The Latest Work of Israel’s Leading Science-Fiction Writer Doesn’t Live Up to Its Promise

Published last year, ha-Lashon Noshlah (“Tongue Untangled”), is the latest work of Shimon Adaf, probably the Jewish state’s best-known author of science fiction and fantasy. While written for adults, its elaborate plot has at its center one of Adaf’s previous works of children’s fantasy, which in turn plays with the biblical story of Abraham and the realities of modern Israel. Michael Weingrad revisits the earlier book and reviews the new one, while taking stock of Adaf’s career:

For two decades, Adaf has seemed on the verge of producing a great work of Hebrew fantastica. He is a particularly fine poet, with tremendous lyrical gifts. Yet his fantasy and science fiction novels (I have not read his detective trilogy, now translated into English) all tend to recede into self-referentiality and cryptic language games, gesturing towards accomplishment unfulfilled; . . . while occasionally studded with passages of beautiful and atmospheric lyricism, and kernels of clever references and self-referentiality, [these works] are ultimately literature-department conceits, clothed in genre tropes and not particularly well worked out in either philosophical or novelistic terms.

The narrative flaws seen in [the earlier book] are also here: belated expositions and backstory infodumps in place of narrative suspense and resolution, sudden and arbitrary realizations on the part of the characters, narrative logic filled in with talkiness rather than action. Adaf’s career-long obsession with the nature of language ironically fails to appreciate the literary effectiveness of silence.

And then there is Adaf’s problematic theology:

This typology of normative religious tradition as oppressive and narrow-minded, while outsiders are benevolent and independent-minded runs through the book. Rabbis and Orthodox Jews in Adaf’s fiction often tend to be racists and bigots. The main agent of the sadistic angels in the book is an underground organization of fanatical monotheists—Jewish, Christian, and Muslim—who want to uproot all idolatry from the world. The organization is run by a far-right Israeli Jew. It takes a certain ideological perspective to make an Israeli organization that unites Muslims, Christians, and Jews the bad guys. Yet, as Lucinda tells one rabbi, idolatry is not bad. It is a form of magic that can be used for good purposes.

Read more at Investigations and Fantasies

More about: Fantasy, Israeli literature, Science fiction

If Iran Goes Nuclear, the U.S. Will Be Forced Out of the Middle East

The International Atomic Energy Agency reported in May that Iran has, or is close to having, enough highly enriched uranium to build multiple atomic bombs, while, according to other sources, it is taking steps toward acquiring the technology to assemble such weapons. Considering the effects on Israel, the Middle East, and American foreign policy of a nuclear-armed Iran, Eli Diamond writes:

The basic picture is that the Middle East would become inhospitable to the U.S. and its allies when Iran goes nuclear. Israel would find itself isolated, with fewer options for deterring Iran or confronting its proxies. The Saudis and Emiratis would be forced into uncomfortable compromises.

Any course reversal has to start by recognizing that the United States has entered the early stages of a global conflict in which the Middle East is set to be a main attraction, not a sideshow.

Directly or not, the U.S. is engaged in this conflict and has a significant stake in its outcome. In Europe, American and Western arms are the only things standing between Ukraine and its defeat at the hands of Russia. In the Middle East, American arms remain indispensable to Israel’s survival as it wages a defensive, multifront war against Iran and its proxies Hamas and Hizballah. In the Indo-Pacific, China has embarked on the greatest military buildup since World War II, its eyes set on Taiwan but ultimately U.S. primacy.

While Iran is the smallest of these three powers, China and Russia rely on it greatly for oil and weapons, respectively. Both rely on it as a tool to degrade America’s position in the region. Constraining Iran and preventing its nuclear breakout would keep waterways open for Western shipping and undermine a key node in the supply chain for China and Russia.

Diamond offers a series of concrete suggestions for how the U.S. could push back hard against Iran, among them expanding the Abraham Accords into a military and diplomatic alliance that would include Saudi Arabia. But such a plan depends on Washington recognizing that its interests in Eastern Europe, in the Pacific, and in the Middle East are all connected.

Read more at National Review

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Middle East, U.S. Foreign policy