Book reviews

Justice, Jesus, and the Jews: A Proposal for Jewish-Christian Relations, Michael L. Cook sj. Michael Glazier Book published by The Liturgical Press, Minnesota, 2003. isbn 0 8146 5148 8

The relations between Jews and Christians have been notoriously strained. Justice, Jesus, and the Jews is a well-documented attempt to find common ground for contemporary Judaism and Christianity in the Biblical tradition out of which they both came. Cook argues that when Jesus spoke of the kingdom of God, he drew upon the central notion of justice that taught that God alone was king in Israel, that Israel was called to be a society in which there was neither poverty nor oppression, and that the reign of God had to take some social form. Jesus criticised the religious practices and institutions of his own day at the points where they neglected these principles.

To share common ground is not to agree. Both Judaism and Christianity have moved beyond the conditions of 1st-century Palestine, and beyond the emphases of Jesus in addressing that situation. Indeed, Cook’s presentation of a Jesus who has a sharp interest in the shape that kingdoms take in this world will challenge many Christians. His understanding that God alone is king, that kingdoms are not to be trusted when they appeal to God, and that the test of any Christian politic is the priority it gives to overcoming poverty and oppression will challenge Jews and Christians alike, particularly these days.  

Andrew Hamilton sj

The Land is a Map: Placenames of Indigenous Origin in Australia, Luise Hercus, Flavia Hodges & Jane Simpson(eds). Pandanus Books in association with Pacific Linguistics, 2002.
isbn 1 74076 020 4, rrp $38.50

When Australian Indigenous history hits the newspapers, the cause and focus of discussion are usually disedifying. It is a relief to turn to such a handsome and painstaking work as The Land is a Map. It provides detailed and astringent reading. It is also a humane work, for it values the cultures which it studies for the sake of the people who formed these cultures, and not simply for their place in the

commentator’s view of the world.

The book contributes to the broader enterprise of recording Indigenous placenames in northern Australia. These names have often been superseded by the names given by settlers. Even amateur readers can recognise the book’s contribution to mapping not simply the geography of the land, but also the geography of the spirit. As the connotations of language are re-created, the people and the land come alive.

As in any study of Indigenous people, there is a note of urgency and sadness. The editors note, ‘[A]ll Indigenous placename networks are under threat, and, when memories are fading, it is particularly urgent that the networks should be at least recorded.’ This effort to record has much more to offer
Australian self-understanding than has tendentious interpretation of history. 


Don’t Tell the Prime Minister, Patrick Weller. Scribe Short Books, 2002.
isbn 0 908011 76 8, rrp $14.95

We’re all familiar with the chaos theory at work: a butterfly flaps its wings in Brazil causing a tornado to occur in Texas. Well, in this instance a misunderstood phone conversation aboard the HMAS Adelaide results in the children-overboard affair of the 2001 election. However, Weller’s concise account brings to light the disturbing truth that the affair could be played out as absolute fact to the Australian public, when members of the public service knew otherwise.

Weller takes the reader out into the Timor Sea and through the halls of Canberra, reconstructing events with fast-paced vividness. But the heart of his investigation is an examination of accountability in modern Australian government. He tackles interesting issues such as the current legal status of ministerial advisers, the role of communication technology in constituting ‘formal advice’ and the changing nature of the public service.

Don’t Tell the Prime Minister is short, not much over 100 pages. However, it is quite a dense read, weighty in its implications. Highly recommended for all concerned citizens.                  

Godfrey Moase

Unfinished Business: America and Cuba after the Cold War, 1989–2001, Morris Morley and Chris McGillion. Cambridge University Press, 2002. isbn 0 521 52040 1, rrp $49.95

Unfinished Business, a model study of international relations, could well have been entitled New Business. Cuba has been the laboratory in which the war on Iraq and the wars that will follow have been designed. The chemistry of a new world order was established—in which the will and interests of the United States are determinant, and other nations are pressed to fall into line. In Cuba, Russia was forced to withdraw financial support; foreign companies doing business there were threatened with penalties by United States courts. Cuba itself could never restore normal relations. Whatever it did, new demands were made, and new reasons offered for sanctions.

And so in Iraq, the will for war remains, while new reasons for it replace discredited ones, and choirboy nations learn to sing new antiphons. But the international orchestra recognises barbarous music and refuses to play. Meanwhile, Castro performs each night despite all the attempts to shut him down.             




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