In A Tale of Love and Darkness, the 2002 novel-cum-memoir that, his obituarists agreed, was surely Amos Oz’s finest literary work, the Israeli laureate, who died in the last days of 2018, wrote these words:
When I was little, my ambition was to grow up to be a book. People can be killed like ants. Writers are not hard to kill either. But not books: however systematically you try to destroy them, there is always a chance that a copy will survive and continue to enjoy a shelf-life in some corner of an out-of-the-way library somewhere in Reykjavik, Valladolid or Vancouver.… Seguir leyendo »
One of the disturbing motifs of Donald Trump’s campaign for president of the United States was his penchant for attracting unwanted—or at least unhelpfully revealing—endorsements. In the final days, for example, the Crusader, the newspaper of the Ku Klux Klan, lent the Republican nominee its backing. That echoed the support that had been voiced already, and repeatedly, by America’s best-known former Klansman, David Duke, who positively brimmed over with enthusiasm for Trump—admiration that the candidate was slow to disavow.
The habit held even after Trump won his improbable victory on Tuesday. In Moscow, the Duma burst into applause as Russian parliamentarians celebrated Trump’s victory (and no less heartily, one suspects, Hillary Clinton’s defeat).… Seguir leyendo »
After weeks of near-daily WikiLeaks releases of embarrassing emails plundered from the inbox of Hillary Clinton’s aides, her campaign team, and the wider Democratic Party, Julian Assange’s hosts at the Ecuadorian embassy in London have taken the ultimate step: like parents of a teenage child, driven so mad by their kid’s late night Snapchat habit that they finally turn off the wifi, the Ecuadorians have shut off the Internet to prevent their incorrigible long-term guest from doing any more leaking.
Were Julian Assange not confined to the embassy—he’s been living there since 2012, rather than succumb to a request from the Swedish authorities to interview him over an allegation of rape—you could imagine him suing his hosts for violating his human rights.… Seguir leyendo »
It was grimly appropriate that the first major international visitor to the new, post-Brexit Britain was Donald Trump. At dawn on Friday June 24, the presumptive Republican nominee’s Trump jet touched down in Glasgow, Scotland, from where he hopped into a Trump helicopter that ferried him to the christening of the Trump Turnberry golf course. There he applauded the “great victory” won overnight by those who had campaigned for Britain to leave the European Union.
They had, he said, exercised their “sacred right” to independence, taking back control of their economy and their borders. Naturally, he brought the subject back to himself and his own candidacy for the US presidency.… Seguir leyendo »
In truth, Ariel Sharon’s journey ended long ago. Eight years have passed, almost to the day, since he was silenced by a stroke that left him lodged in the limbo between life and death. That state of ambiguity was strangely fitting for a figure who, after decades painted as either black or white – reviled by his enemies as the «butcher of Beirut», loved by his admirers as «Arik, King of Israel» – ended his life an unexpected shade of grey.
After a long career as his country’s most fearless, some would say brutal, warrior – his father’s gift to him on his fifth birthday was a dagger – and as patron to the settler movement, Sharon’s final act was to dismantle some of the very settlements he had sponsored.… Seguir leyendo »
Think of it as the ‘‘Skyfall’’ session. In a committee room of the House of Commons, the heads of the British secret services appeared on Thursday before a panel of M.P.’s in what might have been a re-enactment of that scene from the latest Bond movie — minus the shootout.
Even without gunfire, it was not short of drama. The mere sight of the heads of Britain’s domestic and foreign intelligence agencies, MI5 and MI6, along with the director of its listening post, G.C.H.Q., was spectacle enough. This was their first joint appearance in public, addressing a parliamentary intelligence and security committee whose hearings had, until now, always been held behind closed doors.… Seguir leyendo »
This is a horror movie we’ve seen before. In the days following a US presidential contest, an Israeli government, about to face an election of its own, decides it can tolerate Hamas rocket-fire no longer. It hits back hard, determined to show the Israeli public that it is not sitting idle as a million of its citizens huddle in bomb shelters, their children unable to go to school, but that it is tough, ready to do whatever it takes to «restore deterrence». It will bring quiet to its southern towns by forcing Hamas to fear its wrath once more.
As it was after Barack Obama’s election in 2008, so it is after his re-election in 2012.… Seguir leyendo »
Todo el mundo coincide: el futuro de Europa está en manos de los alemanes. Berlín es hoy la capital de la Unión Europea, el lugar donde se toman las decisiones cruciales. En todas partes se habla de esta situación, en Bruselas y en París y, desde luego, en Atenas, Roma y Madrid. A decir verdad, en todas partes salvo en Alemania.
Los alemanes no discuten los hechos. Saben que sólo ellos pueden permitirse el lujo de sacar de apuros a los griegos y que casi todos los demás países de la zona euro, Francia incluida, han perdido su calificación triple A.… Seguir leyendo »
Everyone agrees: the future of Europe lies in German hands. Berlin is now the de facto capital of the European Union, the place where the crucial decisions are taken. They speak about this shift in Brussels and Paris and certainly in Athens, Rome and Madrid. Everywhere in fact – except Germany.
The Germans don’t dispute the facts. They know that they alone can afford to bail out the Greeks and that everyone else in the eurozone, including France, has lost their triple-A rating. They know that it has fallen to Germany to establish the near €500bn (£416bn) fund that will deal with future debt crises, the catchily named European Stability Mechanism that starts in July.… Seguir leyendo »
Durante una fracción de segundo, cuando las imágenes de Teherán mostraban a mujeres jóvenes, con gafas de sol de la marca Victoria Beckham y asomando bajo sus pañuelos mechones de pelo rubio oxigenado, mientras hacían cola para emitir su voto en las elecciones presidenciales, daba la impresión de que Irán estaba a punto de poner punto y final a su aislamiento desabrido de los últimos cuatro años. Por la participación histórica, parecía que los iraníes iban a poner de patitas en la calle a Mahmoud Ahmadineyad y que iban a ofrecer al mundo una cara diferente, mucho más abierta. Si hubiera sido ése el resultado de las elecciones, se habría interpretado, en parte, como un primer triunfo de Barack Obama.… Seguir leyendo »
All those involved, and most of those following the bloodshed in Gaza from afar, are sure who is in the right and who is in the wrong. They know who the innocent victims are and who are the wicked perpetrators. These certainties are held equally firmly by those who will be demonstrating in solidarity with the Palestinians in London today and those who plan to stage similar shows of support for Israel later this month.
Both sides see the conflict in moral terms. For supporters of the Palestinians, it could not be clearer. Israel is committing a war crime, killing people in their hundreds, hammering a besieged population from the sky (and soon perhaps on the ground too), claiming to aim only at Hamas but inevitably striking those civilians who get in the way.… Seguir leyendo »
Forget the two-state solution: start thinking about the four-state problem. The phrase comes from Palestinian negotiator and analyst Ahmad Khalidi, who has toiled for decades to see two states side by side, one for Palestinians, the other for Israelis. Now, though, he sees one strong state, Israel, surrounded by three statelets. The first is the West Bank, ruled by the secular nationalists of Fatah. The second is Gaza, for nearly two years the fiefdom of Islamist Hamas. The third is the surprise: still in embryo, we got a glimpse of its future earlier this month.
Militant Jewish settlers in Hebron resisted their eviction from a disputed house by not only hurling stones and debris at Palestinians nearby – and daubing black stars of David on Muslim gravestones in what Israel’s prime minister Ehud Olmert called a «pogrom» – but also by turning their fire on the soldiers of the Israel Defence Forces.… Seguir leyendo »
By tonight, the governing party should have a new leader. After a painful summer limping along with an unpopular prime minister – who never came close to matching the popularity of his predecessor – the party will today have the leadership contest and the fresh start it has yearned for.
No, that’s not a prediction of the imminent fate of Gordon Brown and Labour, but a description of events already under way in Israel. The unpopular PM is Ehud Olmert, who will today be replaced as leader of the ruling Kadima party in a ballot of its 74,000 members. Unless both fail to cross the 40% threshold, either foreign minister Tzipi Livni or former defence minister Shaul Mofaz will be invited to form a coalition and take over as PM.… Seguir leyendo »
The feeling is familiar. I had it four years ago and four years before that: a sinking feeling in the stomach. It’s a kind of physical pessimism which says: «It’s happening again. The Democrats are about to lose an election they should win – and it could not matter more.»
In my head, I’m not as anxious for Barack Obama’s chances as I was for John Kerry’s in 2004 or Al Gore’s in 2000. He is a better candidate than both put together, and all the empirical evidence says this year favours Democrats more than any since 1976. But still, I can’t shake off the gloom.… Seguir leyendo »
It’s lucky Barack Obama has people to carry his bags these days, because when he arrived in Israel last night he brought with him a whole lot of baggage. Most of it was packed with negative associations that owe more to urban myth than reality, but that combined to make the Democratic candidate an object of suspicion from the earliest days of his campaign, first among American Jews and then in Israel. The mix of facts, lies and hybrids of the two is now wearily familiar: Barack Hussein Obama is a Muslim; he was educated in a madrasa; he has terrorist friends; his former pastor is an Israel-hater and admirer of the anti-Jewish Louis Farrakhan; he was against the war on Iraq, wants to talk to Iran – and will therefore fall to his knees to appease Israel’s enemies.… Seguir leyendo »
Curious things are going on in the Middle East. On the one hand, Israel seems to be taking some early, tentative steps towards peace with its nearest enemies. It has just agreed a six-month ceasefire with Hamas in Gaza; it is deep into indirect peace talks with Syria, aimed at a comprehensive treaty; and earlier this month came word that Israel is keen to have direct negotiations with Lebanon.
Yet all these welcome murmurings of peace are fighting to be heard above a growing drumbeat for war – against the country Israel fears more than any of its immediate neighbours: Iran.… Seguir leyendo »
In the wee small hours on Israeli television, they show reruns of what was once a staple form of mass entertainment: kibbutz choirs – the men in pressed work shirts, the women in peasant skirts – singing Hebrew folk melodies exalting the Land of Israel, while a smiling audience joins in. The pictures were black and white, the sets cardboard, and the programmes interminable – a socialist-realist tableau of a simple farming nation engaged in wholesome, patriotic amusement.
Visiting Israel last month, I sat transfixed when I stumbled across the public service channel that replays those old shows. Tonight the national celebrations will be more up to date, as Israel marks its 60th anniversary with street parties this evening and beach barbecues tomorrow.… Seguir leyendo »