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 Ugly Roots of Ireland’s Anti-Israel Policies

Prime Minister Varadkar’s meretricious messaging concerning the freeing of a kidnapped child is only one example of the Irish government’s perverse reaction to Hamas’s assault on Israel. Varadkar has accused the IDF of pursuing “something approaching revenge” in Gaza, and compared the Israeli war effort to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. His parliament, meanwhile, came close to expelling the Israeli ambassador. Terry Glavin writes:

In a recent interview, . . . the retired Irish diplomat Niall Holohan put it this way: “We feel we have been victimized over the centuries. It’s part of our psyche—underneath it all we side with the underdog.” But there’s something else in the Irish psyche that’s impolite to mention in the comfy Dublin pubs and bistros. . . . Not a few of Ireland’s gallant and celebrated champions of the underdog, its heroes of Irish freedom, were vulgar anti-Semites and Nazi collaborators.

And in recent years, Irish Jews are commonly baited, harassed, and badgered every time there is some eruption in Israel involving Palestinian “resistance.”

The republican pamphleteer Arthur Griffith approved [of anti-Jewish agitation in Limerick in 1904], calling Jews “usurers and parasites.” Griffiths was one of the founders of Sinn Féin, in 1905, and he served as Sinn Féin’s president in 1911.

There was always a deep division in the Irish nationalist movement between Irish republicans who felt an affinity with the Jews owing to a shared history of dispossession and exile, and Catholic extremists who ranted and raved about Jews. Those Catholic shouters are still abroad, apparently unaware that for half a century, Catholic doctrine has established that anti-Semitism is a mortal sin.

Read more at National Post

More about: Anti-Semitism, Gaza War 2023, Ireland