of international bodies, especially the organs of the United Nations, has been abused, in a manner contrary to the Charter of the UN, and to genuine principles of international law.
has been the reaction from the media and others to your book? Any
Yes, I have been very surprised by the lack of attention given the book by the media. Your own, very generous and thoughtful review has been an exception. At the moment there are 11 very positive reviews on Amazon, but to this point no major paper or journal has reviewed it. I had expected reviews from Wall Street Journal, Commentary, TNR, The Weekly Standard, etc. but none have appeared. Again, you might help explain this.
are Israel's public relations so poor, particularly when it comes to
getting across their narrative in responding to the broad-based
propaganda and incitement by the Arab world-sometimes referred to as
Arab psychological warfare?
think the essential reason is that the Arab nations, Russia
(certainly the former Soviet Union) and other countries have been
successful in perpetrating the Palestinian narrative, the Big Lie,
the lie that Israel is an “apartheid” state, guilty of gross
violations of human rights. The Palestinians have portrayed
themselves as victims of an oppressive Israel that acts as a Goliath.
They have acquired the mantle of compassion and empathy from those
willing to help what is supposed to be the weaker party in a
Those outsiders interested in human rights ignore both the repressive and corrupt governance of the Palestinian Authority, or the terror tactics of Hamas, and the constant physical attacks on Israeli civilians, as well as the principles of liberty and equality inherent in the state of Israel. I trust my book will help them realize that this ignorance leads to a polarizing of political positions, oversimplifying a complex situation, and is a hindrance to a peaceful settlement.
do you believe will it take to have peace between the Palestinians
and the Israelis? Do you believe that there ever will be peace?
am an optimist, maybe a cock-eyed optimist, and believe that a
solution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict is possible. All it needs
for negotiations to begin is for the Arab groups, including the
Palestinians, to recognize the existence and legitimacy of the state
of Israel, the state that exemplifies the self-determination of the
can our readers find out more about you and your book?
I do not lead a secretive life. I am available for interviews. My books and articles are readily available. I love to discuss serious issues with serious people, recognizing that differences are inevitable in life, and that we must live with those with whom we differ in as tolerable and peaceful a manner as possible.
My book is available at Amazon Books Hard Cover, and I believe at Barnes and Noble and other book-stores.
our interview is coming to an end, is there anything else you wish to
add and what is next for Dr. Michael Curtis?
I want to thank you again for your kind invitation and for your review of my book which I will treasure as a most serious intellectual contribution to discussion.
I keep writing on subjects that interest me and will continue to do so. So watch out.
Thanks once again and good luck with your excellent book.