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SRB: Ode to a Foreskin

SRB Picks of the Week 23 May 08
By Jeremy Rose for the Scoop Review of Books

Collectors of obscure Wellington poetry collections may remember a book by Israeli Historian Benny Morris's father, Ya'acov. It was published shortly before the end of Ya'acov's term as Israeli ambassador to New Zealand in the 1980s. Truth be told the verse wasn't that memorable but it contained an ode to one of my school mate's foreskin that's kind of hard to forget.

Jonathan had fallen in love with Morris's daughter, converted to Judaism and become an ardent Labour-Zionist. The last time I saw him was in 1984 at a newly formed kibbutz in the North of Israel. The relationship with Morris's daughter had collapsed and, besides the odd nostalgic thought of "Kiwi girls," he seemed happy with his decision to take up his "right of return" and settle in Israel.

(Links to all of the articles mentioned can be found at

I was reminded of Jonathan - and his sacrificial foreskin - when I stumbled across this Democracy Now Radio interview with Benny Morris, Palestinian Saree Makdisi and Holocaust scholar and Israel critic Norman Finkelstein.

Morris expands on his comments of two or three years ago to Ha'aretz that Ben Gurion's biggest mistake was not pushing all the Palestinians out of the the West Bank. The interview came as a shock to many, as Morris was largely responsible for shattering the traditional Israeli historiography that held the 750,000 Palestinian refugees had left at the bidding of their leadership (convinced they would be returning after the Jews were pushed into the sea.)

The world's media has been full of accounts of Israel at 60 and the plight of Palestinians six decades after the Nakba - or catastrophe. Here's three very different takes on the celebration/commemorations.

The Spectator
The San Diego Union Tribune
Asia Times
Alex Cockburn's View from a Crusader Castle.

And it seems I'm not the only one to remember Ya'acov's verse. Poet Ross Nepia Himona has this an intriguing poem on-line with its mentions of "Selling guns for Zion" and "not buying your Uzi's"

Stalin biographer Simon Sebag-Montefiore rejected the idea that Israel could be compared to one of the crusader states during his interview with Kim Hill last week. And he may be right but if this next link is anything to go by there's plenty of people in the US military who think the crusades are an ongoing enterprise. Holy Warriors in the US Armed Forces.

I'm a fan of Noam Chomksy's major work on Israel The Fateful Triangle and so went looking for anything he might have written on the 60th anniversary - without any luck. But I did find this piece on the importance of 1968.

His old friend Howard Zinn, who I had always thought of as a Marxist (due to his having written a play about the late economist) has an interesting piece on why he's an anarchist.

And to make it up to a troika of leftwing, Jewish intellectuals, here's Naomi Klein on China's "Market Stalinism."

Fans of Mad Magazine's Little Annie Fanny will be sad to hear that her creator Will Elder has passed on to the great comic book in the sky.


Five Comics that Changed My Life
By Tim Bollinger
I’m not one for justifying comic books as worthy literature on the grounds that they are now “graphic novels” and have an adult audience. Just about all my favourite comic books I fell in love with when I was a child. Here’s a few of my favourites.

Hunchbacked Lawyer & the Madman
RevelationBy C J Sansom
Macmillan, $38, Reviewed by ANDREA JUTSON

C J Sansom’s Shardlake series is not only a vividly realistic chronicle of Tudor England, but an engrossing set of whodunnits to boot.
In his fourth Matthew Shardlake book, Revelation, the hunchbacked lawyer faces his most terrifying opponent yet – a madman who is killing lapsed Protestants in ever more gruesome ways.

Poem of the Week: Pearls
It Matters that We Were Young Together by Diana Deans
Steele Roberts $20

Long Yarns, Short Stories
The Gorse Blooms Pale: Dan Davin’s Southland Stories
Edited By Janet Wilson
Otago University Press $50 Reviewed By BRIAN POTIKI
Dan Davin was eleven when James Joyce’s Dubliners was published. In the last of these short stories “The Dead” we are told of its restless protagonist Gabriel Conroy: The books he received for review were almost more welcome than the paltry cheque. He loved to feel the covers and turn over the pages of newly-printed books.

Jeremy Rose is the editor of the Scoop Review of Books and a Wellington journalist.

© Scoop Media

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