A Novel about the Latin American Inquisition with Surprising Relevance for Today’s Jews

First published in 1991, Against the Inquisition, by the Argentine Jewish novelist Marcos Aguinis, appeared in English only this year. Like most of Aguinis’s works, it deals with weighty themes tied to Jewish history—in this case, the Inquisition in South America. Dara Horn writes in her review:

Against the Inquisition . . . is based on the astounding true story of Francisco Maldonado da Silva, a 17th-century doctor descended from conversos, who re-embraced his Judaism and faced the consequences. Aguinis brings his story to life in intimate human terms. . . .

[As a boy], Francisco witnesses his father’s arrest [for crypto-Judaism], followed by his older brother’s. Both father and brother are taken to the Inquisition’s New World headquarters in Lima, thousands of miles away; the brother is never heard from again. The church’s ulterior motive becomes clear as its officials confiscate the family’s property. . . . Francisco winds up in a monastery, where he devotes himself to mastering Church teachings to undo the taint of his criminal father. He becomes a star pupil and . . . a devoted Catholic, but part of him is still searching for his father—whom he miraculously finds. . . .

But as father and son reunite, Francisco gradually learns that his father never truly “repented”—and his father, slowly dying from his injuries and from the private shame of turning others in, teaches his son the meaning of Judaism. After years of being brainwashed by the church into viewing Judaism as demonic, Francisco struggles to understand the real nature of Jewish practice and belief, and it takes time for him to see just how deeply he has been immersed in lies. The novel’s depiction of this loving process of discarding delusions and self-loathing is one of the author’s master strokes. . . .

Against the Inquisition is not simply a period piece. The novel’s bones are those of the author’s own encounters with authoritarian regimes and the groupthink that supports them. As a seven-year-old in Argentina in 1942, Aguinis, like Francisco, learned the frightening truth about his family’s place in history—in his case, that his grandparents in Europe had been murdered by the Nazis. As an adult, Aguinis endured Argentina’s brutal 1970s dictatorship that disproportionately targeted Jews. . . .

Aguinis has been outspoken against the worldwide wave of anti-Semitism in its newer guise of anti-Zionism; his ongoing defense of Israel in the international Spanish-language press requires a bravery his 17th-century characters know well. Aguinis’s work has always tackled the submissiveness and denial that make authoritarianism possible. But in this novel he emphasizes something particularly resonant today, in light of the rise of anti-Zionism worldwide: long before demanding Jews’ bodies, anti-Semitic societies demanded Jews’ dignity, requiring that they publicly give up their ancient loyalties for the prize of not being treated like dirt—and thereby making them complicit in their own degradation. The torture rack may be long gone, but the Inquisition’s psychological legacy endures.

Read more at Moment

More about: Argentina, Arts & Culture, Conversos, Inquisition, Jewish literature, Latin America

Hizballah Is Learning Israel’s Weak Spots

On Tuesday, a Hizballah drone attack injured three people in northern Israel. The next day, another attack, targeting an IDF base, injured eighteen people, six of them seriously, in Arab al-Amshe, also in the north. This second attack involved the simultaneous use of drones carrying explosives and guided antitank missiles. In both cases, the defensive systems that performed so successfully last weekend failed to stop the drones and missiles. Ron Ben-Yishai has a straightforward explanation as to why: the Lebanon-backed terrorist group is getting better at evading Israel defenses. He explains the three basis systems used to pilot these unmanned aircraft, and their practical effects:

These systems allow drones to act similarly to fighter jets, using “dead zones”—areas not visible to radar or other optical detection—to approach targets. They fly low initially, then ascend just before crashing and detonating on the target. The terrain of southern Lebanon is particularly conducive to such attacks.

But this requires skills that the terror group has honed over months of fighting against Israel. The latest attacks involved a large drone capable of carrying over 50 kg (110 lbs.) of explosives. The terrorists have likely analyzed Israel’s alert and interception systems, recognizing that shooting down their drones requires early detection to allow sufficient time for launching interceptors.

The IDF tries to detect any incoming drones on its radar, as it had done prior to the war. Despite Hizballah’s learning curve, the IDF’s technological edge offers an advantage. However, the military must recognize that any measure it takes is quickly observed and analyzed, and even the most effective defenses can be incomplete. The terrain near the Lebanon-Israel border continues to pose a challenge, necessitating technological solutions and significant financial investment.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Hizballah, Iron Dome, Israeli Security