The Happy Philo-Semitic Gentile and the Angry, Uncomfortable, and Anti-Israel Jew

Dec. 15 2020

Reflecting on the proximity between the deaths of two towering figures in, respectively, literature and the arts, Howard Jacobson sees a certain symmetry between the philo-Semitic Gentile and the uncomfortable Jew:

On November 24, 2019, Clive James, the Australian writer, critic, poet, and novelist, died aged eighty. Three days later, Sir Jonathan Miller, theater and opera director, doctor, comedian, sculptor, and much else besides, died aged eighty-five. To my generation this was like an evisceration of our culture in a single week. . . . Both were inexhaustibly curious and lavishly talented. Both were accused of spreading those talents too thinly. One seemed to possess the gift of happiness, one didn’t. One was a friend of the Jews, one wasn’t. Miller was Jewish—ish being the operative word. “I’m not really a Jew; just Jew-ish,” he famously declared in the 1960s revue, Beyond the Fringe. James wasn’t. James was the one who liked Jews.

I am not about to argue that Miller would have been happy had he made peace with his Jewishness. Being a Jew isn’t a panacea for anything. But his vexed relations with his Jewishness strike me as of a kind with the discordancy of his emotions in general. He seemed unable to like anything unreservedly or to connect the pieces of his own nature, especially, by his own admission, the Jewish pieces. “Although my family were Jewish and I am genetically Jewish, I have absolutely no subscription to the creed, and no interest in the race,” he told Dick Cavett in 1980.

Israel displeased [Miller] in the usual, unthinking ways. [James, by contrast], was a staunch supporter of Israel and saw through the fashionable denunciations of Zionism made by people “dedicated to knowing as little as possible about the history of the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians.”

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More about: Howard Jacobson, Philo-Semitism

 

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy