Review of the week

Thanks to CAMERA for spotting the entertaining (and enlightening) review by Matti Friedman in the Wall Street Journal of Padraig O’Malley’s book, The Two-State Delusion. The book is described as a tale of two narratives, but (perhaps inevitably) it has been accused of tending towards the Palestinian side of the street.

The review subheading is:

The idea that a collective memory of the Holocaust renders Jewish judgment defective is somehow acceptable these days.

Mr Friedman is not happy – and no wonder.

Here are two extracts as quoted by CAMERA:

More work should have gone into ensuring accuracy. The author asserts, for example, that Israel’s military victory in 1967 resulted from “massive U.S. assistance,” when there wasn’t massive U.S. military assistance before 1967. (France was then the main arms supplier; the planes that won the war were Mirages and Mystères.) We learn that Ariel Sharon was an agriculture minister in 1971 and that this has something to do with the genesis of the settlements; he wasn’t, and it doesn’t. The author describes Israeli soldiers carrying their Uzis “nonchalantly,” which is a nice touch. But no Israeli soldiers carry the Uzi, which was deemed obsolete after the 1973 war and removed from frontline service after that. The word “homeland” is quoted pointedly from the Balfour Declaration of 1917, where that word doesn’t appear. Would it have been too much trouble to check the text? It’s a single sentence.

Basic blunders by Professor O’Malley. And where was the editor? Friedman’s scorching comments are well founded.

The “bonding, primal element” of the Jewish psyche, we learn, is the Holocaust. Israelis are in thrall to weapons because of the Holocaust; they are obtuse to the suffering of others because of the Holocaust; and in general they are sort of crazy because of the Holocaust. Actually, half of the Jewish population in Israel has roots in the Islamic world. Their families were displaced by Muslims, not Nazis. Israelis think many of their neighbors are out to destroy Israel not because of the Holocaust, but because many of their neighbors say they are out to destroy Israel. Israel’s actions in the Middle East, in other words, have to do with its experience in the Middle East. The country’s objective success against long odds would have to indicate that at least some of its decisions have been reality-based, if not quite reasonable.

The idea that a collective memory renders Jewish judgment defective seems to be something acceptable to say aloud these days in connection with Israel, which is why I’ve dwelled on it. It’s important to point out not only that this observation is wrong, but that it is a patronizing ethnic smear. I don’t like the careless generalizations in Mr. O’Malley’s book or his shaky grasp of the facts. But I don’t think they have anything to do with the potato famine.

And that rather forcefully addresses the obscene conceit mentioned in the review subheading.

You can try to read the whole review here, thought it is behind a paywall.


Speech of the year?

I know it’s only January, but Matti Friedman‘s speech to BICOM at a dinner in London on January 26, was wonderful.

One taster:

“In my time in the press corps I saw, from the inside, how Israel’s flaws were dissected and magnified, while the flaws of its enemies were purposely erased. I saw how the threats facing Israel were disregarded or even mocked as figments of the Israeli imagination, even as these threats repeatedly materialized. I saw how a fictional image of Israel and of its enemies was manufactured, polished, and propagated to devastating effect by inflating certain details, ignoring others, and presenting the result as an accurate picture of reality. Lest we think this is something that has never happened before, we might remember Orwell’s observation about journalism from the Spanish civil war:

“Early in life,” he wrote, “I had noticed that no event is ever correctly reported in a newspaper, but in Spain, for the first time, I saw newspaper reports which do not bear any relation to the facts, not even the relationship which is implied in an ordinary lie. … I saw, in fact, history being written not in terms of what had happened but of what ought to have happened according to various ‘party lines.’”

That was in 1942.”

Turn off your phone. Get something nice to drink, and perhaps a nibble or two. Snuggle up somewhere quiet and comfortable, click here and read it all. You will not be sorry.

[Another one to chalk up to the Elder of Ziyon.]