Roald Dahl’s Protocols

Nov. 17 2020

In 1983, thanks to an interview in the New Statesman, it was revealed to the world that the beloved children’s author Roald Dahl was a vicious anti-Semite; it was in the same year that he published his novel The Witches, recently adapted as a film with an all-star cast. The book’s premise is that a secret cabal of people—facially indistinguishable from everyone else except for their funny accents and large noses—exercises malign control in every country on earth, while enriching themselves and inflicting suffering on unsuspecting children. While Dara Horn absolves the film of the book’s thinly veiled anti-Semitism, she nonetheless concludes that it cannot escape the original’s perversity:

The key to Dahl’s success as a children’s author lay in how he pitted children against adults, making children into a beloved underdog class whose moral victory lay in vanquishing their powerful exploiters. His heroes are blameless boys and girls tortured by diabolically abusive adults, whom they destroy in outrageous revenge sequences of the sort even the most fortunate child occasionally fantasizes about.

In short, Dahl is like a modern Charles Dickens, except instead of social justice and spiritual redemption, Dahl’s books offer only revenge. Kids, like all emotionally and morally stunted people, eat this stuff up. Dahl tapped into something primal and hideous in the human psyche: the desire of disenfranchised people to feel righteous precisely by demonizing others. As a kid, I bought this too. The sheer sadism of it went right over my head until I shared these books with my children and saw how I’d been punked. And The Witches was the worst.

[M]ost tellingly, what really distinguishes witches in this film is that they are rich. . . . This class warfare idea is utterly absent from Dahl’s book, but it perhaps unintentionally provides a trendy update to his rather old-school racial anti-Semitism: the idea that a secret society of fantastically wealthy “global elites”—often, but not inevitably, Jews—prey on the poor. This means that bigotry against them, rather than being retrograde, is, in fact, a fresh and righteous way of “punching up.”

As Hollywood knows well, everyone loves a good conspiracy theory—and that’s the problem. . . . It is so easy, after all, to believe in a conspiracy, so self-indulgent, so appealing—and, as I now finally understood, so much fun.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Anti-Semitism, Children's books, Film


When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount