A shocking claim about the Baghdad bombings of 1950 and 1951

Avi Shlaim’s family led the good life in Baghdad. Prosperous and distinguished members of Iraq’s Jewish minority, a community which could trace its presence in Babylon back more than 2,500 years, they had a large house with servants and nannies, went to the best schools, rubbed shoulders with the great and the good and sashayed elegantly from one glittering party to the next. Shlaim’s father was a successful businessman who counted ministers as friends. His much younger mother was a socially ambitious beauty who attracted admirers, from Egypt’s King Farouk to a Mossad recruiter. For this privileged section of Iraqi society, it was a rich, cosmopolitan and generally harmonious milieu.

Light and shade in the Holy Land – a century in spectacular images

Roger Hardy is a romantic. That much I deduce from the language he uses to describe how photographers were drawn to the special quality of light in Palestine. Their images, he writes, ‘capture the play of light and shade on the limestone walls of Jerusalem’s Old City, the glistening watermelons on sale at open-air markets, the white apartment blocks of the new metropolis of Tel Aviv, the dusty rubble of houses blown up by soldiers during the rebellion of the 1930s’. The last few words reveal a steely realism, too, a quality developed, no doubt, during the more than 20 years he worked as a Middle East analyst for the

Political arguments are now over words, not things

There is a picture book, by the excellent David McKee, of which my youngest child was very fond. It’s called Two Monsters, and its protagonists are, as promised, two monsters. The blue one lives on the west side of a mountain, and the red one lives on the east side of the mountain. They communicate verbally but never see each other. It all kicks off when one evening the blue monster calls: ‘Can you see how beautiful it is? Day is departing.’ The red monster shouts back: ‘Day departing? You mean night arriving, you twit!’ Cantankerous words are exchanged before bedtime and both sleep badly. The following morning the blue

A campus novel with a difference: The Netanyahus, by Joshua Cohen, reviewed

Dr Benzion Netanyahu’s reputation precedes him. ‘A true genius, who also happens to be a major statesman and political hero,’ writes one former colleague in a letter of recommendation. Unhelpfully, another letter follows where a different former colleague describes him as a ‘prolific rabble-rouser’, with ‘a history of inciting terrorist violence’. These letters land in the pigeonhole of Ruben Blum, a historian at sleepy Corbin College in upstate New York. Ruben, the first and only Jew on the faculty (it’s 1959), is to interview Netanyahu for a position. Netanyahu is a revisionist Zionist; Ruben has carved a quiet patch in taxation studies. ‘We feel like you’re in a unique position