On the January issue:

Gaza’s Future

To the Editor:
Richard Goldberg has provided excellent analysis of the situation in Gaza (“After Hamas Is Destroyed, Here Are the Five Things That Must Not Happen,” January). But much more must be done. We must begin to work with what is behind the ideologies of groups such as Hamas. There will be a need to re-educate the Gazans with regard to their rage and support of Hamas’s sadomasochistic behavior.

Ideologies come late developmentally. They package the rage of unmet needs arising from a shame/honor culture. The problem is upstream of ideology.
Nancy Hartevelt Kobrin
Tel Aviv, Israel

To the Editor:
The key sentence in Richard Goldberg’s essay is this: “A recent survey of Palestinian opinion claimed 83 percent of West Bank residents supported the October 7 massacre.”

This is not surprising, as so many of the Palestinians living in the West Bank are committed to the principle that the Jewish state must end and its Jewish residents must leave as soon as possible. There is no chance whatsoever of educating them out of this view, as they consider any attempt to do so an act of aggression and, if perpetrated by one of their own, high treason. Any agreement in which the Palestinian signatories promise to do such educating is therefore worthless.

No plan for the future of Gaza, the West Bank, Palestinians generally, or Israel will accomplish anything constructive if it is based on assumptions that contradict the facts. But of the making of counterfactual plans, there appears to be no end.
David Hoffman
Alon Shvut, Israel

Richard Goldberg writes:
Nancy Hartevelt Kobrin and David Hoffman raise a fundamental challenge largely avoided by Washington policymakers and pundits across the political spectrum: The removal of Hamas in Gaza will not open the door to peace and love between Palestinians and Israelis.

Generation after generation has been raised to hate. There’s the internalization of refugeehood, the indoctrination of a manifest destiny to finish what Arab armies started in 1948, and the institutionalization of incitement to genocide, subsidized by American taxpayers through the UN Relief Works Agency and the Palestinian Authority. Al Jazeera, funded by Hamas-sponsoring Qatar, completes the echo chamber of anti-Semitism in Gaza and in Judea and Samaria. These are just a few of the reasons that the Biden administration’s push for a “two-state solution,” its labeling of UNRWA as indispensable, and its campaign to prop up the Palestinian Authority pose serious dangers to the future of Israel’s security.

The reality faced by Israeli leaders, however, is that in the weeks and months ahead—assuming Jerusalem completes its military campaign in Gaza (and then Lebanon) without surrendering to American pressure or Hamas psychological warfare—major policy decisions must be made. The implications of those decisions are less about whether Palestinians will start to like their Jewish neighbors, and more about whether Israel will suffer more October 7s.

Some questions may have no obvious right or wrong answer—with lots of gray instead of black and white. The five I outlined are not those gray areas. Hamas must not be allowed to survive. Israel must not give up security control. The PA must not be in charge. Qatar and Turkey must not be involved. UNRWA’s existence must not continue. These are pillars for Israeli security after Hamas falls—not a recipe for peace in our time.

Social Justice and Jihad

To the Editor:
Wilfred Reilly draws striking parallels between the “free Palestine” protesters and the Black Lives Matter movement. (“What ‘Free Palestine’ and ‘Black Lives Matter’ Have in Common,” January). Unfortunately, he omits a crucial difference.

The Black Lives Matter movement is based on political and sociological constructs, particularly the oppressor-vs.-oppressed narrative, as Reilly explains. This concept is also at work among those Western protesters clamoring for the eradication of Israel and victory for Hamas. Yet there is an additional key element here that is absent from the BLM movement: jihad.

Whether or not anti-Israel activists realize it, they are embracing Hamas’s religious and cultural rejection of Jewish sovereignty in pre-1948 Palestine inside any borders. It is well known that Hamas’s original charter is a murderous diatribe against Jews occupying “Islamic lands” and calling for their genocide. October 7, like the second intifada, was the Hamas Charter in action. While the Palestinian Authority projects a less radical image, the PA’s incitement, rejectionism, glorification of martyrs, and commitment to a “right of return” echo Hamas’s mission: ridding “Islamic lands” of Jews.

None of this is to diminish the essential points made in Reilly’s article. Oppressor v. oppressed is the essence of the social-justice movement here, just as it is in the Middle East. But for Hamas and its ilk, the dichotomy has a virulent religious and cultural underpinning.
Gregg Mashberg
La Cañada Flintridge, California

Battle of the Bard

To the Editor:
I read everything Joseph Epstein writes, and I was intrigued to find his piece on William Shakespeare in COMMENTARY (“Brush Off Your Shakespeare,” January). As usual, Epstein gets at the truth. But two things can be true at the same time: Shakespeare is great, and the deification of Shakespeare is overblown.

I have many times enjoyed Hamlet, Macbeth, and King Lear, but I wouldn’t call them transformative. If every professor and teacher of English were given truth serum, more than a few would admit that they don’t adore Shakespeare as much as they say they do. It is not necessarily a case of the emperor having no clothes. Rather, the emperor has clothes, but they are not as fancy as everyone says.
William P. Warford
Oswego, New York

To the Editor:
I want to thank Joseph Epstein for his challenge to the pre-eminence of Shakespeare’s standing in English letters. I shall take up the gauntlet on behalf of the Bard. There are 38 plays by Shakespeare. The 38th being Edward III, which Shakespeare scholars identify as being written mostly by him. That play is one of six written entirely in verse. John Julius Norwich introduced me to this fact in his Shakespeare’s Kings. That book demonstrates that Shakespeare’s chief contribution to England was his inculcation in the general population of what had come before. John Churchill, the 1st duke of Marlborough, once said that he knew no history save what he learned from Shakespeare. This contribution alone raises Shakespeare above the great majority of writers of the English language.

To imply that Shakespeare is “trivial and immoral,” even if the charge issued first from Tolstoy, is the height of calumny. Perhaps Maimonides would have loved him for his esotericism, as Harry Jaffa and Allan Bloom did in their book Shakespeare’s Politics. To decipher Shakespeare’s conscience is a Talmudic endeavor that is well worth the effort.

Early last year, I spent two weeks in Stratford-upon-Avon and saw The Tempest performed five times. While the Royal Shakespeare Company’s building was covered with advertisements for TikTok, and the program made reference to the “myths of Western Civilization,” I still heard the messages of the play loud and clear: Authority shifts to those most capable of handling the storms of fortune that life throws at them, carrying logs and doing hard work undergird and strengthen a relationship, and temptation is ever present and ready to undermine solemn promises.

There is more than this in The Tempest alone. More than twice all this. It is a frightening and beautiful play with a host of varying characters within Shakespeare’s own deserted yet peopled island in the mind.
Joshua Bresnahan
Belmont, North Carolina

To the Editor:
Joseph Epstein is right about Shakespeare. Readers and audiences deify Shakespeare for the same reason they do many things—because everybody else does.  His characters do not come to life as authentic people.

Shakespeare is given a pass in part because he wrote in a time long past, and his weaknesses can be ascribed to the idiom of the age, not to the man himself.  But this is wrong. Consider the rhetoric of a near contemporary, Henry Purcell, which is as compelling and authentic as it is universal: “When I am laid in earth, may my wrongs create no trouble in thy breast. Remember me.  Remember me, but not my fate!” 

In addition to Tolstoy, there’s another Shakespeare dissenter who was a man of incontrovertible genius and discernment: Ludwig Wittgenstein. I can only paraphrase, but he asserted that if Shakespeare is great, he is great by a standard that is applied to him alone.
Joe Donovan
Newton, Massachusetts

Future Schlock

To the Editor:
I always enjoy James B. Meigs’s articles. A thought occurred to me as I read his column on the unfulfilled predictions of technological advances (“The Future Isn’t Going as Promised,” January). I have two words: Palm Pilot. It was a great product focused tightly on the tasks of organization, and it changed my life at a day-to-day level. But the wheels began to come off when Palm introduced the Treo, which could do more but not as well. And then came RIM/BlackBerry and everything that followed.

I used to enjoy Scientific American’s column about future predictions from 50, 100, and 150 years ago. The truth is that many things that were predicted did occur. But they rarely emerged in the timeframe or fashion predicted at the time.
Nick Palmer
Tampa, Florida

At the Brink

To the Editor:
Matthew Continetti is always interesting and often enlightening, as he is in his column on Russia (“Putin Won’t Stop,” January). World affairs are reaching a crisis point that will require all of us who are not signed on to authoritarianism to make common cause against it. This will be very onerous, as we will still be in heated disagreement on other matters. But freedom and the role of the United States in securing it are once again fundamental to the future of the entire world. The hot and cold wars that we are now enduring will end only when the worst of the bad actors concerned—namely Russia and Iran—are neutralized. This will require drastic policy and perhaps even regime change. Sadly, the good-heartedness of the Biden administration has proven fruitless, and the mistakes he’s made have had terrible consequences for those affected—and will ultimately affect all of us. Things have grown dire, and we all have to step up.
Steve Evans
Westport, New Zealand

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