Israel’s Latest Prestige Drama Is Artistically Inept and Encourages the Worst Misconceptions about Zionist History

Produced by the creators of such internationally acclaimed hits as Fauda and Shtisel, the new Israeli television series The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem is set in the titular city during the 1920s and 30s. Michael Oren notes in his review that the show pays little attention to the dramatic events in Mandatory Palestine during this time, which included several waves of Arab violence and the increasing anti-Jewish turn of the British colonial rulers, who were closing the doors of immigration to the Land of Israel even as the Nazis were consolidating power.

[R]emarkably, appallingly, The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem makes no reference . . . whatsoever . . . to the Arab revolts, [or] to rising anti-Semitism [and] Nazism. It has more to say about halvah than the impending Holocaust. And while British officials abound throughout the series, they are overwhelmingly positive figures, free of any prejudice toward either Zionism or Jews.

Accordingly, and unsurprisingly, the only villains in The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem are Jews. And not just any Jews, but the right-wing Revisionists of the Irgun and the Leḥi [who] are portrayed as bloodthirsty and treasonous.

Some of this might be attributed to the nostalgia harbored by some Israeli leftists for the years of British rule and what they believe were its secular and fair-minded officials. . . . Similar impulses may have led the scriptwriter to underplay the widespread Arab belligerence at the time, even toward the non-Zionist communities of Hebron and Safed.

“At its worst,” writes Oren, the series “corroborates” the claim that Israel was “born of militarism, racism, and colonialism.” The Arabs fare no better, coming across as “docile or decadent stereotypes.” And perhaps worse still, Oren finds the show “melodramatic, plodding, [and] predictable.”

Read more at Tablet

More about: History of Zionism, Mandate Palestine, Television

What Israel Can Achieve in Gaza, the Fate of the Hostages, and Planning for the Day After

In a comprehensive analysis, Azar Gat concludes that Israel’s prosecution of the war has so far been successful, and preferable to the alternatives proposed by some knowledgeable critics. (For a different view, see this article by Lazar Berman.) But even if the IDF is coming closer to destroying Hamas, is it any closer to freeing the remaining hostages? Gat writes:

Hamas’s basic demand in return for the release of all the hostages—made clear well before it was declared publicly—is an end to the war and not a ceasefire. This includes the withdrawal of the IDF from the Gaza Strip, restoration of Hamas’s control over it (including international guarantees), and a prisoner exchange on the basis of “all for all.”

Some will say that there must be a middle ground between Hamas’s demands and what Israel can accept. However, Hamas’s main interest is to ensure its survival and continued rule, and it will not let go of its key bargaining chip. Some say that without the return of the hostages—“at any price”—no victory is possible. While this sentiment is understandable, the alternative would be a resounding national defeat. The utmost efforts must be made to rescue as many hostages as possible, and Israel should be ready to pay a heavy price for this goal; but Israel’s capitulation is not an option.

Beyond the great cost in human life that Israel will pay over time for such a deal, Hamas will return to rule the Gaza Strip, repairing its infrastructure of tunnels and rockets, filling its ranks with new recruits, and restoring its defensive and offensive arrays. This poses a critical question for those suggesting that it will be possible to restart the war at a later stage: have they fully considered the human toll should the IDF attempt to reoccupy the areas it would have vacated in the Gaza Strip?

Although Gat is sanguine about the prospects of the current campaign, he throws some cold water on those who hope for an absolute victory:

Militarily, it is possible to destroy Hamas’s command, military units, and infrastructure as a semi-regular military organization. . . . After their destruction in high-intensity fighting, the IDF must prevent Hamas from reviving by continuous action on the ground. As in the West Bank, this project will take years. . . . What the IDF is unlikely to achieve is the elimination of Hamas as a guerrilla force.

Lastly, Gat has some wise words about what will happen to Gaza after the war ends, a subject that has been getting renewed attention since Benjamin Netanyahu presented an outline of a plan to the war cabinet on Thursday. Gat argues that, contrary to the view of the American and European foreign-policy elite, there is no political solution for Gaza. After all, Gaza is in the Middle East, where “there are no solutions, . . . only bad options and options that are much worse.”

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, Israeli Security