How Batya Gur Created Classic Detective Fiction in an Israeli Key

In her short literary career, begun at age thirty-nine and ending with her death at fifty-seven in 2005, Batya Gur wrote six bestselling crime novels that established her as Israel’s leading practitioner of the genre. A former high-school teacher, Gur claimed to have modeled her books’ hero, an academic-turned-detective named Michael Ohayon, on herself. Praising her works, which have been translated into several languages, Sean Cooper examines what makes them especially Israeli:

In each of the six books, Gur dispatches Ohayon into a tightknit, insular community where the murder of one of their own, and with one or more of their own somehow implicated in the death, threatens to collapse the foundation of that community. . . . Gur’s communities are stand-ins for Israeli society writ large, whether a kibbutz, chamber orchestra, university literature department, or a psychoanalytic teaching institute.

Gur emerged with her bestseller debut, in 1988, when detective fiction written in Hebrew had been all but dormant for five decades. As a consumer product for popular entertainment, the crime fiction of the 1930s was published in small books on cheap paper intended to be discarded, like a periodical, after it was read. Dismissed in their day by some critics as a frivolous abasement of the language, these disposable tomes were supported by others as an effective means of promoting basic Hebrew literacy. The enterprise did not sustain itself much past a decade, and save for the occasional children’s book, readers of crime fiction had to turn to translations of English works to get their fix.

Unlike [the celebrated English-language crime novelist] Ross Macdonald’s free-floating, solitary Lew Archer, Gur’s detective, Ohayon, is an institution man, respectful of his own, of others, striving for promotions, deferential to leaders, occasionally sentimental, with a firm but not insoluble belief in the sanctity of a group’s code of conduct and declared intentions. When a subordinate chafes at judicial procedures that slow up their investigation, Ohayon snaps back, “Don’t knock it. . . . You want to live in a place like Argentina? It’s a price we have to pay.”

Read more at Tablet

More about: Israeli culture, Israeli 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