A Publishing House Withdraws a Novel after It Was Attacked for Being Pro-Israel

In April, a small publishing house called Dzanc Books announced a new novel, by the former journalist Hesh Kestin, that imagines a successful invasion of the Jewish state. Blurbed by the best-selling author Stephen King, The Siege of Tel Aviv seemed poised for success when critics rushed to Twitter to denounce it as “racist,” “Islamophobic,” and so forth. Dzanc mounted a feeble defense, but then withdrew the book. Mark Horowitz comments on what he calls an “all-too-familiar scene in American publishing”:

Unfortunately for the book burners, their auto-da-fé was a bust. Kestin’s response was neither to hide or concede, but to run toward the sound of the guns. He is now self-publishing his novel with the help of Amazon and is likely to sell more copies thanks to the controversy than he would have without it. As the plot of his own novel illustrates, fighting against the odds is what Jews are good at. The problem with Kestin’s novel was never racism or Islamophobia. What enraged the Twitter mob was the book’s unreconstructed Zionism.

The premise of The Siege of Tel Aviv is an intentional echo of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, when multiple Arab armies, led by Egypt and Syria, nearly finished off the Jewish state. In this version, set in an unspecified future, Iran leads the invasion, and what tips the balance is the failure of the United States to come to Israel’s aid, as it had in real life in 1973. After the defeat, Israel’s surviving citizens are herded into central Tel Aviv, which becomes an overcrowded ghetto where they await either evacuation or annihilation.

Against this horrifying backdrop, Kestin mobilizes a slightly comical bunch of misfits and rebels—including a cross-dressing fighter pilot, a smooth-talking Russian gangster, and a resourceful Bedouin scout—who rally to undo the disaster before it’s too late.

What the novel is not is Islamophobic. Kestin did not have to invent Iranian threats to wipe Israel off the map. The mullahs and generals of Iran have been threatening that for decades. . . . The subversive joke of the novel is that it indulges Israel’s enemies and take seriously their rhetoric of annihilation. Does Israel have a right to exist? Anti-Zionists and anti-Semites think it’s a fair question. Kestin obliges them. From al-Aqsa preachers and Hamas leaders to Iranian mullahs and anti-Zionist op-eds—what if they all got their wish?

Read more at Commentary

More about: Anti-Zionism, Fiction, Islamophobia, Israel & Zionism

Why Arab Jerusalem Has Stayed Quiet

One of Hamas’s most notable failures since October 7 is that it has not succeeded in inspiring a violent uprising either among the Palestinians of the West Bank or the Arab citizens of Israel. The latter seem horrified by Hamas’s actions and tend to sympathize with their own country. In the former case, quiet has been maintained by the IDF and Shin Bet, which have carried out a steady stream of arrests, raids, and even airstrikes.

But there is a third category of Arab living in Israel, namely the Arabs of Jerusalem, whose intermediate legal status gives them access to Israeli social services and the right to vote in municipal elections. They may also apply for Israeli citizenship if they so desire, although most do not.

On Wednesday, off-duty Israeli soldiers in the Old City of Jerusalem shot at a Palestinian who, it seems, was attempting to attack them. But this incident is a rare exception to the quiet that has prevailed in Arab Jerusalem since the war began. Eytan Laub asked a friend in an Arab neighborhood why:

Listen, he said, we . . . have much to lose. We already fear that any confrontation would have consequences. Making trouble may put our residence rights at risk. Furthermore, he added, not a few in the neighborhood, including his own family, have applied for Israeli citizenship and participating in disturbances would hardly help with that.

Such an attitude reflects a general trend since the end of the second intifada:

In recent years, the numbers of [Arab] Jerusalemites applying for Israeli citizenship has risen, as the social stigma of becoming Israeli has begun to erode and despite an Israeli naturalization process that can take years and result in denial (because of the requirement to show Jerusalem residence or the need to pass a Hebrew language test). The number of east Jerusalemites granted citizenship has also risen, from 827 in 2009 to over 1,600 in 2020.

Oddly enough, Laub goes on to argue, the construction of the West Bank separation fence in the early 2000s, which cuts through the Arab-majority parts of Jerusalem, has helped to encouraged better relations.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: East Jerusalem, Israeli Arabs, Jerusalem