Politics, Media and International Relations

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Jacob L. Talmon

Mission and Testimony: Political Essays

David Ohana is a full professor of history at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. His areas of research include the intellectual and cultural history of modern Europe, Mediterranean studies, and Israeli identity. He studied under Jacob Talmon at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, and was a fellow at the Sorbonne, Harvard and Berkeley. Among his many books are the trilogy The Nihilist Order (Sussex Academic Press) and The Origins of Israeli Mythology (Cambridge University Press).

Foreword by Isaiah Berlin

Isaiah Berlin, in his “Tribute to a Friend", wrote about the historian Jacob L. Talmon (1916–1980): No matter what his theoretical interests were, or the topics on which he was lecturing or writing, his deepest concern was with the Jewish people, its history, its religious, moral and social values, its place among the nations, its future in Israel and the diaspora." These words capture the essence of Talmon’s political essays presented in Mission and Testimony.

Talmon was chosen by an international committee of scholars as one of the twenty major historians of the twentieth century, declaring that "his historiography was a convincing apologia for human freedom.” He owes his fame primarily to his magnum opus, the trilogy that began with The Origins of Totalitarian Democracy (1952), continued with Political Messianism (1960) and concluded with The Myth of the Nation and the Vision of Revolution (1981).

This edited collection of Talmon's essays comprises the following: Part I, “The Nature of Jewish history”, deals with the Jewish presence in history, the universal significance of Jewish history, and the impact of Jewish intellectuals. Part II, “From Anti-Semitism to the Holocaust”, concerns the anti-Semitic climate of opinion that led to the Holocaust. Part III depicts the regional and global situation of the State of Israel. In Part IV, “Intellectual and Political Debates”, Talmon confronts intellectuals and statesmen such as Arnold Toynbee and Menachem Begin. Part V, “Profiles in History”, depicts the intellectual portraits of the historian Lewis Namier and the physicist and champion of human rights Andrei Sakharov.

Paperback ISBN: 978-1-84519-741-4
Paperback Price: £25.00 / $34.95
Release Date: October 2015
Page Extent / Format: 400 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: No


Introduction: David Ohana – The Historian as an Intellectual
Foreword: Isaiah Berlin – A Tribute to My Friend

A. The Nature of Jewish History
1. Prophetism and Ideology – The Jewish Presence in History (The Jerusalem Quarterly, Number 3, Spring 1977).
2. The Nature of Jewish History – Its Universal Significance (published by The Hillel Foundation, London, 1957. The lecture was delivered at the Gustave Tuck Theatre, University College, London, on 17th October 1956, under the chairmanship of the Rt. Hon. Viscount Samuel).
3. The Jewish Intellectuals in Politics – New Factors in an Ancient Tradition (Jewish Observer and Middle East Review, Vol. XIV No. 39, 24 September 1965).
4. Jews between "Right" and "Left" (Midstream, Summer 1958; a translation from Hebrew, Ha'aretz 25.9.57).
5. Suggestion for Isolating the Jewish Component in World History (Midstream, March 1972).

B. From Anti-Semitism to the Holocaust
1. Mission and Testimony – The Universal Significance of Modern Anti-Semitism (Essays on Human Rights: Contemporary Issues and Jewish Perspectives, ed. David Sidorsky, 1979, Philadelphia, Pa: The Jewish Publication Society of America, pp. 336-359).
2. The New Anti-Semitism (The New Republic: A Journal of Politics and the Arts, September 18, 1976).
3. European History as the Seedbed of the Holocaust (Midstream, May 1973. The lecture was delivered at the Yad Vashem symposium – "The Holocaust and the Rebirth of Israel," Jerusalem, April 19, 1973).

C. Israel Between War and Peace
1. For Total Peace in the Middle East (International Problems, the quarterly of the Israeli Institute of International Affairs, Political Doctrine and Problems of Developing Countries, Jerusalem, Nov.-Dec. 1967, VI /3-4, pp. 60-68).
2. Israel and the Arab World (The Jewish Quarterly 17/ 3-4 (63-64), Winter 1969).
3. Domestic and International Politics: A Presentation (Congress Bi-Weekly, 8/2-3, February 26, 1971, 39-42: following the 8th Annual American-Israel Dialogue, on "Reciprocal Rights and Responsibilities of American and Israeli Jews.")
4. Reflections of an Historian in Jerusalem (Encounter, May 1976).
5. Sadat's Peace Initiative and Its' Aftermath (The Jewish Quarterly 26/1 (95), Spring 1978).

D. Intellectual and Political Debates
1. The Argument between Arabs and Jews: An Exchange between Arnold Toynbee and J.L. Talmon (Encounter, October 1967).
2. An Open Letter to the Minister of Information (Ma'ariv, May 1969; translated to English and published as A letter to his Establishment by an Israeli Intellectual by the Arab Information Center, New York 1969).
3. The Mideast War: A Rejoinder (The New York Review, 24 January 1974. In the November 15 issue appeared a statement on the Mideast War signed by twenty-one members of The Hebrew University in Jerusalem. In the November 29 issue Prof. Daniel Amit of The Hebrew University replied in the form of an open letter to Prof. Jacob Talmon, one of the signers of the statement. This is Talmon's rejoinder to Amit).
4. "The Homeland is in Danger": An Open Letter to Menahem Begin (Ma'ariv, May 1969).

E. Profiles in History

1. The Ordeal of Sir Lewis Namier – the Man, the Historian, the Jew (Commentary 33, 1962).
2. Andrei Sakharov's Ordeal (Midstream, February 1977).

Bibliography of J. L. Talmon

Reviewed in Diálogo Filosófico, Sept./Dec. 2016

The 19 articles by historian Talmon (1916–80) explore the nature of Jewish history, from anti-Semitism to the Holocaust, Israel between war and peace, intellectual and political debates, and profiles in history. Among the topics are the Jewish intellectual in politics: new factors in an ancient tradition, European history: seedbed of the Holocaust, reflections of a historian in Jerusalem, the argument between Arabs and Jews: an exchange between Arnold Toynbee and J. L. Talmon, and the homeland is in danger — an open letter to Menahem Begin.

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