A British Writer’s Exploration of Her Jewish Past, Catholic Present—and the Eichmann Trial

Born to an Anglican mother and a Jewish father, the acclaimed British novelist Muriel Spark converted to Catholicism at the age of thirty-six. Seven years later, in 1961, Spark found herself in Jerusalem covering the trial of Adolf Eichmann for the London Observer. That experience would in turn become the basis for her novel The Mandelbaum Gate, which has as its protagonist a Catholic Briton of mixed Jewish and Christian ancestry, named Barbara, visiting the capital of the Jewish state. Calling the book both Spark’s “most ambitious” and her “most disappointing,” Christopher Scalia nonetheless finds in it moments of profundity:

Some of the novel’s most compelling passages occur when Barbara, reflects on, or is challenged to reconcile, her disparate ethnic and religious backgrounds.

Although Spark devotes only a few pages of this long novel to it, the [Eichmann trial] has a profound effect on Barbara’s journey. She is struck by the language and imagery of Eichmann’s testimony, finding them consistently inappropriate and ill-suited for their subject. On some occasions, his empty mechanical language belies the horror of the Holocaust: “Minute by minute throughout the hours the prisoner discoursed on the massacre without mentioning the word, covering all aspects of every question addressed to him with the meticulous undiscriminating reflex of a computing machine.” This “dead mechanical tick” is poorly suited for the massacre it described.

Later, Barbara contracts scarlet fever and spends a stretch of time confined to a house with several other people:

During her quarantine . . . Barbara becomes fed up with another character’s anti-Semitic commentary—“Really, let’s face it, Hitler had the right idea. . . . It’s a network on a world scale. The Jews. They’ve got us in a net.”—and attacks her. The overt anti-Semitism and Barbara’s visceral, direct reaction to it create a sharp contrast to the oblique and suppressed nature of the Eichmann trial, and the scene permits Barbara to demonstrate her attachment to her Jewish identity.

Read more at Public Discourse

More about: Catholicism, Conversion, Eichmann Trial, Jerusalem, Jews in literature


While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy