Jews and Jewishness

The Elections in Israel

The Elections in Israel

More than Netanyahu’s election to a fifth term as prime minister, the collapse of the Zionist left was the night’s historic result.

At least since Netanyahu’s election in 2009, Labor has repeatedly tried to defeat Likud by tacking right. Labor voters elected Avi Gabbay, a millionaire telecom executive and former minister in Netanyahu’s government, to head the party in 2017, in the hopes that he could reach voters beyond the party’s base. Gabbay, the son of Moroccan immigrants and raised in a poor Jerusalem neighborhood, was meant to take the party of the kibbutzim in a new direction. And in a sense, he did. He joined the right-wing attacks on the legitimacy of Arab political participation; when asked if he would form a governing coalition that included the Arab-led parties, he responded, “We have nothing in common with them.” He pledged not to evacuate Jewish settlements from the occupied West Bank. When, two weeks before the election, a rocket fired from Gaza hit a house in central Israel, Gabbay accused Netanyahu of being weak for not authorizing a more forceful military response. But voters who truly want ethnonationalism will always choose the real, bloody thing. Triangulation only moves the center of political gravity rightward, and when the center moves right, the left loses.

Perpetual Fear

Perpetual Fear

I don’t like the electric lock on the door to our shul.

My shul is in Philadelphia, directly across the state from Pittsburgh, where eleven Jews were murdered in October at the Tree of Life Synagogue by an anti-Semite with an AR-15. To have been young and Jewish in this country in the ’80s and ’90s was to have lived in a subconscious state of fear. That was my idiosyncratic experience, anyway—unconscious, inarticulable fear, the product of knowing enough of the “never again” canon, of a Jewish education that emphasized Elie Wiesel and Primo Levi and Deborah Lipstadt, Schindler’s List and Shoah and Night and Fog. In the ’60s and ’70s, the facts of the Shoah were being recovered. No one needed to be reminded not to forget while actively endeavoring to remember.

The Refusal to Make Things Easy for Anyone

The Refusal to Make Things Easy for Anyone

On Philip Roth, 1933–2018

For an age where more people are porn-literate than literature-literate, the nerdy Roth may prove to be his most transgressive persona in posterity, although there’s another candidate for the role. As all the tributes pour in and multiply in thousands of bytes on our screens, there’s another thing that no one has really mentioned: his political astuteness.

Laugh Till You Cry

Laugh Till You Cry

The Israeli Right's New Sense of Humor

During his reelection campaign this winter, Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu mentioned the word “Iran” on his Facebook page 155 times. This was three times as often as the next politician on the list, Naftali Bennett, Netanyahu’s younger, right-wing rival. Iran was, in many ways, central to Netanyahu’s campaign. Not only did it form a constant refrain in his campaign rhetoric, it was the focal point of Netanyahu’s epic speech to the United States Congress in early March, a speech intended to help halt his declining poll numbers and draw public attention away from Israel’s internal problems.

On Tony Judt

On Tony Judt

Tony Judt began as an intellectual historian; he will be remembered by many as a bracing critic of Zionism, a vigorous proponent of European-style social democracy, and–tragically–a victim of ALS. I have heard many describe as “moving” his snatches of memoir, published over the last year of his life. This is true–but what may have been even more moving was the extent to which he devoted his last days to making the case for the welfare state.