Sunday Reads: What 9/11 means today, Lapid’s path to power, James Joyce’s Jewish friend

September 11, 2016


Michael Gerson examines the disputes regarding the true meaning of 9/11 15 years later:

Fifteen years on from 9/11, the main task remains the ideological and religious isolation of the enemy — placing them on an island of unholy cruelty. A war of civilizations — the war they want — will not be won.

Ross Douthat discusses the curious shift in American attitudes toward Russia these days:

Unless you’re Trump himself, Putin’s destabilizing moves… have made it much harder to imagine Moscow as anything but an adversary to be checked, contained, opposed. But the trajectory of events in the Middle East, where American grand strategy has mostly come to grief and we face a shifting array of foes and rivals, suggests the limits of a “new Cold War” lens. Our primary interest in Syria and elsewhere is not, as it was decades ago, containing Russian expansion. It’s containing jihadi terrorism, ending the refugee crisis, restoring some kind of basic order — and in all these tasks we need a way to work with Moscow if we hope to see them through to any kind of finish.


Nadav Eyal writes about what Yair Lapid will have to do in order to rise to power:

I'm pretty convinced that Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid is pretty happy with those who are writing on Facebook that he's worse than Bibi and that they would never vote for him. Lapid needs the left's alienation to put him at the center of the political map. Another ridiculing post against him, another biting satire program—Lapid just jumps in the polls.

Mazal Mualem thinks that the Israeli left must reinvent itself if it wants to survive:

These are difficult days for the Israeli left and its leaders, much more so than it seems. It appears that the left-wing camp, which was previously also known as the peace camp, has become illegitimate and post-Zionist. This is of course a misrepresentation, because the Israeli left, including Meretz, which is far left, includes citizens who are no less Zionist than Culture Minister Miri Regev of Likud. If military service is an indication of Zionism, then the left can boast of the greatest number of generals and senior security figures. 

There is no doubt that this is a time of enormous challenge, historic even, for the course of the left. If it wants to survive, it has to reinvent itself and approach the public with self-confidence, and unapologetically, with a clear and reasoned diplomatic path. Even if it takes 20 years to return to power, it’s the obligation of its leaders

Middle East

Lee Smith sees a direct connection between President Obama’s inactive Syria policy and the Iran deal:

What Kristof, Cohen, Wright, and their colleagues apparently can’t see, even at this late date, is that Obama’s inaction in Syria is not simply part of the hangover from the failed American war in Iraq, or of the president’s personal psychology. There is something entirely practical at stake here, too—namely, the Iran deal. The explanation is, in fact, a simple one: U.S. intervention in Syria against Assad would have made the Iran deal impossible. In fact, U.S. support for Iran’s continuing presence in Syria was a precondition of the deal, according to no less an authority than the president himself. In a December press conference, Obama spoke of “respecting” Iranian “equities” in Syria—which, translated into plain English, means leaving Assad alone in order to keep the Iranians happy.

The Atlantic tries to answer Gary Johnson’s “What is Aleppo?” question with a powerful collage of images:

When Barnicle asked “What would you do about Aleppo?” he was asking what would the candidate do to stop the horrors made visible to us by the photojournalists below. See also, our own Uri Friedman’s answer to “What is Aleppo?”

Jewish World

Stanley Price writes about the friendship between James Joyce and Italo Svevo, who was the inspiration for the Jewish protagonist of Ulysses:

The nature of the Svevo-Bloom connection is best conveyed by Joyce’s brother Stanislaus. He also worked at Berlitz, and once stood in for Joyce when he was ill. Afterwards, in his journal, Stanislaus wrote that Svevo said “Tell me some secrets about Irishmen. Your brother has been asking so many questions about Jews that I want to get my own back.” So Joyce was using Svevo rather like a Jewish Google. A critic once asked Joyce did his Ulysses have to be Jewish? His reply was “Yes. Only a foreigner would do. The Jews were foreigners in Dublin at that time. There was no hostility towards them. But contempt, the contempt that people always show towards the unknown.”

Tamara Micner takes a look at the two conflicting narratives concerning the Polish people and the Holocaust:

The truth is, some Christian Poles collaborated and killed Jews; some joined the partisans or hid Jews; most did nothing. The country was occupied and partitioned, and no one (Jewish or Christian) knew what was going to happen. There was a death penalty for resisting or for hiding Jews. Societies are messy and heterogeneous, and we can’t make universal statements about them.

So the way I see it, the question is this: Do Jews and Poles want to perpetuate narratives that deny the differences within Polish society during World War II? Or do we want to heal?

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