A Masterful , and Unsettling, Spy Novel

In The Black Widow, Daniel Silva brings back the hero of several previous thrillers—the Israeli superspy-cum-art restorer Gabriel Allon, who vanquishes enemies and wins women with equal ease—to do battle against Islamic State, which, at the novel’s beginning, bombs a French conference on anti-Semitism. While Adam Kirsch deems the book satisfyingly thrilling, with plot twists, excitement, and suspense, he finds unsettling its perceptiveness about present-day reality:

The Black Widow . . . converge[s] with reality in ways that threaten the escapist pleasures it is supposed to offer. In an author’s note, Silva indicates that he finished The Black Widow after the Charlie Hebdo and Hypercacher massacres of January 2015. But the book must have been written before the even deadlier attacks in Paris last November, and in Brussels in March of this year, and the Orlando nightclub shooting this summer. In other words, Silva’s fictional IS bombing was preceded and followed by a string of real-life IS atrocities, some directed against Jews, others against gays, still others against random Europeans and Americans

The intensely present reality of IS terrorism means that Silva’s fictional treatment of it has a difficult choice to make. The thriller form strongly pushes for a happy ending: somehow, we want and expect Gabriel Allon to track down [the perpetrator], thwart the next bombing, and put an end to the IS threat. As readers, we want to suspend our disbelief. But how can we, in the face of daily headlines that bring more and more violence? . . . How can a fictional hero conquer an actual threat?

Read more at Tablet

More about: Arts & Culture, Fiction, Islamic State, Israel & Zionism, Mossad, Terrorism


The IDF’s First Investigation of Its Conduct on October 7 Is Out

For several months, the Israel Defense Forces has been investigating its own actions on and preparedness for October 7, with an eye to understanding its failures. The first of what are expected to be many reports stemming from this investigation was released yesterday, and it showed a series of colossal strategic and tactical errors surrounding the battle at Kibbutz Be’eri, writes Emanuel Fabian. The probe, he reports, was led by Maj. Gen. (res.) Mickey Edelstein.

Edelstein and his team—none of whom had any involvement in the events themselves, according to the IDF—spent hundreds of hours investigating the onslaught and battle at Be’eri, reviewing every possible source of information, from residents’ WhatsApp messages to both Israeli and Hamas radio communications, as well as surveillance videos, aerial footage, interviews of survivors and those who fought, plus visits to the scene.

There will be a series of further reports issued this summer.

IDF chief Halevi in a statement issued alongside the probe said that while this was just the first investigation into the onslaught, which does not reflect the entire picture of October 7, it “clearly illustrates the magnitude of the failure and the dimensions of the disaster that befell the residents of the south who protected their families with their bodies for many hours, and the IDF was not there to protect them.” . . .

The IDF hopes to present all battle investigations by the end of August.

The IDF’s probes are strictly limited to its own conduct. For a broader look at what went wrong, Israel will have to wait for a formal state commission of inquiry to be appointed—which happens to be the subject of this month’s featured essay in Mosaic.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza War 2023, IDF, Israel & Zionism, October 7