Aharon Appelfeld’s Investigation of the Jewish Psyche

Aharon Appelfeld, a prolific Israeli novelist who died in January, based most of his works on his own childhood experience of the Holocaust. In Adam & Thomas, published in English translation in 2015, he tells the story of two Jewish boys—one religious, one secular—who spent the war years hiding in a forest. Amy Newman Smith examines the book’s central conceit:

In writing the book, Appelfeld seems to have split himself and his life story between the two title characters: resourceful Adam, a boy of the land whose knowledge of the forest keeps them safe and fed, and bookish Thomas, a doubter in both faith and his own abilities. In the novel, alert Adam cannot survive without inward-looking Thomas. Appelfeld himself seems to have needed the memories and teachings of both his assimilated parents and his observant grandparents to carry him through the war and the difficult years after. The split is doubly fitting, because at its heart, Adam & Thomas explores a theme that has fascinated Appelfeld—Jewish survival as “a people who lived for more than 2,000 years among aliens, and by being so different, developed a kind of character that is very different from the character of the surroundings,” a character marked by both “restlessness, a permanent alertness, a kind of insecurity” and “deep belief . . . deep philosophy, mysticism.” . . .

Although the Holocaust is a near-constant presence in Appelfeld’s work, it would be false to characterize him simply as a “Holocaust writer.” As Alan Mintz observed, “Everything having to do with what the French call the concentrationary universe—the transports, the camps, the Einsatzgruppen, the fascination with the Nazis and the paraphernalia of evil, that is to say, the entire stock-in-trade of conventional Holocaust literature—all this is left out. . . . ”

Instead, [in this work and others] Appelfeld gives us archetypes for the Jews the Nazis tried to eradicate: the Ostjude and the assimilated Jew who longs above all for “an artistic experience,” the Jew who asks for acceptance in a voice that is “soft and conciliatory” and the one who demands admittance in a tone that is “clear and sharp.”

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Aharon Appelfeld, Arts & Culture, Holocaust, Israeli literature, Jewish literature

Why the White House’s Plan to Prevent an Israel-Hizballah War Won’t Work

On Monday, Hizballah downed an Israeli drone, leading the IDF to retaliate with airstrikes that killed one of the terrorist group’s commanders in southern Lebanon, and two more of its members in the northeast. The latter strike marks an escalation by the IDF, which normally confines its activities to the southern part of the country. Hizballah responded by firing two barrages of rockets into northern Israel on Tuesday, while Hamas operatives in Lebanon fired another barrage yesterday.

According to the Iran-backed militia, 219 of its fighters have been killed since October; six Israeli civilians and ten soldiers have lost their lives in the north. The Biden administration has meanwhile been involved in ongoing negotiations to prevent these skirmishes from turning into an all-out war. The administration’s plan, however, requires carrots for Hizballah in exchange for unenforceable guarantees, as Richard Goldberg explains:

Israel and Hizballah last went to war in 2006. That summer, Hizballah crossed the border, killed three Israeli soldiers, and kidnapped two others. Israel responded with furious airstrikes, a naval blockade, and eventually a ground operation that met stiff resistance and mixed results. A UN-endorsed ceasefire went into effect after 34 days of war, accompanied by a Security Council Resolution that ordered the UN Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to assist the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) in disarming Hizballah in southern Lebanon—from the Israeli border up to the Litani River, some 30 kilometers away.

Despite billions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer support over the last seventeen years, the LAF made no requests to UNIFIL, which then never disarmed Hizballah. Instead, Iran accelerated delivering weapons to the terrorist group—building up its forces to a threat level that dwarfs the one Israel faced in 2006. The politics of Lebanon shifted over time as well, with Hizballah taking effective control of the Lebanese government and exerting its influence (and sometimes even control) over the LAF and its U.S.-funded systems.

Now the U.S. is offering Lebanon an economic bailout in exchange for a promise to keep Hizballah forces from coming within a mere ten kilometers of the border, essentially abrogating the Security Council resolution. Goldberg continues:

Who would be responsible for keeping the peace? The LAF and UNIFIL—the same pair that has spent seventeen years helping Hizballah become the threat it is today. That would guarantee that Hizballah’s commitments will never be verified or enforced.

It’s a win-win for [Hizballah’s chief Hassan] Nasrallah. Many of his fighters live and keep their missiles hidden within ten kilometers of Israel’s border. They will blend into the civilian population without any mechanism to force their departure. And even if the U.S. or France could verify a movement of weapons to the north, Nasrallah’s arsenal is more than capable of terrorizing Israeli cities from ten kilometers away. Meanwhile, a bailout of Lebanon will increase Hizballah’s popularity—demonstrating its tactics against Israel work.

Read more at The Dispatch

More about: Hizballah, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden