Daniel Deronda, Conservative Hero

March 21 2017

Reviewing Ruth Wisse’s online course on George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda, Liel Leibovitz pronounces the lectures “as gripping as anything currently on Netflix” and suggests they “ought to be binged upon as ravenously as one would, say, on a season of House of Cards.” Eliot’s 19th-century novel, he argues, is particularly well suited for our times, and nowhere more so than in its two intertwined plots: the story of Daniel Deronda’s embrace of his Jewish heritage and the story of Gwendolen Harleth—a young, beautiful, and genteel woman faced with her family’s sudden impoverishment:

Some enlightened souls [in Victorian Britain], and there are quite a few of them in the novel, have difficulty understanding why, if England is so keen on embracing its Jews as equals, the Jews should insist on maintaining their differences. Why not marry their Christian neighbors and friends? Why insist on blood and kin and tribe?

The question—and herein lies Eliot’s genius—can be asked of women as easily as it can of the Jews. Although several of her critics had trouble wedding Gwendolen’s story to that of Deronda’s religious awakening, . . . Eliot realized that Jews and women faced the same essential dilemma: will they try to unshackle themselves from their essential nature in a way that is bound to doom them to misery? Or can they achieve a more meaningful emancipation, enjoying equal rights while being permitted to remain true to who they are and wish to continue to be? Gwendolen chooses the former path, Deronda the latter, and their respective fates are a useful lesson in the dangers of deracination.

It’s a lesson, thankfully, that’s likely to shake many modern Jewish readers, who see no other source of light save for the universalist splendor of tikkun olam and who view nationalism, tribalism, and other forms of primordial attachment as a gateway to barbarism and brutality. But a shaking is much needed. With anti-Jewish malice roaring from left and right, we’ve no other prescription but to reject the simpering spinelessness that seeks meaning in other peoples’ values and instead embrace our own. We must now realize, as Eliot and her hero both did, that happiness and survival both depend on loving that which reinforces the best in us, be it the spouse that shares our destiny or the community of which, for better or worse, we will forever be a part.

It’s not a lesson that the cosmopolitans in our midst would readily applaud, but cosmopolitanism, as Eliot bitingly reminds us in the very first page of her novel, is not much more than a rowdy casino, and the only freedom it offers is the thrill of throwing away all that’s truly valuable for an illusory shot at momentary ecstasy. Now more than ever, it’s a thrill we must learn to resist, and in Daniel Deronda, Ruth Wisse gives us what we most desperately need: an upright Jew, a moral man, and a real conservative hero.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Arts & Culture, Daniel Deronda, Feminism, George Eliot, Jewish conservatism, Judaism, Literature, Universalism

Ending the Palestinian “Internationalization” Strategy

March 24 2017

Since Barack Obama (and Benjamin Netanyahu) assumed office in 2009, the Palestinian Authority has refused to negotiate with Israel, demanded the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 borders with its capital in east Jerusalem, and declined to agree to any concessions in return. To this end it has pursued a strategy of “internationalizing” the conflict by seeking recognition from international bodies and hoping that some sort of consortium of states will impose a solution to its liking on Israel. But with a new president in the White House, and a Middle East in disarray, this strategy seems less promising. Amos Yadlin and Kobi Michael explain why and how Israel and the U.S. can bring an end to it:

The Palestinian internationalization strategy was bolstered by a public-relations effort to [disseminate] the Palestinian narrative of the reasons for the conflict and the “just way of solving it,” and to saddle Israel with responsibility for the political deadlock. This was joined by general efforts to delegitimize Israel. This strategy, which focuses on a persistent, systematic effort to blacken Israel in international institutions, undermine its legitimacy, and deny the historic national connection of the Jewish people to the land of Israel, has scored several notable achievements in recent years. . . . One of the prominent achievements by the Palestinian national movement was the 2012 UN General Assembly resolution defining Palestine as a “non-member observer state.” . . . [T]he Palestinians [also] succeeded in entrenching within the U.S. administration the belief that Israel’s settlement policy in the West Bank was the main obstacle to an agreement. . . .

Making it unmistakably clear to the Palestinians that they must return to the negotiating process and to mutual give-and-take, and also accept transitional and interim arrangements as preferable alternatives to the status quo, will engender greater potential for progress than during the Obama administration. As an initial sign to the Palestinians that the rules of the game have changed, moving the American embassy to Jerusalem is in order. An American retreat from that pledge . . . [in response to] the Palestinian threats aimed at preventing this measure will weaken the American stature and become an incentive for the Palestinians to adhere to a strategy of bypassing Israel and evading direct negotiations. . . .

It is [also] important that the United States clarify that if the Palestinians prefer to continue their effort to isolate Israel in the international theater, instead of returning to direct negotiations, . . . [Washington] will back independent measures by Israel for determining its border in accordance with Israel’s strategic interests, while preserving the possibility of the future implementation of a negotiated two nation-state solution.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Donald Trump, Israel & Zionism, Palestinian Authority, Peace Process, US-Israel relations