A Zionist Novel for the 21st Century

David Bezmozgis’s The Betrayers tells the story of Baruch Kotler, a Soviet refusenik-turned-Israeli politician, and his encounter with Vladimir Tankilevich, the man who betrayed Kotler to the KGB decades earlier. Not only does the novel possess a seriousness rare in contemporary fiction, writes Marat Grinberg, but it contains within it a sophisticated evaluation of the major tensions inherent in Zionism:

The principal goal of Zionism was the normalization of the Diaspora Jew. In the infamous words attributed to David Ben-Gurion, Zionism will be victorious only once Israel has its own thieves and prostitutes. A normal country requires its people to make normal compromises: individual, moral, and political. This is what Kotler cannot abide. . . . [H]e learns from Tankilevich that the latter betrayed him because the KGB had threatened to ruin [Tankilevich’s] brother’s life if he didn’t cooperate. . . . While Kotler sees no room for moral compromise (a concession to evil), Tankilevich insists on his moral right to elevate the personal (his brother’s safety) over the collective and ideological. The real-life Tankilevich was a man named Sanya Lipavsky, who betrayed [Natan] Sharansky under very similar circumstances. The conflict is reminiscent of Dostoyevsky. Like him, Bezmozgis does not find an answer, but he does draw an analogy between the very specific challenge to his characters and the challenges facing an entire nation, and an entire people—in this case, Israel’s and the Jewish people’s.

Read more at Commentary

More about: David Bezmozgis, Jewish literature, KGB, Natan Sharansky, Soviet Jewry, Zionism

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