Non-Fiction at a Glance

Hear, O Israel

Hear, O Israel
David Solway

Mantua Books
$25
paper
181pp
978-0-9734065-3-5

Hear, O Israel is David Solway’s letter to the world and his laundry list of ways in which the
world’s perceptions and descriptions of Israel are wrong. Solway, renowned Montreal poet, winner of the A. M. Klein Prize for Poetry in
2007, starts by warning the Western world that it, like Israel, is under constant threat from Muslim terrorists and that “the West is beginning
to learn what it feels like to be a Jew.” Yet, he continues, “instead of recognizing a newfound solidarity with its ancestral victim whom it
is coming to resemble, the West has chosen to make him responsible for its own, largely self-inflicted distress.”

Perhaps Israel is indeed the scapegoat du jour. But trying to prove this, as Solway does, by insulting the opposition (“Of course, self-loathing Jewish anti-Zionists … are among the worst offenders, proliferating like ticks and lice on the body of their people”); using sarcasm (“… the familiar
anti-checkpoint argument that pretends there is no such creature as a Palestinian suicide bomber on his way to butcher as many Israeli
civilians as a thoughtful Islamistcan possibly take with him”); and qualifying any opposing argument as “claptrap,” does little to help
Solway’s cause. Because Hear, O Israel is so filled with negativity and because Solway refutes comments or ideas he doesn’t agree with by
simply stating that they’re false (“Israel is an apartheid state … (false)”), the book is unconvincing and off-putting.

Furthermore, though Solway protests (too much) that he’s not promoting book-burning, his assertion that he wouldn’t mind burning
anti-Israeli books, if he were that kind of guy (“If I did not believe in the preservation of books regardless of their content, I would say that
this is one library that merits burning ….”), strikes a chilling chord. Though he protects himself by claiming he wouldn’t actually burn books, the anger and hatred that form the leitmotiv of his book preventreaders from giving him the benefit of the doubt. Sympathy, it must be said, does not easily flow in his direction.

In short: Solway has written a highly emotional tirade vilifying everybody and anybody who might have said or written something about Israel he doesn’t agree with. mRb

Mélanie Grondin is the editor of the Montreal Review of Books. Her book The Art and Passion of Guido Nincheri is coming out in the fall of 2017.

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