Papyrus documents first published in 1911 cited a Jewish temple built in southern Egypt in the 5th century BCE. No one could find it—until 1997.
Secretary of State Kerry has revived the myth that peace between Israel and the Palestinians is a prerequisite to the solution of all the Middle East’s problems. According to his recent statement, Muslim anguish over the plight of the Palestinians is “a cause of [IS] recruitment and of street anger and agitation.” Giving the lie to this claim is the enormous success of IS in drawing volunteers from Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent, where Muslims, even radical ones, rarely give thought to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The real reason for IS’s popularity lies elsewhere, according to Christina Lin:
Muslims in Southeast Asia were traditionally moderate and tolerant. But in the 40-odd years since the oil crisis and petrodollars became a windfall in the Muslim world, Saudi extremists have been proselytizing, and building mosques and madrassas that preach Wahhabism. [Former Singaporean prime minister Lee Kuan Yew has] argued that this Wahhabi brand is a “venomous religion” that has radicalized Southeast Asian Muslims. . . . It would be more helpful for the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition if Secretary Kerry would ask his Saudi and Qatari friends to stop feeding those [flames].
One of the oldest of anti-Semitic tropes is the image of Jews secretly manipulating the economy and using credit to take advantage of simple folk. It has also been found to correlate with reduced wealth in people who subscribe to it—like today’s radical (and not so radical) Islamists. Walter Russell Mead and his staff explain:
The association that anti-Semites make between “the Jews” and the role of finance would be the kind of simplification that would appeal to jihadis trying to analyze a world that they can’t understand but that frightens and, they fear, dominates them. Linking “the Jews” with Western finance helps jihadis build an all-embracing picture of a shadowy and powerful enemy, and offers the illusion of insight and mastery. . . . It is an expensive and disabling error, but an attractive and glittering one. In any case, the unreflecting credulity which makes crude forgeries like the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion so widely popular in Islamist circles today is itself a sign of cultural decadence and intellectual blight.
In recent years, Turkey has become one of the most vocal supporters of the Palestinian cause, trying to break the Gaza blockade with a flotilla, providing safe haven and funds to senior Hamas operatives, shrilly condemning the Jewish state, and eroding the longstanding and important Turkish-Israeli alliance. But, argues the Turkish journalist Burak Bekdil, President Erdogan rarely puts his country’s money where its mouth is. This is because, historically, the Turkish government has always cared much less about the Palestinian people than about the near-magical political value of the Palestinian cause:
“The Palestinian cause” is a unique charm that brings together Turks from different ideologies. Turkish Islamists view it as an indispensable part of “jihad”; the conservatives feel attached to it because it has a religious connotation; for the leftists it is part of an “anti-imperialist” struggle; the nationalists embrace it just because most Turks embrace it. In the 1970s, when a dozen Turks a day on average were being killed in street violence, the “Palestinian cause” was the only issue that otherwise warring fractions of the Turkish left, right, and Islamists could agree on.
A recent editorial in the New York Times stands out even amid the paper’s usual Israel-bashing. Not only do the editors repeat the canard that Israel is building new settlements and thereby limiting the size of a prospective Palestinian state, they also, writes Elliott Abrams, display classically flawed moral reasoning:
Note the way the Times refers to the recent Gaza war: it seems that “violence will keep recurring.” How nasty of Violence to do that. The Times does not consider that Hamas deliberately started this conflict, and by burying this sentence in an editorial censuring Israel makes it clear that Israel is really to blame. This is ludicrous, considering the barrages of rockets and missiles and mortars Hamas shot into Israel, but it is of a piece with the Times’ general view: Israel is the problem.
The Betrayers, a new novel by the Canadian Jewish writer David Bezmozgis (Natasha, The Free World), centers on the story of Baruch Kotler, a Soviet dissident turned Israeli politician whose political career has suddenly ground to a halt after the revelation of an affair. Disgraced, he decamps with his mistress to Crimea, where, through a plot twist, the two end up living in a cramped house with the man who had betrayed Kotler to the KGB and thereby consigned him to thirteen years in the Gulag. The Betrayers, writes Boris Fishman, is masterfully crafted, possesses a distinctive and elegant style, and is even fun to read. What’s more, it manages to overcome one of the great challenges of literature with a political theme:
The Betrayers offers a lesson for anyone who has taken for granted the Lit 101 notion that politics is an awkward presence in literature: in strictly subordinating its many political observations to the demands of character—the author never allows himself to show up and polemicize—it achieves a seamlessness that marks it as the most persuasive “political” novel in years. And in creating antagonists who have a lot of catching up to do, Bezmozgis neatly avoids that ponderous feeling that takes hold whenever an author has to dispense exposition.