Must Israeli Literature Come from Israel?

Jan. 12 2015

Israel’s thriving literary culture now encompasses a sizable number of talented expatriate writers, some of whom have made no secret of their lack of interest in returning to Israel. This phenomenon reanimates old questions about the meaning of Jewish culture, Beth Kissileff writes:

As Hillel Halkin—an American-born writer, translator, and critic who has been living in Israel for over 40 years—told me, the tradition of the literary expatriate is long and distinguished, including luminaries like James Joyce, Marguerite Yourcenar, and Samuel Beckett. The difference, however, is that “no one in France gets upset” because Yourcenar decamped from her native Belgium to live most of her life in Maine. But where a writer lives, Halkin noted, is still “an issue in Israel in a way it isn’t in other countries.”

It’s an issue because of a simple question: What is the revival of the Hebrew language for? Is it cultural or territorial? The resurrection of Hebrew as a living spoken and written language was essential to the Zionist movement; and since the establishment of the state of Israel, the majority of Hebrew literature has been written with the intention of contributing to the culture of the new Jewish state. Now, for many different reasons, a younger generation is choosing to live and write outside Israel while still making a contribution to Hebrew culture. What the ultimate outcome of these attempts will be, and whether it is good or bad for Israel, Zionism, and Hebrew literature in general, remains unknown.

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More about: Israel, Israeli expatriates, Israeli literature, Jewish literature, Modern Hebrew literature, Zionism

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy