Norman Podhoretz’s Once-Controversial Memoir, 50 Years On

The appearance in 1967 of Making It, Norman Podhoretz’s tale of coming to maturity in the world of the New York intellectuals—and of the naked ambition for fame and prestige that drove both him and them—created no small amount of controversy. Friends and mentors had discouraged him from publishing it in the first place, warm relationships turned cold, and the book met with decidedly harsh reviews. Yet reading Making It a half-century later—it has just been re-released by the publishing arm of the New York Review of Books, which had been among the journals to pan the first edition—Scott Johnson finds this reaction difficult to understand. The book itself, he reports, is no less compelling now than then:

Making It might have been titled The Education of Norman Podhoretz. The author traces his education from public school in the tough and impoverished Brownsville section of Brooklyn to college as a scholarship student at Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary. Columbia set his “brain on fire.” He became the star student of the great literary critic Lionel Trilling and other prominent members of Columbia’s dazzling faculty. . . .

The book offers the enthralling coming-of-age story of Podhoretz’s rise to success in the heavily Jewish world of New York intellectuals of the 1950s and 1960s—the lost world of [what Murray Kempton called the] “Family.” The Family was born in part from the break of Partisan Review—the legendary intellectual review whose founding editors were Philip Rahv and William Phillips—from the Communist party. The Partisan Review crowd married a commitment to left-wing anti-Stalinist politics with a devotion to modernist art and literature. Podhoretz joined the Family as a precocious member of its third and final generation. At just thirty in 1960, he was named Elliot Cohen’s successor as editor of Commentary, the magazine then sponsored by the American Jewish Committee. . .

Visiting Making It for the first time, or returning to it after many years, readers will find it evocative of another lost world, too—that of the Yiddish-speaking, East European immigrant Jews, which included Podhoretz’s literal family. He himself grew up speaking both Yiddish and heavily accented English. In the first chapter of Making It, Podhoretz describes the unforgettable Mrs. K., the high-school English teacher “who took it upon herself to polish me to as high a sheen as she could manage and I would permit.”

Read more at City Journal

More about: American Jewish Committee, American Jewry, History & Ideas, New York City, Norman Podhoretz

Iran’s Program of Subversion and Propaganda in the Caucasus

In the past week, Iranian proxies and clients have attacked Israel from the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, and Yemen. Iran also has substantial military assets in Iraq and Syria—countries over which it exercises a great deal of control—which could launch significant attacks on Israel as well. Tehran, in addition, has stretched its influence northward into both Azerbaijan and Armenia. While Israel has diplomatic relations with both of these rival nations, its relationship with Baku is closer and involves significant military and security collaboration, some of which is directed against Iran. Alexander Grinberg writes:

Iran exploits ethnic and religious factors in both Armenia and Azerbaijan to further its interests. . . . In Armenia, Iran attempts to tarnish the legitimacy of the elected government and exploit the church’s nationalist position and tensions between it and the Armenian government; in Azerbaijan, the Iranian regime employs outright terrorist methods similar to its support for terrorist proxies in the Middle East [in order to] undermine the regime.

Huseyniyyun (Islamic Resistance Movement of Azerbaijan) is a terrorist militia made up of ethnic Azeris and designed to fight against Azerbaijan. It was established by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps . . . in the image of other pro-Iranian militias. . . . Currently, Huseyniyyun is not actively engaged in terrorist activities as Iran prefers more subtle methods of subversion. The organization serves as a mouthpiece of the Iranian regime on various Telegram channels in the Azeri language. The main impact of Huseyniyyun is that it helps spread Iranian propaganda in Azerbaijan.

The Iranian regime fears the end of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan because this would limit its options for disruption. Iranian outlets are replete with anti-Semitic paranoia against Azerbaijan, accusing the country of awarding its territory to Zionists and NATO. . . . Likewise, it is noteworthy that Armenian nationalists reiterate hideous anti-Semitic tropes that are identical to those spouted by the Iranians and Palestinians. Moreover, leading Iranian analysts have no qualms about openly praising [sympathetic] Armenian clergy together with terrorist Iran-funded Azeri movements for working toward Iranian goals.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: Azerbaijan, Iran, Israeli Security