The Prophetic Task of the Jewish Writer in the 21st Century

“Would it be too fantastical,” asks the Anglo-Jewish novelist Howard Jacobson, “to think of Jeremiah and Isaiah as forerunners of Malamud and Mailer?” After all, Jacobson writes, the prophecies delivered by such biblical figures “are not so much prognostications of trouble to come as scathing commentaries on the present: diatribes and lamentations that are terrible indeed.” Saul Bellow, Bernard Malamud, Norman Mailer, and other great Jewish writers of the mid-20th century certainly had a knack for producing “scathing commentaries on the present.” But where does that leave the Jewish writer of today, who faces a present with very different failings?

A new prophecy for our times is what we look to Jewish writers for now. A flurry of art, hot from the mouth of God, as alive to the teeming world of men and women as were Jeremiah’s denunciations, but no less admonitory, perhaps a little less Chicago-and-Newark street-smart this time around, and a little more “old European” in the Singer style, or “new Israeli” in the tragic manner of David Grossman, but still manic in its high-mindedness, blasphemous, hilarious, and above all unapologetic. The great prophets knew what to say to the backsliding Jew, long before the backsliding Jew had Zionism as his excuse. They cannot be a light unto other nations who denigrate their own.

Read more at Sapir

More about: David Grossman, Howard Jacobson, Jewish literature, Prophets, Saul Bellow

What Is the Biden Administration Thinking?

In the aftermath of the rescue of four Israeli hostages on Friday, John Podhoretz observes some “clarifying moments.” The third strikes me as the most important:

Clarifying Moment #3 came with the news that the Biden administration is still calling for negotiations leading to a ceasefire after, by my count, the seventh rejection of the same by Hamas since Bibi Netanyahu’s secret offer a couple of weeks ago. Secretary of State Blinken, a man who cannot say no, including when someone suggests it would be smart for him to play high-school guitar while Ukraine burns, will be back in the region for the eighth time to urge Hamas to accept the deal. Why is this clarifying? Because it now suggests, here and for all time, that the Biden team is stupid.

Supposedly the carrot the [White House] is dangling in the region is a tripartite security deal with Saudi Arabia and Israel. Which would, of course, be a good thing. But like the stupid people they are now proving to be, they seem not to understand the very thing that led the Saudis to view Israel as a potential ally more than a decade ago: the idea that Israel means business and does what it must to survive and built itself a tech sector the Saudis want to learn from. Allowing Hamas to survive, which is implicitly part of the big American deal, will not lead to normalization. The Saudis do not want an Iranian vassal state in Palestine. Their entire foreign-policy purpose is to counter Iran. I know that. You know that. Everybody in the world knows that. Even Tony Blinken’s guitar is gently weeping at his dangling a carrot to Israel and Saudi Arabia that neither wants, needs, nor will accept.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Antony Blinken, Gaza War 2023, Joseph Biden, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship