Great and Less than Great Writers Make Themselves Dishonest Tools of Anti-Israel Propaganda

June 19 2017

The recently published Kingdom of Olive and Ash is a collection of essays written by high-profile literary types—including Mario Vargas Llosa—who report on their visits to Israel and the horrible misdeeds they saw being committed by “the occupation.” Organized by the husband-and-wife team of Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman, the tours took place under the auspices of Breaking the Silence, an unscrupulous Israeli organization dedicated to defaming the IDF. In their introduction Chabon and Waldman describe themselves as belonging to “the ambivalent middle” with regard to the Israel-Palestinian conflict and disingenuously confess to having “averted [their] gaze from its details.” Daniella Greenbaum points to the dishonesty in these statements—a dishonesty that permeates the entire volume:

This claim [to ambivalence about Israel] is belied by the fact that Chabon wrote a novel ten years ago featuring an entire counter-history of the Jewish state, while Waldman, the daughter of a sabra émigré, has spent a decade fulminating about Israel’s misdeeds on social media.

No, Chabon and Waldman are neither ambivalent nor in the middle. Their insistence to the contrary is an attempt to gull the uninformed reader into believing they came into the project in innocence and came away sadder and wiser and ready to speak truth to power. . . .

[Glaring] omissions are peppered throughout the book. In her essay, “Mr. Nice Guy,” the novelist Rachel Kushner profiles Baha Nababta, whom she describes as a “twenty-nine-year-old Palestinian community organizer beloved by the kids of Shuafat.” . . . Less than a month after Kushner left Shuafat, Nababta was murdered in front of a crowd of people. She ends her essay with a heartbreaking account of the widow and newborn baby who will live the rest of their lives without their husband and father.

Kushner’s vague conclusion creates the impression that the Israelis were responsible for Nababta’s murder. Reporting has been scarce, but there seems to be a working theory that the murderer was Palestinian. Kushner’s omission of this theory, in a book determined to blame Israel for anything and everything, is morally unforgivable.

Needless to say, the book pays scant attention to the murderous violence of the second intifada, Palestinian terrorism, or Hamas’s rockets, not to mention the corruption and tyranny of Palestinian rulers.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Anti-Zionism, Breaking the Silence, Israel & Zionism, Literature


Lessons for the U.S. from Israel’s 2007 Bombing of the Syrian Nuclear Reactor

March 23 2018

In 2007, then-Mossad chief Meir Dagan came to Washington with overwhelming evidence that Syria, with North Korean help, had built a nuclear reactor for military use. After a debate among his advisers, President Bush told then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that he had chosen to pressure Bashar al-Assad diplomatically to give up his nuclear program. Israel itself then bombed the reactor, which was located in an area that in a few years would become the heartland of Islamic State. Earlier this week, for the first time, Jerusalem publicly took responsibility for the attack. (Amnon Lord explores possible reasons for that decision here.) Elliott Abrams—then the deputy national security adviser for the Middle East—related the discussion within the White House over what to do about the reactor, and also explained what could be learned from the affair, in a 2013 article for Commentary:

The Israelis believed that if they [or American officials] spoke about the strike [after it happened], Assad might be forced to react to this humiliation by trying to attack Israel. If, however, we all shut up, he might do nothing—nothing at all. He might try to hide the fact that anything had happened. And with every day that passed, the possibility that he would acknowledge the event and fight back diminished. That had been the Israeli theory, and the Israelis knew their man. We maintained silence and so did Israel—no leaks. As the weeks went by, the chances of an Israeli-Syrian confrontation grew slim and then disappeared. Syria has never admitted that there was a reactor at the site. . . .

Two final points are worth noting. First, in May 2008, Turkish-mediated peace talks between Israel and Syria were publicly announced in Istanbul. The discussions had begun secretly in February 2007, and obviously had continued after the Israeli strike on [the reactor]. It would appear that the strike . . . made the Syrians more, not less, desirous of talking to the Israelis because it made them afraid of Israeli power. It also made them more afraid of American power until we undermined our own position, which is the second point.

A very well-placed Arab diplomat later told us that the strike had left Assad deeply worried as to what was coming next. He had turned Syria into the main transit route for jihadists going to Iraq to kill American soldiers. From Libya or Indonesia, Pakistan or Egypt, they would fly to Damascus International Airport and be shepherded into Iraq. Assad was afraid that on the heels of the Israeli strike would come American action to punish him for all this involvement. But just weeks later, Assad received his invitation to send a Syrian delegation to [a] big international confab [organized by] then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the Annapolis Conference, and according to the Arab envoy, Assad relaxed immediately; he knew he would be OK. . . .

Finally, this incident is a reminder that there is no substitute for military strength and the will to use it. Think of how much more dangerous to the entire region the Syrian civil war would be today if Assad had a nuclear reactor, and even perhaps nuclear weapons, in hand. Israel was right to bomb that reactor before construction was completed, and President Bush was right to support its decision to do so. Israel was also right in rejecting fears that the incident would lead to a larger war and in believing that it, and the United States, would be better off after this assertion of leadership and determination.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Bashar al-Assad, George W. Bush, Israel & Zionism, Nuclear proliferation, Syria, US-Israel relations