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


An American Withdrawal from Iraq Would Hand Another Victory to Iran

Since October 7, the powerful network of Iran-backed militias in Iraq have carried out 120 attacks on U.S. forces stationed in the country. In the previous year, there were dozens of such attacks. The recent escalation has led some in the U.S. to press for the withdrawal of these forces, whose stated purpose in the country is to stamp out the remnants of Islamic State and to prevent the group’s resurgence. William Roberts explains why doing so would be a mistake:

American withdrawal from Iraq would cement Iran’s influence and jeopardize our substantial investment into the stabilization of Iraq and the wider region, threatening U.S. national security. Critics of the U.S. military presence argue that [it] risks a regional escalation in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Iran. However, in the long term, the U.S. military has provided critical assistance to Iraq’s security forces while preventing the escalation of other regional conflicts, such as clashes between Turkey and Kurdish groups in northern Iraq and Syria.

Ultimately, the only path forward to preserve a democratic, pluralistic, and sovereign Iraq is through engagement with the international community, especially the United States. Resisting Iran’s takeover will require the U.S. to draw international attention to the democratic backsliding in the country and to be present and engage continuously with Iraqi civil society in military and non-military matters. Surrendering Iraq to Iran’s agents would not only squander our substantial investment in Iraq’s stability; it would greatly increase Iran’s capability to threaten American interests in the Levant through its influence in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

Read more at Providence

More about: Iran, Iraq, U.S. Foreign policy