Vanished Kingdoms: The Rise and Fall of States and NationsBy Norman Davies (Viking, 830 pp., $40) There is a well-worn story that is told in one form or another in all European history textbooks. In 824, ten years after the death of Charlemagne, Agobard, Archbishop of Lyon, hailed a new Christian imperial ambition to unite all the peoples and lands of the Western Holy Roman Empire by reformulating Galatians 3:28: “There is now neither Gentile nor Jew, Scythian nor Aquitanian, nor Lombard, nor Burgundian, nor Alaman, nor bond, nor free.
Jerusalem—It was a nation of ambivalent Israelis that listened to President Obama’s latest Middle East plan—an interim agreement based on ending the occupation of the Palestinians while somehow ensuring the security of the Israelis. Israeli ambivalence is peculiar: It has nothing to do with uncertainty or confusion. Instead, to be an ambivalent Israeli is to be torn between two conflicting certainties.
Imagine the likelihood of thousands of American students, intellectuals, and Hollywood celebrities marching in support of George W. Bush, and you will begin to appreciate the marvel of the Israeli leftists now rallying around Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Reviled for engineering the Lebanon war, for masterminding the settlement movement, for opposing every attempt at reconciliation with the Palestinians, and as the personification of Israeli militarism and anti-Arab racism, Sharon today is viewed by many leftists as the settlers' bete noire and Israel's foremost champion of peace.