False Dichotomies


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Know Limit


On the first day of my gap-year in Israel, my group’s coordinator gathered us together to dispense essential advice. One aspect of that schpiel has remained with me ever since. She reminded us that we were in a foreign country where we didn’t know the language, the culture, or the little, almost invisible codes of behaviour which constituted true knowledge of a place. We were always to exercise caution, because we didn’t have the tools we needed to know our limits.

The extraordinary Of Gods and Men, directed by Xavier Beauvois, shows nine Cistercian Trappist monks tragically exploring their limits in the Algerian countryside. The year is 1996, at the height of the Algerian Civil War, and their monastery, which has been a fixture of the village of Tibhrinie since the nineteenth century, is under threat from roving Islamists. The monks are popular in the village: they run a free outpatient clinic, give romantic tips, help villagers apply for passports, and sell honey at the village market. As one local puts it, “This village has grown up alongside the monastery. Why leave now?” Read more

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The Abbreviated Read (16)

1. Amazon in trouble?

2. Remembering John Updike.

3. The new Jewdas.

4. Epichorus.

5. Literary Interpretation.

6. Cronenberg does Delillo.  

7. Portnoy Gay?

8. Da Mystery of Chessboxin.

9. A Nation of Commentators.

10. Tarantino in Zion.


Intermission (2)

False Dichotomies is pause once more. I’m off to the East Coast (USA) for a couple of weeks; hopefully I’ll be back with more absurd didactics upon my return to Zion. In the meantime, enjoy the music that I’ve been rocking since I last left the land. One.

אהוב יקר, רונית שחר, גל ירוק

Beginning with the end; the spirit of Jose Gonzales creeping through these lovely pluckings. Back but yet it’s time to go…

Blindsided, Bon Iver (For Emma, Forever Ago)

I’m going to break a rule this time: two tunes from the same fella. But what a fella! Truth be told, every song from Bon Iver’s debut merits a place on this list; it’s been on repeat ad infinitum. Top five dead or alive and that’s just off one LP. For now I’ll make do with Blindsided…

The Rules, Saigon & Statik Selectah (All in a Days Work)

Saigon + Statik Selectah = Dope. This album was done in 24 hours. Even so, it sounds slightly too preened. No matter – even a slickened Saigon is doper than your average emcee. This is the difference between me and them…

Electronic Renaissance, Belle & Sebastian (TigerMilk)

It’s those keyboard twerks at the beginning, giving way to the gorgeous melodies and driving rhythm. Perfect for some movie about a past decade, the sound of people getting perky right away, irrepressible smiles.

Frankly Mr Shankly, The Smiths (The Queen is Dead)

I have to confess that somehow this was stuck on 3 stars on my iTunes until a few months ago when I realized that it’s perhaps the best song ever. As the SB says, it’s all about different registers…

It’s Alright (The Guvnor’s Mix), East 17 (Walthamstow)

This tore shit down at The World’s Greatest Ever 90s Party, reminding me of my days as a teenage rapper. East 17 were better than Take That, period.

Fox Song, Alice Music

My favourite correspondent with her unparalleled melodies; a hypnotic sound first heard late at night at the Gaon’s place.

What If? feat Nas, Jadakiss  (The Last Kiss)

Jada’s back with yet another concept record, ably assisted by Nas.  What if indeed?

Underground Ambassadors feat Afu-Ra, Krumbsnatcha (Hidden Scriptures)

The black rap messiah’s back, deeper and darker, but still scurrying through the darkness carrying his torch, Afu-Ra by his side. Eyes and ears the fuck open: this hits hard.

Shake This, Royce da 5’9

And they say Primo’s a one-trick pony?!? Epic hip-hop record, Royce letting it all come down on wax, orchestra by his side, preparing us for Street-Hop…

Reality Check feat Black Thought, Jay Dilla (Jay Stay Paid)

OK so there’s a dubious morality about posthumous records, but I can’t see Jay minding Black Thought ripping this ridiculous instrumental. This. Is. A. Jay. Dilla. Beat. RIP.

Death Final, Bonnie Prince Billy (Beware)

This is what death music should sound like: celebratory, loving, ambiguous about whats next, optimistic about humanity despite it all. Bonnie Prince Billy wins. Simple as that.

Son’z of a Loop Da Loop Era

Another 90s classic: old-skool is the genre of the hour. Those sentimental pianos, the wheeeeeeeeeeeeew, and the drop of the beat. Hat-Tip to Schlags and Seth.

חלומות של אחרים, Idan Raichel (Within My Walls)

This is music for the preliminaries, burning through wintry sheets while the air-conditioner does battle with the window.

Re: Stacks, Bon Iver (For Emma, Forever Ago)

“This my excavation/and today is Qumran.” The sound of a man heading out on the road, catharsis completed, possibilities multiplying before him. Where would we be without Bon Iver?


Just Following Orders…

The call came from the camp commander. There was an infiltrator on base, and we were to remove him. Igor’s new jeep was the best placed vehicle to do the job, with its state of the art beams and terrifying sound system. We were both armed to the teeth, but were wary nonetheless of what we were being told to do. As we asked for a description of the invader, my mind drifted to the film Shooting Dogs, set during the Rwandan genocide. The title referred to the fact that UN soldiers stationed in the country were not permitted to lift a finger in order to help the victims of the slaughter, but were allowed to cull the dogs that scavenged among the bodies of the dead. Read more

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The Abbreviated Read (15)

1. Keep Calm London.

2. India institutes national ID card.

3. Debating Jay-Z’s hegemony.

4. Hamas exposes sexy Zionist chewing gum plot.

5. Tim Allon.

6. The Death of Bunny Munro.

7. No Leonard Cohen in Ramallah.  

8. Fighting for African refugees in Israel.

9. Granta in Anglo-American denial.

10. Ten books to be tossed out the canon.


Feeling the Hate in Tel Aviv: A Response

“this style of writing [hysterical-realism] is not to be faulted because it lacks reality – the usual charge against botched realism – but because it seems evasive of reality while borrowing from realism itself. It is not a cock-up, but a cover-up.” James Wood, Human, All Too Inhuman, New Republic (30.8.01)

Max Blumenthal is back! The agit-prop journalist who created the already-seminal YouTube documentary Feeling the Hate in Jerusalem has now released the equally sophisticated sequel, Feeling the Hate in Tel Aviv. The original, which received 400,000 hits on YouTube, depicted American-Jewish teenagers (for some reason described by the filmmakers as Israelis) hurling racist obscenities at Barack Obama during a drunken night out in Jerusalem, and caused a predictable storm about authenticity and the morality of airing one’s dirty laundry in public. Now, it’s Tel Aviv’s turn. Read more


The Abbreviated Read (14)

1. Playboy to provide first look at unfinished Nabokov novel.

2. The problem, in a nutshell.

3. Ball of confusion.

4. 7/7.

5. Cast Lead Revisited.

6. Long march in Gaza.

7. Chess, not checkers.

8. The great semi-colon debate.

9. New Zadie.

10. Tha Blaqprint.

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Living Together

The Shas Housing Minister Ariel Atlas is an opponent of Israeli democracy:

“I see [it] as a national duty to prevent the spread of a population that, to say the least, does not love the State of Israel,” Atlas told a conference of the Israel Bar Association, which focused on reforming Israel’s Land Administration.

This is profoundly anti-democratic. All Israeli citizens should have the right to live wherever they want in the country. If they act against the state, they should be prosecuted. Read more


The Abbreviated Read (13)

1. Famous last words.

2. Roth remixed.

3. Al-Kamanjanti centre burnt down.

4. Chess-boxing.

5. I before E no longer in Britain.

6. How the talk became big business.

7. The world’s strictest parents.

8. Bikinis sans frontieres.

9. He’s Barack Obama.

10. Naomi Watts in Zion.

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On Being Israeli: A Response to Petra MB and IsraeliNurse

A common trope of inter-generational discourse is for the older generation to dismiss the views of younger interlocutors as naïve or idealistic. This is a conversation stopper: to properly assess the claim we would need to fast forward twenty years to see if the accused still held the same opinions. Despite this obvious flaw, it’s still regularly deployed in discussion, and I wasn’t overly surprised to see IsraeliNurse and PetraMB use it against me following my ‘If I had been Binyamin Netanyahu’ piece. This time, however, the trope was combined with a new factor: my status as an immigrant Israeli of less than three years standing, as opposed to my antagonists, who have presumably been in the country for much longer, which of course means they know better. Read more


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