A Literary Exploration of American Jews’ Relationship with Israel Makes a Distasteful Mockery of Zionism

In Joshua Cohen’s novel The Netanyahus, set in 1960, an Israeli historian of the Spanish Inquisition named Benzion Netanyahu arrives for a visit at the American Corbin College, with his wife and three sons in tow, and is hosted by an American Jewish professor named Ruben Blum. Benzion is not a fictional character but a very real historian and the personal secretary to Vladimir Jabotinsky; no less real are his wife and three sons, one of whom was until recently the prime minister of Israel. The visit too is real, although Cohen fictionalizes the rest of the work. At its heart is what Allan Arkush calls “a spurious history” of Zionism, apparently designed to flatter the assumptions of American Jews who are uncomfortable with Israel. And that’s not the only flaw Arkush finds:

I find it hard even to list all of the things in the novel that ring false. . . . And just about every character in the book from the precocious teenage daughter to the WASPy chairman of the History Department lacks verisimilitude. They seem to have been put together out of raw materials mined from some other American Jewish novel—or in the case of the narrator’s assimilated nouveau riche in-laws, maybe The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel—to play a specific role in the book’s formulaic plot.

Shortly after making the Blums’ acquaintance on a wintry day, these “Yahus” barge into their host’s den without removing their shoes, “tracking snow across the wood, the parquet puddling with the melting runoff.” Then Benzion’s obnoxious wife, Tzila, changes the seven-year-old (!) Iddo’s soiled diaper in the living room. Later, when the adults are out of the house, Iddo smashes the new color television set, and thirteen-year-old Yonatan, still a long way from being the hero of Entebbe, beds the Blums’ teenaged daughter while the ten-year-old Bibi serves as a lookout. This is all clearly supposed to be funny.

Shorn of its pseudoscholarly trimmings, . . . The Netanyahus consists of little besides distasteful mockery of the Zionist idea.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: American Jewish literature, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel and the Diaspora, University

Hamas’s Hostage Diplomacy

Ron Ben-Yishai explains Hamas’s current calculations:

Strategically speaking, Hamas is hoping to add more and more days to the pause currently in effect, setting a new reality in stone, one which will convince the United States to get Israel to end the war. At the same time, they still have most of the hostages hidden in every underground crevice they could find, and hope to exchange those with as many Hamas and Islamic Jihad prisoners currently in Israeli prisons, planning on “revitalizing” their terrorist inclinations to even the odds against the seemingly unstoppable Israeli war machine.

Chances are that if pressured to do so by Qatar and Egypt, they will release men over 60 with the same “three-for-one” deal they’ve had in place so far, but when Israeli soldiers are all they have left to exchange, they are unlikely to extend the arrangement, instead insisting that for every IDF soldier released, thousands of their people would be set free.

In one of his last speeches prior to October 7, the Gaza-based Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar said, “remember the number one, one, one, one.” While he did not elaborate, it is believed he meant he wants 1,111 Hamas terrorists held in Israel released for every Israeli soldier, and those words came out of his mouth before he could even believe he would be able to abduct Israelis in the hundreds. This added leverage is likely to get him to aim for the release for all prisoners from Israeli facilities, not just some or even most.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli Security