If you were to pinpoint one moment when it looked as if things just might work out for Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister, it would probably be February 2, 2010. That day, Fayyad addressed the annual Herzliya Conference, a sort of Israeli version of Davos featuring high-powered policymakers and intellectuals. It is not a typical speaking venue for Palestinians; yet Fayyad was warmly received.
By the standards of contemporary atrocity, Lieutenant Colonel Shalom Eisner’s striking Andreas Ias in the face with the butt of his M-16 was a trifle. Eisner was the deputy commander of the Jordan Valley Brigade of the Israeli army, and Ias was a Dane on a bicycle who supported the Palestinians. The video of the incident depicts Eisner screaming in Hebrew to a group that does not understand Hebrew to go home, and holding his rifle horizontally, like an instrument of crowd control.
The Patagonian Hare: A Memoir By Claude Lanzmann Translated by Frank Wynne (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 528 pp., $35) I. The film called Shoah runs for more than nine and a half hours. Its subject is the extermination of Europe’s Jews by the Nazis. It features Jewish survivors of the death camps, Poles who lived near the camps, and Germans who organized and ran them—and also its director, Claude Lanzmann, in the background, with his various interpreters. The languages in which these people speak include Yiddish, Hebrew, English, German, Polish, and French: a sound file of Europe.
This week, the editors of the Süddeutsche Zeitung, a liberal Munich newspaper, published a diatribe—in the form of a poem—by the well-known German author Gunter Grass. Entitled “Was gesagt werden muss” (“What must be said”), the poem denounced a possible Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Footnote The Deep Blue Sea This Is Not a Film From Israel comes a film of contrasts. Footnote uses sophisticated style to deal with an ancient subject. Joseph Cedar, the writer-director, tells a story about Talmudic studies and couches it in cinematic brio. This verve also counterpoints the drama. Along with the talk about deep scholarship comes this visual approach that is a kind of modern complement.
Mitt Romney declared last month, to some incredulity, that he owns several guns.
What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank By Nathan Englander (Alfred A. Knopf, 207 pp., $24.95) The great mystery about the fiction of Nathan Englander is the rapturous response that it has elicited. The enigma deepens with the accolades for this new volume of stories, which, for reasons I will try to explain, is a great falling-off from For the Relief of Unbearable Urges, his debut collection, which appeared in 1999.
When the President of the United States repeatedly says he’s got your back, and in precisely those words, what more can you ask for? Yet as I read Obama’s interview with Jeff Goldberg in The Atlantic, then his speech to the AIPAC convention, and finally reports of his meeting with Netanyahu, I felt increasingly uneasy. True, Obama went farther than he ever has in reassuring Israel of his commitment to stopping a nuclear Iran. He explicitly mentioned the military option. He upheld Israel’s right to defend itself.
I. It is not the business of Israel, although it seems to be the business of the politicians of Israel, to hector and harass President Obama about the release of Jonathan Pollard, who served as a certified espionage agent of the Jewish state in and against its one truly reliable ally, the United States of America. Maybe Pollard’s sentence was a bit harsher than it should have been. But I don’t even concede that. In any case, there are probably hundreds of thousands of convicts now in jail who can argue that their prison sentence was not equable or even just in the first place.
When Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Barack Obama on Monday, the main issue will be trust. Obama will ask that Israel trust America’s determination to stop Iran, and trust that when he says all options are on the table he means it. Netanyahu will likely be thinking about May 1967. In late May 1967, Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol dispatched his foreign minister, Abba Eban, to Washington. Egyptian and Syrian troops were pressing on Israel’s borders; Egypt had imposed a naval blockade on the Straits of Tiran, Israel’s shipping route to the east.