Boris Pasternak, the CIA, and the War of Ideas

Boris Pasternak’s epic masterpiece Dr. Zhivago is above all else a political novel, designed as an attack on Soviet totalitarianism and meant to show the horror of what he called the “inhuman reign of the lie.” A recent book tells the story of how the Kremlin tried to suppress the novel, of Pasternak’s courage in the face of official intimidation, and of the role played by the CIA in getting the book published and distributed in Western Europe. When Pasternak won the Nobel Prize in 1958, the Soviet Union struck back, including by using anti-Semitism as a weapon. Algis Valiunas writes:

Straightaway [after the prize was announced] the Literaturnaya Gazeta ran a novella-length editorial of florid scurrility, headlined “A Provocative Sortie of International Reaction.” The op-ed included the entire rejection letter sent to Pasternak in 1956 that certified the official worthlessness and downright malignancy of the work and its author. The gazette had a circulation of almost 900,000 readers, and this issue sold out in a few hours. The epithet of choice for Pasternak in the Soviet press and in the mouths of the faithful soon became “Judas,” for while propagating belief in Christ might be anti-Soviet slander, everyone understood how aptly the biblical allusion fit the arch-betrayer of the Socialist Motherland, especially when the offender was [of Jewish origin].

Read more at Commentary

More about: Boris Pasternak, CIA, Cold War, Literature, Soviet Jewry, War of Ideas


The Right and Wrong Ways for the U.S. to Support the Palestinians

Sept. 29 2023

On Wednesday, Elliott Abrams testified before Congress about the Taylor Force Act, passed in 2018 to withhold U.S. funds from the Palestinian Authority (PA) so long as it continues to reward terrorists and their families with cash. Abrams cites several factors explaining the sharp increase in Palestinian terrorism this year, among them Iran’s attempt to wage proxy war on Israel; another is the “Palestinian Authority’s continuing refusal to fight terrorism.” (Video is available at the link below.)

As long as the “pay for slay” system continues, the message to Palestinians is that terrorists should be honored and rewarded. And indeed year after year, the PA honors individuals who have committed acts of terror by naming plazas or schools after them or announcing what heroes they are or were.

There are clear alternatives to “pay to slay.” It would be reasonable for the PA to say that, whatever the crime committed, the criminal’s family and children should not suffer for it. The PA could have implemented a welfare-based system, a system of family allowances based on the number of children—as one example. It has steadfastly refused to do so, precisely because such a system would no longer honor and reward terrorists based on the seriousness of their crimes.

These efforts, like the act itself, are not at all meant to diminish assistance to the Palestinian people. Rather, they are efforts to direct aid to the Palestinian people rather than to convicted terrorists. . . . [T]he Taylor Force Act does not stop U.S. assistance to Palestinians, but keeps it out of hands in the PA that are channels for paying rewards for terror.

[S]hould the United States continue to aid the Palestinian security forces? My answer is yes, and I note that it is also the answer of Israel and Jordan. As I’ve noted, PA efforts against Hamas or other groups may be self-interested—fights among rivals, not principled fights against terrorism. Yet they can have the same effect of lessening the Iranian-backed terrorism committed by Palestinian groups that Iran supports.

Read more at Council on Foreign Relations

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror, U.S. Foreign policy