Isaiah Berlin, Lionel Trilling, and Saul Bellow on the Unrest of the Late 1960s

The present combination of sometimes-violent protests, riots, racial tensions, collapsing cities, and a young left seized with revolutionary fervor has put some in mind of the “long, hot summers” of the late 1960s. While many of the leading figures behind that New Left fervor were Jewish—whether intellectuals like Noam Chomsky, Norman Mailer, and Herbert Marcuse or activists like Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin—so too were many of its liberal critics. It is to the latter group that David Herman turns, looking to the writings of the philosopher Isaiah Berlin, the critic Lionel Trilling, and the novelist Saul Bellow:

[T]he British media continue to see the 60s through the eyes of the New Left. . . . But there were others who saw the 60s very differently, older writers and intellectuals like Isaiah Berlin, Lionel Trilling, and Saul Bellow.

Isaiah Berlin, an almost exact contemporary of Trilling’s, . . . was almost sixty when the Columbia students started rioting. . . . He wrote to [the former national security adviser] McGeorge Bundy on May 31, [1968] about his impending visit to New York, “I propose to come armed with a water pistol, and if any militant student approaches me I shall rise up against him and say that the dons have turned, the worms fight back, and douse him. . . . Why cannot the professors build barricades of their own?”

Saul Bellow, like Trilling and Berlin, was appalled by the riots in the 60s, but took a tougher line than either. . . . He had been a supporter of the Congress of Racial Equality and wrote to the papers attacking the Vietnam War. Then came the riots in his beloved Chicago in 1968. He watched the chaos on TV, appalled by the anarchy on the streets of his hometown. . . . There’s a new tone to Bellow’s fiction during the late 60s. His sympathies moved from young men like Augie March and Tommy Wilhelm (Seize the Day) to older authority figures like Mr. Sammler, Mosby in Mosby’s Memoirs, and Braun in The Old System.

What’s interesting about the reactions of Trilling, Berlin, and Bellow, is that they all saw the 60s as a terrible moment. The language is revealing. “The crazy sixties (Bellow), “The rapid growth of barbarism” (Berlin). “Abominable,” “a total rejection of a way of life” (Trilling).

Read more at The Critic

More about: Isaiah Berlin, Lionel Trilling, New Left, Saul Bellow

An Israeli Buffer Zone in the Gaza Strip Doesn’t Violate International Law

 The IDF announced on Thursday that it is safe for residents to return to some of the towns and villages near the Gaza Strip that have been abandoned since October 7. Yet on the same day, rocket sirens sounded in one of those communities, Kibbutz Mefalsim. To help ensure security in the area, Israel is considering the creation of a buffer zone within the Strip that would be closed to Palestinian civilians and buildings. The U.S. has indicated, however, that it would not look favorably on such a step.

Avraham Shalev explains why it’s necessary:

The creation of a security buffer along the Gaza-Israel border serves the purpose of destroying Hamas’s infrastructure and eliminating the threat to Israel. . . . Some Palestinian structures are practically on the border, and only several hundred yards away from Israeli communities such as Kfar Aza, Kerem Shalom, and Sderot. The Palestinian terrorists that carried out the murderous October 7 attacks crossed into Israel from many of these border-adjacent areas. Hamas officials have already vowed that “we will do this again and again. The al-Aqsa Flood [the October 7th massacre] is just the first time, and there will be a second, a third, a fourth.”

In 2018 and 2019, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad organized mass marches towards the Israeli border with the goal of breaking into Israel. Billed by Palestinians as “the Great March of Return,” its name reveals its purpose—invasion. Although the marches were supposedly non-violent, they featured largescale attacks on Israeli forces as well as arson and damage to Israeli agriculture and civilian communities. Moreover, the October 7 massacre was made possible by Hamas’s prepositioning military hardware along the border under false cover of civilian activity. The security perimeter is intended to prevent a reprise of these events.

Shalev goes on to dismantle the arguments put forth about why international law prohibits Israel from creating the buffer zone. He notes:

By way of comparison, following the defeat of Nazi Germany, France occupied the Saar [River Valley] directly until 1947 and then indirectly until reintegration with Germany in 1957, and the Allied occupation of Berlin continued until the reunification of Germany in 1990. The Allies maintained their occupation long after the fall of the Nazi regime, due to the threat of Soviet invasion and conquest of West Berlin, and by extension Western Europe.

Read more at Kohelet

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, International Law, Israeli Security