Amos Elon (1926–2009) was an Israeli journalist. His final book was The Pity of It All: A Portrait of Jews In Germany 1743 – 1933.

Olmert & Israel: The Change

Israel under Ehud Olmert is not what it was under Ariel Sharon, at least in tone. Sharon was a soldier who spent much of his life fighting the Arabs. Olmert is a suave corporate lawyer, a deal maker, a political operator. Sharon supported the “Greater Israel” movement. Olmert’s idea of …

Hard Truth About Palestine

Sari Nusseibeh’s chronicle of a life “lived in a broken and violated land” reads at times like an unfinished nineteenth-century novel. In it there are villains and victims, patriots and fools, war and peace, betrayal and corruption, and an inevitable romance. We don’t know how the story will end. The …

Thanks for the Memory

In the Western imagination, Istanbul, alias Constantinople, was once identified with decay, corruption, and imperial decline as well as with voluptuous pleasure. Flaubert longed to visit and buy himself a slave. During the nineteenth century, the city was the capital of a shrinking Ottoman Empire, the “Sick Man of Europe.” …

The Triumph of a Double Life

Germany’s descent into barbarism under the Nazis and its moral and political regeneration after the war still resist explanation. In Five Germanys I Have Known, Fritz Stern, the leading American scholar of nineteenth- and twentieth-century German history, reflects the two faces of Germany through the prism of his own life …

What Does Olmert Want?

The settlement project, as Gorenberg shows, was promoted by successive Israeli governments of the left and the right, overriding objections voiced at various times by a minority of cabinet ministers and a handful of dissenters outside the government in the academy and the press. The project was first intended …

A Shrine to Mussolini

Predappio is a quiet little town of some 6,100 inhabitants in the rich Italian region of Emilia-Romagna, some 150 miles north of Rome. It is known today mostly for its annual fair of songbirds and as the place where Mussolini was born in 1883. Here, more than a decade after …

The Ghost City

Alexandria, a shabby Mediterranean city of more than five million inhabitants, many of them packed into squalid slums, continues to attract attention less for what it is than for what it was. There are no conventional tourist sights although there is an ambitious new building cosponsored by UNESCO, which attempts …

In Abraham’s Vineyard

When Amos Oz’s moving and frank autobiography—partly family saga, partly Bildungsroman, partly self-portrait—was first published in Israel two years ago, it was praised as his finest book so far. In a review in Haaretz, the novelist Batya Gur drew attention to the illustration on the cover of the Israeli edition: …

War Without End

A sensible solution for the Israel– Palestine conflict has been known for years: Israeli withdrawal from enough of the territory occupied in 1967 to allow a workable, contiguous Palestinian state to be established. Ariel Sharon and Yasser Arafat won’t hear of it. Peace initiatives on this basis such as the …

The ‘Jewish Bismarck’

Some years ago, in a series of lectures on nationalism, delivered, appropriately enough, in Belfast, Eric Hobsbawm imagined an evocative “intergalactic historian,” an extraterrestrial visitor who arrives on planet Earth after a thermonuclear war has destroyed all life. Since the technology of advanced weaponry had enabled the belligerents to destroy …

A Very Special Relationship

The alliance between the US and Israel, which has been tighter than ever under the Bush administration, is often thought to have started under President Johnson following the 1967 war. Johnson was pleased with Israel’s success in defeating two Soviet clients, Syria and Egypt, in only six days and he …

Could He Have Stopped Hitler?

Gustav Stresemann, to whom the unlucky Weimar Republic owed whatever tranquillity, stability, and prosperity it attained in the mid-Twenties, has intrigued historians ever since. The subject of Jonathan Wright’s well-researched new biography, Stresemann was a “republican of the mind.” He held high positions in the Weimar Republic, but his heart …

An Unsentimental Education

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, more than a few European women were either kidnapped by or enticed to marry exotic Ottoman potentates; some remained to spend their lives in royal harems. The legendary Lady Hester Stanhope roamed the Syrian highlands with her Bedouin lover. Lady Ellenborough, William Pitt’s cousin, …

Wise Survivors

Historians have long been fascinated by twentieth-century German Jews as articulate witnesses, artists, writers, political thinkers, liberal politicians, and advocates of an open society in an age of unprecedented turmoil and creativity. In his excellent new book, Stephen Aschheim, the Vigevani Professor of European Studies at the Hebrew University of …

Israelis & Palestinians: What Went Wrong?

In a letter he wrote shortly before his death in 1904, at the early age of forty-four, Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism, admonished his successor: “Macht keine Dummheiten während ich tot bin.” (Don’t make any stupid mistakes while I’m dead.) It was a tongue-in-cheek remark and I am …

The Wanderer

Harry Clément Ulrich Kessler, known in the Weimar Republic as the “Red Count,” was a rich German patron of the arts whose family lived in Paris and sent him at twelve from a bleak French school to St. George’s, a fashionable English prep school (where he missed Winston Churchill by …

No Exit

For all his destructiveness, Ariel Sharon has been losing his war but Yasser Arafat is not winning his either. The increasingly aggressive rhetoric of both men—notwithstanding Arafat’s intermittent condemnations of violence—suggests that they must be aware of this. From his first day in office, Sharon’s strategy has been to scuttle …

A German Requiem

What can bring them back, those days when Germany was Europe’s (at times even the world’s) leading center of innovation? In science, in the arts, in industry, theater, film, music, and even in aviation many of the leading lights were not only German but Jews who went on to win …

The Deadlocked City

Ariel Sharon knew what he was doing on September 28, 2000. In hot pursuit of the Israeli premiership, he marched onto Jerusalem’s most contentious piece of real estate, the magnificent plateau, paved with pink and gray polished stone, which Jews call the Temple Mount and Muslims Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary).

Scenes from a Marriage

Hannah Arendt and Heinrich Blücher first met in Paris in 1936. At the time, Paris was the capital of German literature. Bertolt Brecht, Heinrich Mann, Lion Feuchtwanger, Joseph Roth, Manès Sperber, Alfred Döblin, and other celebrities of the Weimar period stayed there in cheap hotels, “like kings who had lost …

Exile’s Return

On the first page of his memoir, Edward Said, professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia, lately president of the Modern Language Association—a man well established in American academic and intellectual life—declares that he has always had an overriding feeling of being “out of place.” Half a century of …

‘A Fugitive from Egypt and Palestine’

By the end of the nineteenth century Rahel Varnhagen, the daughter of Markus Levin, seemed in retrospect the first completely assimilated Jew in modern German history. A century before, in the “garret” of her parents’ house on the Jaegerstrasse in Berlin, she ran the best-known German literary salon of the …