...the book is also, as the title implies, a personal story about how Pekar came to view Israel in a very different light than his politically Zionist mother and religiously Zionist father.Whoa, he considers "Islamic art" worthy of attention? And presumably doesn't quote any verses from the Koran/Hadith? Okay, I've heard quite a bit about Pekar's brain then. If he considers it preferable to ancient Jewish art like ceramics, then clearly he was quite a self-hater.
There's a third part, too, a frame story in which Pekar and Waldman visit a famous used bookstore in Cleveland, grab some lunch and head to a local library branch to do some research. Everything in Not the Israel is presented as conversation, sometimes just between Pekar and Waldman, other times with additional participants who don't really do much but serve as sounding boards. All the history being packaged as casual chit-chat takes a lot of what could be dry, textbook-style, didactic material and gives it some welcome punch. It also makes it easier for Pekar to keep things moving quickly. In just a handful of pages, he jumps from the founding of Islam in 610 AD to the Middle Ages and the Crusades, hitting all the essential touchstones he needs to make his point.
This brisk format also stretches disbelief a bit, though. The idea that Waldman, who lived on a Kibbutz and wrote/illustrated an adaptation of the book of Esther, would need to learn anything about Roman rule over ancient Israel or the 1948 Arab-Israeli War is tough to believe.
Speaking of Waldman, his art here is nothing short of jaw-dropping at times. He jumps from one style to another every few pages. In the frame sections, it's Splendor-style realism, but in the history retellings he's emulating cave paintings, recreating mosaics, honoring ancient Islamic art, aping propaganda posters and telling stories in a pop-art style.
There are certainly moments in the historical parts where, as a reader, it's hard not to think, "Who wouldn't know that?" But then again, there are tidbits that certainly struck me as eye-opening, such as Pekar's explanation of the roles of militant groups (Pekar calls them terrorists), the Stern Gang and the Irgun in the formation of modern-day Israel.Though not fully clear from this, I won't be surprised if he considers Stern and Irgun and ONLY those rebel groups "terrorists" while jihadists get a free pass. Does he consider David Ben-Gurion a "terrorist" too though, since he later turned on the British as well, and by the end of WW2, the entire country was united in the belief that the British must be shown the door and realized they had no intention of allowing Israelis to self-govern? He likely did condone giving away much of Israel to the Muslim-run lands, as the British did.
Even so, the most compelling parts of the book are easily those about Pekar, his parents and his shifting ideas about Israel. As I was reading, I found myself often trying to blow through the historical summary to get to the personal stuff, and being disappointed that there wasn't more of it. Pekar's parents were clearly fascinating people. His mother was a communist during the Second Red Scare, for crying out loud. I wanted to know more about them. I wanted to know more about the leftists Pekar fell in with in his 20s, the ones who convinced him that displacing Muslims might cause some problems. I wanted to get a better conception, right upfront, about what he really thought about the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. In the final pages, he explains his position: He wants a two-state solution in which the Israelis and the Palestinians just plain cut off all interaction with one another. He was a pragmatist to the end.I'm not laughing at this. Racial/religious segregation is a very negative concept, and it's more than crystal clear by now the so-called palestinians have no intention of ceasing their belief in jihad against Jews and other non-Muslims.
That his mom was a commie may explain why he was vulnerable to other leftists with potentially more damaging views than hers.
Near the end of the book, Pekar talks about an opinion column he wrote for The Cleveland Plain Dealer in 1978, in which he said Jewish Nationalism was encouraging a cycle of violence, and a letter to the editor responding to it. The back-and-forth really encapsulates why these conflicts -- between Arabs and Jews, and among Jewish people themselves -- are so intractable.This is enough to make me wonder if, not only does reviewer Wilson have a dehumanizing view of either or both sides that doesn't judge by culture/color of character, but if he's also the kind of man who would consider Hasidics more loathsome than Muslims with keffiyehs. Or something like that. What is apparent is that we have another disgrace running around who has no intention of researching and acknowledging the contents of the Koran/Hadith, and asking whether they encourage violent and misogynist cycles among their adherents.
One more thing: I wouldn't be surprised if the list of disagreements Pekar had with Menachem Begin didn't include how he was willing to do business with Anwar Sadat, a creature who'd served as a nazi spy during WW2, and didn't have any problems with uprooting Yamit either. Pekar was clearly a most disgraceful man indeed, as are some of the writers for Comics Alliance.