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Words of the Week

“For progressively minded Zionists, our love for Israel is not the same as blanket support for every policy of Israel’s government. There are times — be it on matters of religious pluralism or, in the case of the last few weeks, the settlements — when American Jews believe that the present policies of the Israeli government run counter to the long-term interests of Israel. For those of us American Jews invested in the American-Israel relationship, America’s recent abstention at the United Nations was deeply problematic — an untrue and hypocritical condemnation of Israel as the primary obstacle to peace while Aleppo burns, Libya unravels, Iran and Russia destabilize their neighbors and, most significantly, a Palestinian leadership that has yet to perform the basic act of recognizing Israel’s right to exist. And yet, there remains the simple reality that the settlements are an obstacle to a two-state solution.”

Source: Elliot Cosgrove, “Why Liberalism Vs. Zionism Is a False Choice” (The Jewish Week)

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Words of the Week

“A worldview. A narrative. A frame. Whatever you call it, when it comes to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, The New York Times clearly seeks to steer readers toward the view that the Palestinians are, more or less, ‘just victims.’ And the necessary inverse is that Israel is, more or less, just a victimizer.

This narrative requires the newspaper to obsessively focus on the Israeli occupation, Israeli settlements, and Israeli right-wing ideologues as the explanation for the conflict in general and Palestinian attacks on Jews in particular. It must also downplay the role Palestinian hate speech, incitement to violence, and rejectionism has played in the conflict. Apparently, it also requires the newspaper to dismiss the Jewish connection to any part of the West Bank. Continue reading ›

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My Year in Jewish Books

StarFor the past five years, I’ve found it useful (and kind of fun) to look back on “my year in Jewish books.” So, borrowing some of the same introductory wording, I’m going to attempt to do something similar for 2016.

Reviewing my reading for 2016 (thank you, Goodreads!), I can see that, again, I do not and would not ever limit my reading to “Jewish books” exclusively. (By the way, in case you haven’t heard me say this before, I define “Jewish books” in the simplest terms as books with substantive Jewish content. In my view, non-Jewish authors can write “Jewish books.” And Jewish authors can write books that don’t strike me as overtly Jewish.)

But this year, as usual, I did read quite a few books that fall within the “Jewish book” category. And, as an advocate for Jewish literature, I’m proud of that.

Below, you will find these books presented in the order in which I read them (most recent first).  I have also disclosed how I obtained each book: P (purchase), R (complimentary review copy), L (library), G (gift), or FTB (for books I’ve read in manuscript prior to their release from Fig Tree Books in my job as FTB media editor OR as part of the ongoing series of spotlights posts on past winners of the Edward Lewis Wallant Award). Continue reading ›

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Words of the Week

“But the secretary and his president long ago lost much of the Israeli public, even many of the settlement critics, by underestimating the depth of Palestinian opposition to the very fact of the Jewish state’s existence. The president and his secretary have underestimated, too, the consequent scarring — physical and psychological — that the Israeli public has accumulated over decades of war, terrorism, and demonization as the Palestinians and those who championed their cause have sought Israel’s obliteration. Continue reading ›

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Pre-Shabbat Jewish Literary Links

Photo Credit: Reut Miryam Cohen

Photo Credit: Reut Miryam Cohen


Every Friday My Machberet presents an array of Jewish-interest links, primarily of the literary variety.

  • “I didn’t set out to write a political novel, but it seems inevitable that any writing about the Middle East will elicit strong responses from people.” So notes Leah Kaminsky, whose novel The Waiting Room is set largely in Haifa, in an interview on the Lilith magazine blog.
  • “Fictionalizing my family’s [Holocaust] stories—and adding magical realism—set me free. And set my imagination on fire.” So explains Helen Maryles Shankman in a reflective, craft-centered post for Writer Unboxed.
  • J-Job alert: JewishBoston.com is hiring an Editorial Content Specialist.
  • TBR: a translation, by Steven M. Kennedy, of Bernard-Henri Lévy’s The Genius of Judaism. Coming in January 2017.
  • And last, but not least: the latest Fig Tree Books newsletter, edited by yours truly and featuring some superb pre-publication praise for Abigail Pogrebin’s My Jewish Year (coming in March 2017) and other choice information.
  • Shabbat shalom! And one quick note: I’ll be taking a bit of a break from this blog while I embark on some travels. Expect to see me back here sometime the week after next. Thank you for your patience!

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    Words of the Week

    “Can we get beyond the toxicity? That depends in large measure to what we attribute its origins. While the panoply of its causes is beyond the scope of this essay, one contributing factor reigns supreme: Many participants in the conversation have turned up the volume to camouflage an overwhelming ignorance about issues. It is no exaggeration to say that many of those who advocate ending the occupation tomorrow or continuing it forever have given much more consideration to which smartphone to purchase next than they have to the likely repercussions of the position they advocate with absolute certainty.

    Many American Jews despair about Israel’s conduct of its conflict, but know nothing about how Israel responded to the very same challenges in the 1940’s and 1950’s, even in its public school curricula. We know the names of the prime ministers we detest, but cannot name five Israeli poets or novelists and say something about what they sought to communicate to and about Israeli society. Most young American Jews are largely opposed to the occupation, yet are unaware that the Palestinians’ explicit drive to destroy Israel began before there even was an occupation.”

    Source: Daniel Gordis, “We Need to Talk About Israel” (Tablet)

    I have just purchased a copy of Gordis’s new book, Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn.

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