A Tale of Two Betrayals

The Betrayers, a new novel by the Canadian Jewish writer David Bezmozgis (Natasha, The Free World), centers on the story of Baruch Kotler, a Soviet dissident turned Israeli politician whose political career has suddenly ground to a halt after the revelation of an affair. Disgraced, he decamps with his mistress to Crimea, where, through a plot twist, the two end up living in a cramped house with the man who had betrayed Kotler to the KGB and thereby consigned him to thirteen years in the Gulag. The Betrayers, writes Boris Fishman, is masterfully crafted, possesses a distinctive and elegant style, and is even fun to read. What’s more, it manages to overcome one of the great challenges of literature with a political theme:

The Betrayers offers a lesson for anyone who has taken for granted the Lit 101 notion that politics is an awkward presence in literature: in strictly subordinating its many political observations to the demands of character—the author never allows himself to show up and polemicize—it achieves a seamlessness that marks it as the most persuasive “political” novel in years. And in creating antagonists who have a lot of catching up to do, Bezmozgis neatly avoids that ponderous feeling that takes hold whenever an author has to dispense exposition.

Read more at New York Times

More about: American Jewish literature, Literature, Soviet Jewry, Ukraine

As Hamas’s Reign of Terror Endures, the International Community Remains Obsessed with Jews Living in the Wrong Places

On Thursday, foreign ministers of the G-7—the U.S., Canada, Japan, Britain, France, Germany, and Italy—along with the EU, made an official “statement on the situation in the West Bank,” an area where they are very concerned, it appears, that too many Jews are dwelling. In particular, the G-7 condemned Israel’s decision to grant municipal status to five ad-hoc villages built without proper permits. Elliott Abrams comments:

I can see “condemning” murder, terror, kidnapping, and “rejecting” that legalization. Indeed in the next sentence they “reject the decision by the government of Israel to declare over 1,270 hectares of land in the West Bank as ‘state lands.’” Building houses should not be treated with language usually reserved for murder.

The statement then added complaints about the Israeli settlement program more generally, and about Israel’s decision to withhold some tax revenues it collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Why does Israel ever withhold such funds? Sometimes it is in the immediate aftermath of a terrorist attack. Sometimes it’s domestic politics. But it’s worth remembering something else: the Taylor Force Act, which became law in 2018 and stated that the “Palestinian Authority’s practice of paying salaries to terrorists serving in Israeli prisons, as well as to the families of deceased terrorists, is an incentive to commit acts of terror.” Until those payments cease, most forms of aid from the U.S. government to the Palestinian Authority may not be made. The payments continue. It is not clear if the State Department is pressuring the Palestinian Authority to end them.

Such moral considerations are entirely absent from the G-7 statement. The statement may be correct when it says, “maintaining economic stability in the West Bank is critical for regional security.” But it should be obvious that ending the pay-for-slay program and rewards for terrorism is even more critical for regional security. It’s a pity the G-7 did not find time to mention that.

The statement, it’s worth noting, appeared on the U.S. State Department website.

Read more at Pressure Points

More about: Europe and Israel, Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror, U.S. Foreign policy, West Bank