This week in Israel started innocently enough. Haaretz had invited a number of prominent authors to help celebrate Israel’s national book week. Then the IDF swooped down on a boat in international waters and killed nine people. All of the sudden, no one wanted to talk about books. So with nothing else to do, the authors switched topics to Israel’s worst week in years.
Israeli filmmaker and short story writer Etgar Keret turned in a meta-journalistic piece about his difficulties getting officials to talk on record about the crisis. His first plan was to interview Benjamin Netanyahu. The Israel prime minister was too flustered to meet with Barack Obama, so he wasn’t going to talk to Keret, either. In fact, the PM canceled a press conference because of the high probability he’d say something stupid. Keret doesn’t have much better luck talking to other government officials because no one knows what’s going on. He ends up spending a lot of time on the phone with his editor.
Margaret Atwood is a beloved figure everywhere else but in the Middle East, where she’s regarded as a meddling harridan. She writes on what she calls the “Shadow” accompanying Israeli-Palestinian relations.
The Shadow is not the Palestinians. The Shadow is Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, linked with Israeli’s own fears. The worse the Palestinians are treated in the name of those fears, the bigger the Shadow grows, and then the fears grow with them; and the justifications for the treatment multiply.
Bernard-Henri Lévy offers us a glimpse into his “diary.” He circles around the topic of the flotilla incident for a while, throwing out perplexing observations such as Barack Obama “is the most Chinese president in American history.” He eventually gets around to addressing the crisis by admitting that, like pretty much everyone else, he doesn’t know much about what happened during the raid. But if he did know what happened, this is what he would think about it.
I am convinced that it will soon be learned that this so-called humanitarian flotilla was humanitarian in name only, and that its organizers and implementers were exploiting the signs and symbols of humanitarian aid and essentially exploiting the media, rather than expressing any real concern for the suffering of the people of Gaza. And I am also convinced that the initiators of this provocation − the Turkish branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is indeed a part of the government in Turkey − had very good reasons for refusing the suggestion that the boats enter the Israeli port of Ashdod so that the real nature of their cargo could be verified.
Jamaica Kincaid writes about watching the crisis unfold on TV, working up some sympathy for Israel, “a tiny, tiny, so tiny country.” Jonathan Safran Foer drifts off topic in his piece, “Chicken soup or the Jewish soul?” Milan Kundera decided the Gaza flotilla crisis was the perfect occasion to argue to the release of Roman Polanski.