With Friends like These: Why Too Many Israeli Artists Side with Israel’s Enemies

by David Solway (November 2023)

Entering the Promised Land, ©
Darius Gilmont (used with permission), 2012 (NOTE: Darius does NOT side with Israel’s enemies!)


A writer’s political and religious beliefs are not excrescences to be laughed away. —George Orwell, Critical Essays


I have long felt that many of the finest creative minds in the literary world, whether poets, dramatists or novelists, must be taken cum grano when they see fit to pronounce on political issues. It is as if they are occupationally prone to conceiving the political arena as part of an aesthetic framework, susceptible to snug resolutions, rather than the messy and often insoluble dynamic that it is. The imagination seeks to dominate the empirical domain, especially when the former coincides with an unflinching and tenderly nurtured ideological commitment, generally of the Left. In so doing, it reaps the consequences of a fatal disjunction.

Israeli writers and artists are no exception, always ready to turn against their own people and country. For example, Shlomo Ben-Ami, who in Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli-Arab Tragedy, speaks in defiance of both context and truth of a “ruthless Israeli army” perpetrating “atrocities and massacres … against the civilian Arab community.” Or celebrated author Amos Oz who, in the wake of several suicide bombings, wrote an op-ed piece for The New York Times (April 11, 1995) linking Hamas and the Israeli conservative party Likud as mutually responsible for the carnage. Or Uri Avnery who, in his memoir 1948, puts these words into the mouth of a dead friend: “The state you dreamed of in the trenches is dead, even before it was born.” Examples abound. For such people, as for many Jews both in Israel and the diaspora, what is wrong with the Jewish state is the fact of it being a Jewish state.

In this context, I think of the late Abraham Yehoshua, one of the premier Israeli writers of modern times. Such works as Mr. Mani, A Journey to the End of the Millennium, Five Seasons and The Liberated Bride stand out as major accomplishments, not only in Israel but on the international stage as well.

Abraham Yehoshua

His novel, Friendly Fire, for which he was awarded the 2008 Premio Roma Prize, is a typically rich Yehoshuan product, delving into the “friendly fire” debate between Israelis as to the nature of Jewish history and the purpose of the Jewish state. It is an incendiary subject, for friendly fire, as we know, can be lethal, although in the novel the major characters emerge unscathed and the pivotal issues remain unresolved. Should Jews forget or remember? Can they find solace in the Diaspora or must Jews work out their destiny in the Holy Land? These are important questions and Yehoshua must be lauded for raising them.

Politically, however, given the influence that accrues to his celebrity, he has in my estimation done much harm to Israel’s prospects for an integral future, not so much in his fiction—though his A Woman in Jerusalem reconsiders the status of Israel’s capital—as in his newspaper articles, interviews, public activities, and doubtlessly in his lectures at Haifa University where he was a professor in Near Eastern Studies. Yehoshua was convinced that the Palestinians did not wish to destroy Israel but only to live in harmony and justice within and alongside the Jewish state and that Israel must surrender territory to achieve the elusive goal of mutual accord. He was an ardent supporter of the various Peace movements—including the New Movement that endorsed the electoral prospects of the left-wing Meretz party—parties which, fueled by noble but impracticable sentiments, have been clearly detrimental to the wellbeing of the country.

I devote some time and thought to Yehoshua because I knew him personally and grew enormously fond of him during our encounter at the New Writing Worlds Symposium held at the University of East Anglia in Norwich in the summer of 2005. Our relationship prospered over the next year via email and telephone as we embarked on a “friendly fire” exchange of views, until the eruption of the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006, of which our budding friendship was one of the lesser casualties. The fire was not so friendly. Our disagreement over Israeli policy was decisive, Yehoshua lobbying strenuously for an immediate end to hostilities, leaving Hizbollah in place, while I believed that Israel should take advantage of the opportunity to finally crush the terrorist mini-regime which would otherwise continue to threaten the country’s security. The same holds for the current conflict between Israel and the Gaza terrorist state, a grisly déjà-vu.

During one of our supper conversations in the university refectory, the subject turned to Israel’s impending disengagement from the Gaza Strip. Yehoshua, whose sympathies were robustly on the Left and who tended to identify with those whom he regarded as underdogs, aka the Palestinians, could not contain his enthusiasm for the process, making light of my skepticism. The great man knew. All would be well. It had to be. The Palestinians would recognize Israel’s readiness to endure sacrifices, would surely be grateful for the greenhouses and infrastructure left behind to promote their nascent economy, and would respond in good faith to this new and impressive initiative.

“David, my boy,” he boomed in that passionate, basilican voice made to persuade even in the absence of logic or reason, “next year you will be my guest in Israel and we will go together for coffee and hummus in Gaza City.” “Bulli,” I replied, using the nickname permitted among friends, “next year we will be lucky to have coffee and hummus in Haifa.” And the following year, almost to the day, not only was Israel under rocket and mortar attack from Gaza, but Haifa itself was ablaze under Hizbollah missile fire, its citizens, far from relaxing over coffee and hummus in peaceful outdoor cafés, sweltering in makeshift bomb shelters.

But it is not a question of merely one more deluded celebrity. The number of those who dance around the golden calf of a false peace is legion, oblivious to the timely warning of the sage Jeremiah: “From the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely … saying peace, peace; when there is no peace.” (Jeremiah 6:13-14.)  As for Yehoshua, he remained relatively firm in his convictions. If anything, he stepped up the volume and intensity of his “peace” advocacy and his criticism of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians as well as its putative, endemic belligerency, modifying his stance only intermittently.

In an open letter to Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy for January 19, 2009, Yehoshua justified the Israeli incursion into Gaza at that time as the only means likely to persuade Hamas “to stop [its] senseless and wicked aggression” and the unilateral firing of rockets in “a bitter and hopeless war to destroy Israel.” This certainly seemed to be an advance upon his previous position. Yet Yehoshua persisted in maintaining that peace is ultimately possible with a genocidal terrorist regime whose Covenant swears the annihilation of Israel. Moreover, he signed off his letter to Levy, “In friendship always.” Let us recall that Levy is an influential left-wing columnist who continues to believe that Israel is a brutal colonial occupier, that Israel is a child-killer, and that, as he further argued in his reply to Yehoshua, “I cannot admonish Hamas … Israel is a dangerous and violent country that lacks scruples.” It is no surprise that Levy’s reaction to the current Israeli-Hamas imbroglio is to call for “lifting the criminal siege on the Gaza Strip.”

One would expect no less of a moral crustacean like Gideon Levy, most of his leftish colleagues at Haaretz (Israel’s version of The Washington Post or The Guardian) and the majority of the Israeli media. Indeed, like so many of their Jewish counterparts in the Diaspora, these Israelis are like klutzy suicide bombers who only immolate themselves. After all, one of the distinguishing features of the Left—and especially the Jewish left—is that it is immune to the lessons of experience. There seems to be no real awareness of the Islamic intention to turn the ancient Jewish homeland into a kind of territorial palimpsest overlaid by Arab culture, like those original Hebrew texts, fragments of prayer books and medieval Hebrew codices, that have been largely erased and written over by Arabic texts. This is the political fate that reprobate Israeli writers and journalists are busily tempting. But one would have hoped that Yehoshua, perhaps Israel’s most brilliant writer, had been capable of finally understanding what he and his countrymen were up against.

One thinks of another, next-generation prominent Israeli writer, Matti Friedman, author of important books like Who By Fire: Leonard Cohen in the Sinai and The Aleppo Codex, siding with the progressivist left and helping to foment a citizen and reservist revolt against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for proposing to reform a self-appointing, anti-conservative, “social justice” Supreme Court. This was the moment Hamas chose to invade Israel, launch thousands of rockets, shoot families in their beds, slaughter babies, burn civilians alive, and rape young women while inflicting inconceivable tortures.

Conrad Black cites an autopsy report of 24 young women in the IDF, many of whom had been raped, their hips and legs broken, their eyes gouged out, and then murdered by gunfire discharged into their vaginas. You do not temporize with unreconstructed barbarians. There is no excuse for simple-minded idealists, snared in the web of fantasy, who justify, write and march in enthusiastic support of the terrorists, as there is for no forgiveness for those who adamantly refuse to recognize undeniable evil when they see it, and to judge an enemy by his deeds. Such people, the terrorists as well as their supporters, writes Catherine Salgado, “become not only bestial but also demonic.”

For myself, I cannot say that Bulli was demonic, only naïve and prone to delusion, a feature of both the artistic sensibility and the moral primitive. I believe he would have been horrified by recent events, without realizing he had unwittingly helped to bring such atrocities about. I mourn his passing, just as I deplore his politics. After all, we were friends. I suppose one may be tempted to respect writers like Yehoshua and his modern avatar Friedman and many others, too, not only for the quality of their literary work, but for their consistency, if not for their acuity. At the same time, we recall what Emerson said in his famous essay Self-Reliance about consistency, whose virtues are sometimes overpraised. “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.” And by writers and journalists as well.

With friends like these.


Table of Contents


David Solway’s latest book is Notes from a Derelict Culture, Black House Publishing, 2019, London. A CD of his original songs, Partial to Cain, appeared in 2019. His newest book, Crossing the Jordan: On Judaism, Islam, and the West (NER Press), will be out in December of this year.

Follow NER on Twitter @NERIconoclast


11 Responses

  1. And what these revered writers/faux friends of Israel write matters— the protests, primarily on university campuses across North America may be ushering in a new more virulent strain of antisemitism than has existed since seen the Einsatzgruppen mobile killing units followed German troops during Operation Barbarossa. Depressingly the gloves are off— no two state solution rhetoric, no prevarication, no acknowledgment of October 7th atrocities, simply from the river to the sea end of Israel mindless chanting with real intent. The protests are not a spontaneous call to action. But the west’s inability to separate woke ideology from existential threat speaks to Rumpelstiltskin-like slumber.

  2. “It is as if they are occupationally prone to conceiving the political arena as part of an aesthetic framework, susceptible to snug resolutions, rather than the messy and often insoluble dynamic that it is.”

    How true. With their colossal imaginations, such writers live forever with one foot in a fantasy world which is always more appealing than the real one, and, oblivious of the damage they wreak, forever angry, too, that the real one is so disappointing.

  3. The writer found a half dozen Jews who can write a sentence but otherwise are morons.

    Here are 6 Jews who can write a sentence, who are smart and understand what is going on:

    Caroline Glick @ carolineglick.com
    Victor Rosenthal @ abuyehuda.com
    Daniel Greenfield @ frontpagemag.com
    Jack Engelhard @ israelnationalnews.com
    Ted Belman @ Israpundit.org
    Mark Levin – TV, radio, books and everywhere else

  4. I know them all, some personally–Ted is an old friend–and mention most in my forthcoming book with NER Press, Crossing the Jordan. But Caroline would agree with me to a greater degree than she would agree with you. The morons predominate by an order of magnitude, both in Israel and the diaspora–not only writers but poets and especially film-makers. It’s all in my book, the good and the bad and the ugly–and it’s scrupulously honest.

  5. Virtue signals are the stock and trade of artists and writers, self-anointed arbiters of communal ethics and morality – coming down from the hill after the battle to shoot the wounded. The Ummah can lose a hundred battles and survive. For Israel its one and done. The moral high ground is irrelevant if you lose that patch of civilization, that valley between “the river and the sea.” Grisly deja vu, indeed.

    1. There are no civilians in Gaza. Hamas is the beneficiary of guilt
      money from the rest of Araby. Blow up the tunnels? Fine, civil
      engineers will soon be at work building more and better ones.
      The rest of the world finances their villainy. Gaza must be leveled.

  6. Arabic speakers know that ‘From the Rivers to the sea…’ “Free” speaks of pure-Arab: Arab racism / supremacy, ethnic cleansing and genocide of Jews -non-Arabs

    Without going into Arab-Palestinian oppressive regimes’ nature of PA or Hamas and the ironic term “free” or “freedom” chants.
    But in Arabic, it is the ARAB – to be of the area, which is the yearning by this and such slogans. [1]
    Worse than merely Arab-apartheid of Arab republics but it’s about Arab ‘purity.’
    It is no different from Hitler’s helper [2] Ahmad Shukeiri that wanted to establish in Jerusalem a “purely Arab government” for all of Palestine. [3]
    Or today (SJP/WOL) Nerdeen Kiswani known for interrupting Holocaust ceremonies [4] that push that ‘Palestine is Arab’ chant. [5]
    In fact, the very basis for objecting a Jewish State by the Arab Higher Committee in 1947 was exactly that: Arab racism – as expressed [6] by its spokesperson Jamal Husseini, only months after he and Shukeiri justified the Holocaust. [7]
    What’s amazing is that with Google translate age Israelophobes have still the audacity to go Arafat style ‘Double Speak’ [8] – that is, to lie in English to the West.
    Including Rashida Tlaib.



    Imam of Peace @Imamofpeace:

    Rashida is a liar. Why? Because the chant “From the river to the sea” is a translation of the original Arabic chant “from the water to the water, Palestine will remain Arab.” This is a genocidal call to ethnically cleanse the land from all non-Arabs i.e. the Jews.
    The original Arabic chant: من المية للمية فلسطين عربية

    Nov 3, 2023

    Sam Halpern, “Noa Tishby slams Rashida Tlaib for ‘from the river to the sea’ claim.” The Jerusalem Post, Nov 4, 2023.

    Congressional Record: Proceedings and Debates of the …, Volume 107, Part 24, United States Congress 1961, p.5735:

    Shukairy joined the Arab Higher Committee which was also headed by the ex Mufti. Shukairy got his start in politics in the early 1930s when he belonged to a group of fanatical extremists led by the ex-Mufti. This gang cooperated with the Communists and prior to the Hitler-Stalin Pact sought in every possible way to sabotage the Allied war effort against the Nazis in the Middle East. However, when Soviet Russia joined the Allies, Shukairy’s group split with the communists, and went all out for Hitler.

    The Detroit Jewish News. Friday, February 03, 1967 (p. 9)

    ‘Antiwar Group Warns Public of PLO Leader Shukairy.’
    In a letter to the editor published in Wednesday’s New York Times, Dr. Albert Simard, secretary of the Society for the Prevention of World War Three warns of the “dangerous” background and activities of Ahmed Shukairy, head of the Palestine Liberation Organization who, he said, had expressed hatred of the West.
    Recalling the pro-Hilter activities “highest levels of government” of Shukairy when he was associated with the notorious Grand Mufti of Jerusalem.

    The Progress-Index from Petersburg, Virginia, June 13, 1967, p.4.

    ‘Palestine Liberation Group Badly Mauled.’ By Michael Goldsmith, Beirut, Lebanon (AP).

    The Arab defeat in the Middle East war leaves a big question mark over the future of the Pafestine Liberation Organization and its firebrand leader -leftist Ahmed Shukairy. Shukairy narrowly escaped capture by Israeli forces in Jerusalem and many of his “Liberation Army” are now prisoners of the Israelis. “We will wipe Israel off the face of the map and no Jew will survive,” Shukairy declared two days before the war broke out June 5. He vowed to lead the vanguard of his troops into the Israeli sector of Jerusalem and set up a “purely Arab government” there for all of Palestine.

    “Jewish leaders demand termination of CUNY Law dean.”
    Haley Cohen, The Jerusalem Post, Jun 14, 2023.

    Gunz, a former classmate of Kiswani’s at CUNY Law, has said that Kiswani has been criticized “because she interrupts Holocaust memorial ceremonies and says that she hopes the last thing Zionists hear in their life is ‘pop pop.'”

    “Anti-Israel Groups Stage Days of Resistance Protests.” ADL, Aug 13, 2020.

    At the rally in New York City, a few protesters prominently displayed flags of the terrorist groups Hezbollah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Among the chants were “Hey-hey ho-ho, Zionists have got to go” and, in Arabic, “From the river to the sea, Palestine is Arab.” One speaker spoke glowingly of the “growing militant struggle of Palestinians to avenge their homeland” and of Palestinians and others around the globe “taking up the armed struggle of revolution because they have no other choice, they have no other way to fight for their struggles.” The event’s MC, Nerdeen Kiswani of the anti-Israel group Within Our Lifetime-United for Palestine, referred to Jewish people who immigrated to Palestine and later Israel in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as exclusively European, despite the large percentage of Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews who came to Israel, often in response to persecution, from the Middle East and North Africa, and currently make up the majority of the Israeli Jewish population.

    Herf, J. (2022). Israel’s Moment: International Support for and Opposition to Establishing the Jewish State, 1945-1949. India: Cambridge University Press, p. 65.

    Jamal Husseini claimed the Arab world’s “territorial continuity” served as a “natural bulwark for peace, homogeneity, and race” that a Jewish state in the region would destroy.

    Behind the British Conspiracy.” B’nai B’rith Messenger. 12 July, 1946, p.6: .

    Achmed Shukeiri, chief of the Arab office, who restituted in his conversation the words of Goebbels, justified the murder of six million Jews of Europe “because Hitler could not be all wrong.” I met Jamal el Husseini; he issued the same warning as Shukeiri (he being Shukeiri’s chief) … and reiterated his justification of the mass murder of six million Jews “for Hitler couldn’t be all wrong . . .

    “Listen to Arafat in Arabic, Not in English.”
    David Eliezrie, The Los Angeles Times, Feb 27, 1996.

  7. Exactly 110 years ago… the beginning of the “conflict” with an anti-Semitic poem by Islamist in the racist Arab ‘Falastin’

    1913 – Nov 8: Sheikh Suleiman al-Taji al-Faouqi [سليمان التاجي] (1882-1858) pens a vile hate poem, combining old anti-Semitic stereotypes with Islamic motifs in the influential ‘Falastin’ [فلسطين] newspaper.

    Israel-Palestine: Lands and Peoples. (2021). Germany: Berghahn Books, p. 270.

    Mandel, N. J. (1976). The Arabs and Zionism Before World War I. United Kingdom: University of California Press, p. 175.

    Morris, B. (1999). Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-1999. United Kingdom: Knopf, p. 65.
    Benny Morris, The War on History, ”Jewish Review of Books”, Apr 6, 2020.

    Gilbert, M. (2010). In Ishmael’s House: A History of Jews in Muslim Lands. United Kingdom: Yale University Press, ch. 9.

    Wistrich, R. S. (2010). A Lethal Obsession: Anti-Semitism from Antiquity to the Global Jihad. United Kingdom: Random House Publishing Group, chapter 21


    In 1914-15, periodical ‘Falastin’ was banned for its anti-Jewish racism, hatred by Ottoman authorities.

    Janrense Boonstra, “Antisemitism, a History Portrayed”, SDU, Anne Frank Foundation,’ 1989, p. 101.

    Elie Kedourie, Sylvia G. Haim: ‘Zionism and Arabism in Palestine and Israel’ (RLE Israel and Palestine), Taylor & Francis, 2015. p. 8 *

    In 1920 it was reinstated by the British and at the time 1929-1930 – it worked with Haj Amin al-Husseini to incite the Arabs. It also promoted the forgery “Protocols.”

    * 1920 riot.

    * 1921 pogrom.

    * 1929 Hebron massacre (the Arab animalistic barbarian onslaught on non-Zionist Jews


    So much for “occupation” etc.

  8. Why are writers always like this? Or so often, at any rate? From my POV, their expectations of the world and judgments border on the insane, even when I might otherwise be willing to entertain more measured criticism of specific worldly matters or policies.

    This, I think, is a fantastic contribution to understanding, well put even if not wholly original:

    “It is as if they are occupationally prone to conceiving the political arena as part of an aesthetic framework, susceptible to snug resolutions, rather than the messy and often insoluble dynamic that it is. The imagination seeks to dominate the empirical domain,”


  9. In the case of Uri Avnery, of whom I otherwise know nothing, this phrase is striking and evokes comparable sentiments one is liable to find in other literatures-

    “The state you dreamed of in the trenches is dead, even before it was born.”

    It immediately made me wonder what state he dreamed of. Kibbutz-based socialist democracy? Israel long had that. If today the country is too right wing and techno-capitalist, that is a nuanced difference- it’s still a prosperous social democracy.

    I always wonder what state the writers dreamed of, in any context, and whether I would have wanted to live in them. Usually I end up preferring the state that actually exists. Then again, I live in Canada and my people came form Britain. Other than personal lack of prosperity at times, pretty good states.

  10. Also Oz-

    “ruthless Israeli army” perpetrating “atrocities and massacres … against the civilian Arab community.”

    I was alive and watching the news in the 90s. How come the even then leftist media wasn’t all over that? I remember how much coverage the Sabra and Chatila massacres got, and that wasn’t even Israelis.

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