Saturday, January 28, 2023 -
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Novels on how to deal with terrorism

The diplomats and the political leaders do not seem to be having much success in dealing with Moslem extremism; perhaps the novelists can do better.

So I turned to these three novels in the hopes that they perhaps have some ideas about what we should do. None of them were very encouraging.

The Owl and the Hawk tells the story of a very wealthy man named Alan Davis, who loses his best friend in a terrorist incident, and becomes determined to respond.

His plan — very simply — is to go after the leaders of the jihadists, and to assassinate them one by one. He recruits a small number of Moslems, who have suffered at the hands of the zealots, and who are willing to do whatever is necessary to take back their religion from those who have taken it over and made it an instrument of hate.

These men go through a thorough training in how to infiltrate, how to survive, and how to kill.

Davis insists that “the pace of the leader is the pace of the game,” and so he undergoes the training himself, and goes into enemy territory to become an assassin himself.

The book’s exciting, all the way through, but the ending is a bit facile. Davis’ courageous example leads to the masses of Moslems turning against their fanatical leaders, overthrowing them, and transforming Moslem society towards democracy. Were it so easy.

The Sword and the Star has an even more imaginative thesis.

The Arabs and the Israelis suddenly make peace. No one can understand how quickly and how seemingly easily it comes about. The Arabs propose that Israel be invited to rebuild the Third Temple right next to the Mosque that now sits atop the Temple Mount, and that the territories be divided fair and square.

It seems too good to be true — and it is.

The jihadists are planning to blow up the Mosque with a small nuclear bomb during the groundbreaking for the Third Temple, in order to bring about a nuclear war against Israel.

The book is a real roller coaster, full of thrills and twists and turns, but just in the nick of time, the plot is foiled.

The truth that these two thrillers have in common is that the jihadist threat is real, and that it is a danger to both Israel and America.

The question they leave in me is: Is there a solution? Assassination is a tempting option, but will it really lead to peace.

Preventing any fanatic government from having a nuclear bomb is an absolute necessity, but how do you prevent non-governments, terror cells, from getting hold of small nuclear devices and using them: not in a missile, but in a suitcase?

The third novel is either the most naive or the most hopeful of the three.

Marilyn Levy imagines an Israeli teenager and an Arab teenager becoming friends, across the physical wall and the walls of suspicion and resentment that separate them. The Israeli girl goes across the wall to visit her friend. Her friend comes across the wall to visit her. The parents of both welcome them warmly.

There are incidents: a bus bombing on one side, a retaliation by the other that throw obstacles into their friendship, but it somehow perseveres.

Marilyn Levy’s thesis is that the world is not black and white, that while each side may believe that its cause is righteous, they can somehow learn to listen to each other and if they do, peace is possible.Checkpoints, by Marilyn Levy

There was a time when half of Israel believed that peace with the Palestinians was possible, that concessions to them were worth the risk. After two intafadas, after innumerable bus bombings and cafe bombings and murders carried out with bulldozers, most Israelis are no longer so optimistic. They — and this reader as well — will look upon this book as naive and unrealistic.

So here we have two books that say: Islamic fundamentalism is a danger to the civilized world and we must respond to it, as we responded to Nazism, with all possible strength. Our enemy is so determined that only the willingness to retaliate against them with all our might can save us. And here we have one book that says that their young people, and ours, are both good, and that if we can only get to know each other across the lines that separate us, peace is possible.

Which of these views is the right one?

I wish I knew.

Rabbi Jack Riemer is a frequent reviewer for journals in America and abroad. He is the co-editor of So That Your Values Live On:A Treasury of Ethical Wills, published by Jewish Lights, and the editor of the three volumes of The World of The High Holy Days, published by the National Rabbinic Network.

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