Must Israeli Literature Come from Israel?

Jan. 12 2015

Israel’s thriving literary culture now encompasses a sizable number of talented expatriate writers, some of whom have made no secret of their lack of interest in returning to Israel. This phenomenon reanimates old questions about the meaning of Jewish culture, Beth Kissileff writes:

As Hillel Halkin—an American-born writer, translator, and critic who has been living in Israel for over 40 years—told me, the tradition of the literary expatriate is long and distinguished, including luminaries like James Joyce, Marguerite Yourcenar, and Samuel Beckett. The difference, however, is that “no one in France gets upset” because Yourcenar decamped from her native Belgium to live most of her life in Maine. But where a writer lives, Halkin noted, is still “an issue in Israel in a way it isn’t in other countries.”

It’s an issue because of a simple question: What is the revival of the Hebrew language for? Is it cultural or territorial? The resurrection of Hebrew as a living spoken and written language was essential to the Zionist movement; and since the establishment of the state of Israel, the majority of Hebrew literature has been written with the intention of contributing to the culture of the new Jewish state. Now, for many different reasons, a younger generation is choosing to live and write outside Israel while still making a contribution to Hebrew culture. What the ultimate outcome of these attempts will be, and whether it is good or bad for Israel, Zionism, and Hebrew literature in general, remains unknown.

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More about: Israel, Israeli expatriates, Israeli literature, Jewish literature, Modern Hebrew literature, Zionism

How to Prevent Saudi Arabia from Getting Nuclear Weapons

Skeptics of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran warned that it could prompt a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. As they predicted, Saudi Arabia has been seeking assistance from the U.S. in obtaining civilian nuclear capabilities, while also speaking—in imitation of the Islamic Republic—of a “right” to enrich uranium, something it pledged not to do in a 2008 agreement with Washington. Were Riyadh to begin such enrichment, it could also produce the fuel necessary for nuclear weapons. Emily Landau and Shimon Stein warn of the dangers inherent in Saudi proliferation, and discuss how the U.S. and Israel should respond:

So long as the motivation to go nuclear remains strong, states are likely to find a way to develop [nuclear] capabilities, even if they have to pay a price for doing so. In Iran’s case, the major motivation for going nuclear is to enhance its hegemonic power in the Middle East. . . . But in the case of Saudi Arabia, if strong international powers . . . were to take a harsher stance toward Iran’s regional aggressions and missile developments and were to cooperate in order to improve the provisions of the [2015 nuclear deal], this would most likely have a direct and favorable impact on Saudi Arabia’s calculations about whether to develop nuclear capabilities.

A decision by the U.S. administration (or for that matter any other supplier) to allow Saudi Arabia to have enrichment capabilities will confront Israel with a dilemma.

On the one hand, it has been Israeli policy to do its utmost to deny any neighboring country with whom it does not have a peace treaty the means to acquire and develop a nuclear program. If Israel remains loyal to this approach, it should seek to deny Saudi Arabia enrichment capabilities. In practical terms this would imply making its opposition known in Washington.

On the other hand, given the “tactical alliance” with Saudi Arabia which has been primarily developed in response to the common Iranian threat, Israel could consider sacrificing its long-term interest in denying nuclear capabilities for the sake of its current interest in cultivating relations with the Saudis. Israel, [however], should support the traditional U.S. nonproliferation policies that allow states to have access to nuclear fuel for civilian purposes, while denying them the option to produce it themselves.

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More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Nuclear proliferation, Politics & Current Affairs, Saudi Arabia