The Dangers of John le Carré’s Moral Sophistication

Near the end of last year, the famed British author of spy novels David Cornwell—known by the pen name John le Carré—died at the age of eighty-nine. In his fiction, and to a much greater extent in his public pronouncements, le Carré indulged in fashionable anti-Americanism, and, at the beginning of this century, blamed “neoconservatives” for “appointing the state of Israel as the purpose of all [U.S.] Middle Eastern and practically all global policy.” He also claimed that that “the Jewish lobby in America” tried to “claw him apart” following the publication of his 1983 novel on the Israel-Palestinian conflict, The Little Drummer Girl. Yet in 2019 he signed an open letter vowing not to vote for the Labor party on account of Jeremy Corbyn’s anti-Semitism. And he gave a long interview in 1998 in which he professed an admiration for Jews dating back to his childhood, boasted of his sensitivity toward the “repulsive . . . anti-Semitism” of the British “chattering classes,” and spoke of Israel in glowing terms.

“So where,” asks Melanie Phillips, “lay the truth about John le Carré?

He wrote The Little Drummer Girl, he said, to educate himself about the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. To that end, he visited the Middle East to learn about it firsthand from both sides. However, from his description of this visit in his memoir, The Pigeon Tunnel, it was the Palestinians who entranced himHe writes of being embraced by their terrorist leader, Yasir Arafat, who placed le Carré’s hand on Arafat’s “Palestinian heart.”

He was clearly sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. Yet that cause is the destruction of Israel. Ignoring this, he invested both sides with moral equivalence which he appeared to think was a fair and just approach. Such equivalence was also the hallmark of his fiction, in which he presented Western intelligence services as just as amoral, cynical, and squalid as those of the Communist world.

But in any battle between good and evil, moral equivalence is neither fair nor just. Instead, it actually gives victory to the forces of evil. That’s because creating a morally level playing field inescapably makes the bad guys better than they actually are and the good guys worse. So injustice is inevitably done to the good guys, who lose out while the bad guys get rewarded.

In Britain, a number of people who eulogized le Carré after his death praised him for the moral sense they claimed illuminated his fiction. They did not mean by that his contempt for Soviet Communism. They meant instead his contempt for the West.

Read more at JNS

More about: Anti-Semitism, Fiction, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Philo-Semitism, Soviet espionage

Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict