Revisiting Amos Oz’s “Baggy Monster” of a Memoir

At the time of his death two years ago, Amos Oz was almost certainly Israel’s most significant literary figure. But as his fellow novelist Ruby Namdar observes, Israelis have had an ambivalent relationship with Oz, holding him up as “a symbol—almost a fetish—of who we Israelis thought we were or fancied ourselves to be.” But at some point, Israelis soured on him:

[I]t wasn’t just Oz’s eloquence and charisma that alienated readers (and, even more so, the critics) after a certain point in his career. It was also his tendency to speak in the first person plural, even as he masterfully and sensitively depicted the marginal characters; the ease with which he assumed the prophetic mantle and spoke in the name of the collective ethos; and, finally, a certain air of entitlement, perhaps even smugness, that started to tick off many readers who had previously been drawn to his work.

Yet, Namdar writes, the Jewish state’s reading public fell in love with Oz all over again with the publication, in 2002, of his novelistic memoir A Tale of Love and Darkness. In contrast to the “outstanding tightness” of Oz’s other works, the 600-page book is, in Namdar’s mind, a “baggy monster,” at times “careless” or “sloppy,” with its “plot . . . spread thinly over too many pages.” Yet Namdar admits that it is at times “enchanting.”

[But] is it . . . the imperfections of A Tale of Love and Darkness that make it strangely accessible? Early on, Oz was admired for his sovereign mastery, the chilly perfection of his work, but this same quality eventually distanced readers and critics from him. Perhaps it was the vulnerability of this warm, rambling memoir that enabled readers to reconnect to Oz. Was our wizard easier to love when he stepped out from behind the curtain of perfection and revealed himself to be a frail old man who, no longer in possession of linguistic magic or prophetic confidence, dared to show himself as he truly was, as we all will be, alone and obsessed with his sweet and terrible memories?

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Amos Oz, Israeli literature, Israeli society

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