Harper’s, the literary magazine founded in 1850 and celebrated in its early years for featuring the works of Herman Melville, Henry James and Mark Twain, has for most of its history been an insomniac’s delight – a snooze-inducing bore found mainly in the waiting rooms of doctors who hope to impress patients with a little bit of culture-by-association.
Yes, there came a brief interlude in the mid- and late-1960’s when the magazine, under the direction of legendary editor Willie Morris and with a glittering roster of contributors that included Norman Mailer, Bernard Malamud, Truman Capote, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Philip Roth, Elizabeth Hardwick and Irwin Shaw, was recognized as a leading social and cultural force.
But those heady days were relatively short-lived, and for the past thirty years it’s been business as usual for Harper’s, which now and again rouses itself from its long slumber with an article on the war crimes of Henry Kissinger or similar hyped-up tripe before mercifully returning to its somnolent, irrelevant state.
One subject, though, does seem to get the blood flowing in those ancient Harper’s arteries: Israel. More specifically, Israel’s alleged sins against Palestinians and other noblemen of Arabic persuasion. In January the magazine ran a particularly nasty blame-Israel-first article (written by a pair of far-left Jewish cranks) that one reviewer characterized as ‘riddled with distortions, lack of context, selective omission and outright factual inaccuracy.’
In its May issue Harper’s is back at it, featuring excerpts from a letter sent by an Israeli corporal named Eyal Rozenberg to his commanding officer. Why, you ask, would a magazine like Harper’s devote nearly two of its pages to the thoughts of an unknown soldier in a foreign army’ Here’s why: Rozenberg’s letter is actually a notification of his intent to desert (‘I hereby declare my refusal to serve the Israel Defense Forces in any fashion, in any position, in any unit, in any rank, at any time, and under any condition, effective immediately’) and constitutes an anti-Israel polemic extraordinary in both length and ugliness.
The letter’s centerpiece is a seemingly endless paragraph – more than 350 words punctuated by 16 commas and 11 semi-colons – in which Rozenberg unburdens himself of what can only be described as a pathological loathing for the Israeli military. And he does so with such little regard for historical accuracy that even practitioners of the art as seasoned as Yasir Arafat and Deborah Sontag can only sit back and marvel.
As should be obvious from the following condensed version of his paragraph-long rant, Rozenberg is a man who has internalized the worst lies of his enemies and now delivers them as his very own; a man who recites his series of half-truths and untruths with the smugness and vituperative zeal common to the newly converted:
‘A military that slaughtered tens of thousands of Palestinians during 1948 and expelled or chased off hundreds of thousands – thus serving Israelis a state on a platter of foreign currency and local skulls; a military that attacked, bombarded, and slaughtered both soldiers and civilians in Jordan, Egypt, and Syria in the first twenty years of the state’s existence; a military that expelled over 130,000 Syrians from their native land of the Golan Heights in 1967 and continues the occupation of their territory to this date; a military that has held over a million Palestinians in Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip under oppressive and violent occupation since 1967 and continues ceaselessly to abuse and butcher the local populace; a military that forcibly conscripts citizens into its service, jailing those who refuse to work for it; a military that is all this, yet continues to call itself the ‘Defense Forces,’ claims to have kept the ‘purity of arms,’ and maintains the pretense of being a ‘people’s army.’ May no one be a part of it!’
Needless to say, no refutation is offered to any of the above calumnies, which are left to stand as unvarnished truth. In fact, the clever little title supplied to Rozenberg’ jeremiad by the editors at Harper’ leave little doubt as to where their sympathies lie: ‘Just Deserter.’
On the bright side, now that they’e got a couple of serious anti-Israel burps out of their system, the thumb-suckers at Harper’s will probably go back to doing what they do best. Z-z-z-z-z.
Jason Maoz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org