A Lebanese Novelist’s Fictional Account of 1948 Fails as Both History and Literature

Sept. 4 2019

Recently published in English translation, My Name Is Adam is the first volume of a projected trilogy titled Children of the Ghetto by the celebrated Lebanese author Elias Khoury—a former member of the Palestinian terrorist organization Fatah. The book’s narrator and protagonist is an Arab from the city of Lydda who regularly claims to be a Jewish survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto. In the book’s second half, the narrator recounts his family’s fate during Israel’s war of independence, making frequent reference to the 1948 massacre of Palestinians in Lydda by the Haganah—an event that, as the historian Martin Kramer has demonstrated in Mosaic, never happened. While one can appreciated Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe without believing it an accurate portrait of the Middle Ages, Adam Kirsch argues that this and other historical inaccuracies compromise My Name Is Adam even as a work of fiction:

A full explanation [of the events in Lydda] would require mentioning the 100,000 Jews who were slowly starving in Jerusalem, which was under siege by Arab forces; it was to open the road to Jerusalem that the Israelis launched their offensive against Lydda and Ramle. But Khoury doesn’t discuss this background, any more than he takes account of the reciprocal killings that Jews and Arabs had been inflicting on one another for twenty years before 1948. The fall of Lydda appears to the reader . . . as an inexplicable catastrophe, a bolt from the blue.

The main problem, however, lies in Khoury’s insistence on identifying what happened in Lydda with the Jewish experience in Europe during the Holocaust. The chief example is his use of the term “ghetto” to describe the Arab quarter of the conquered town. As Khoury acknowledges, this neighborhood was sealed off with fencing only for about a month while the war went on. Yet he insists that the term applies equally well to Lydda and to Warsaw, where 400,000 Jews were held captive for two years until they were murdered in death camps.

This kind of rhetoric is common enough, and to a reader who knows nothing more of the relevant history than what they read in My Name Is Adam, it might seem apt. But it is a vast distortion of the meaning, cause, and scale of what happened in 1948 to equate the suffering of the Palestinians at the hands of the Jews with the suffering of the Jews at the hands of the Nazis. Of course, it’s not incumbent on victims to place their tragedy in historical perspective: each individual’s suffering is unique and deserves to be mourned on its own terms. But in comparing Lydda to Warsaw, . . . Khoury is precisely failing to mourn Lydda on its own terms.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Arabic literature, Holocaust inversion, Israeli history, Israeli War of Independence, Lydda


Israel’s Covert War on Iran’s Nuclear Program Is Impressive. But Is It Successful?

Sept. 26 2023

The Mossad’s heist of a vast Iranian nuclear archive in 2018 provided abundant evidence that Tehran was not adhering to its commitments; it also provided an enormous amount of actionable intelligence. Two years later, Israel responded to international inspectors’ condemnation of the Islamic Republic’s violations by using this intelligence to launch a spectacular campaign of sabotage—a campaign that is the subject of Target Tehran, by Yonah Jeremy Bob and Ilan Evyatar. David Adesnik writes:

The question that remains open at the conclusion of Target Tehran is whether the Mossad’s tactical wizardry adds up to strategic success in the shadow war with Iran. The authors give a very respectful hearing to skeptics—such as the former Mossad director Tamir Pardo—who believe the country should have embraced the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. Bob and Evyatar reject that position, arguing that covert action has proven itself the best way to slow down the nuclear program. They acknowledge, however, that the clerical regime remains fully determined to reach the nuclear threshold. “The Mossad’s secret war, in other words, is not over. Indeed, it may never end,” they write.

Which brings us back to Joe Biden. The clerical regime was headed over a financial cliff when Biden took office, thanks to the reimposition of sanctions after Washington withdrew from the nuclear deal. The billions flowing into Iran on Biden’s watch have made it that much easier for the regime to rebuild whatever Mossad destroys in addition to weathering nationwide protests on behalf of women, life, and freedom. Until Washington and Jerusalem get on the same page—and stay there—Tehran’s nuclear ambitions will remain an affordable luxury for a dictatorship at war with its citizens.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, Mossad, U.S. Foreign policy