Orwell in Gaza

A word that came up in Elliott Abrams’s discussion of the peace process was “unreality,” and perhaps the 20th-century writer most adept at describing similar kinds of unreality was George Orwell. Matti Friedman takes a close look at Orwell’s journalism and its relevance today, and especially at his memoir of the Spanish Civil War, Homage to Catalonia—which happens to be one of my favorite books:

[B]ecause he told the truth as he saw it and was not seduced by fashionable opinion, because he preferred people to ideas, and because of his incomparably clear and urgent style, it is Orwell more than any other modern writer who remains the compass for those who hope to describe a bewildering world in clear English.

“Bewildering” is certainly one way to describe a Western intellectual scene that has responded to a murderous rampage by religious fanatics against Jews on October 7, 2023, and the subsequent war to defeat the culprits, by making excuses for Islamic terrorists while accusing the Jews of genocide. This might also be the right word to describe how a war in one small corner of the Middle East has morphed into a moment of cultural significance far beyond Israel’s borders.

Here Friedman, who is not only the author of his own excellent war memoir but the sharpest critic of what passes for Middle East reporting in the Western press, points to a key passage:

Early in life I had noticed that no event is ever correctly reported in a newspaper, but in Spain, for the first time, I saw newspaper reports which did not bear any relation to the facts, not even the relationship which is implied in an ordinary lie. I saw great battles reported where there had been no fighting, and complete silence where hundreds of men had been killed. .  . . I saw, in fact, history being written not in terms of what happened but of what ought to have happened according to various “party lines.”

“All of this,” writes Friedman,

sounds as if it were drawn precisely from my own experience seven decades later working in the Western press in Israel: . . . we were expected to tiptoe politely around Islam’s two billion adherents and pretend the region’s key story was a group of six million Jews oppressing a minority, the Palestinians, who only wanted a peaceful state beside Israel.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Gaza War 2023, George Orwell, Journalism

As Hamas’s Power Collapses, Old Feuds Are Resurfacing

In May, Mahmoud Nashabat, a high-ranking military figure in the Fatah party (which controls the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority), was gunned down in central Gaza. Nashabat was an officer in the Gaza wing of the Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, a terrorist outfit that served as Fatah’s vanguard during the second intifada, and now sometimes collaborates with Hamas. But his killers were Hamas members, and he was one of at least 35 Palestinians murdered in Gaza in the past two months as various terrorist and criminal groups go about settling old scores, some of which date back to the 1980s. Einav Halabi writes:

Security sources familiar with the situation told the London-based newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat that Gaza is now also beleaguered by the resurgence of old conflicts. “Many people have been killed in incidents related to the first intifada in 1987, while others have died in family disputes,” they said.

The “first-intifada portfolio” in Gaza is considered complex and convoluted, as it is filled with hatred among residents who accuse others of killing relatives for various reasons, including collaboration with Israel. . . . According to reports from Gaza, there are vigorous efforts on the ground to contain these developments, but the chances of success remain unclear. Hamas, for its part, is trying to project governance and control, recently releasing several videos showcasing how its operatives brutally beat residents accused of looting.

These incidents, gruesome as they are, suggest that Hamas’s control over the territory is slipping, and it no longer holds a monopoly on violence or commands the fear necessary to keep the population in line. The murders and beatings also dimension the grim reality that would ensue if the war ends precipitously: a re-empowered Hamas setting about getting vengeance on its enemies and reimposing its reign of terror.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Fatah, Gaza War 2023, Hamas