A Review of David Solway's The Boxthorn Tree

Some of the most eloquent and impassioned pro-Israeli essays in existence are to be found in The Boxthorn Tree, David Solway’s new collection. Solway -- who somehow also manages to write erudite essays on a wide variety of other topics, as well as poetry -- shows a masterful conversance with Israel’s history and current dilemmas, along with a sweeping command of the issues facing the Jewish people in general in a world that retains much of its age-old inimicality toward them.

This collection, which along with polemical essays offers book reviews, accounts-settlings with individual intellectual opponents, parodies, and fables, is written throughout in a dazzlingly urbane, virtuosic, sparkling prose that harks back to earlier literary tradition while remaining firmly attuned to our own morally compromised era. Much of the book is, indeed, a searing indictment of the West’s often cynical and defamatory treatment of Israel, even as it stands on the “frontline…in the war against militant Islam” and “raises…the torch of both dignity and survival.”

One by one Solway takes on the standing calumnies that pervade most of today’s media coverage of the Jewish state: that it is an “occupier” building “illegal settlements” (handily demolished with a historical and juridical overview in “Occupied Israel”); that its security fence is a cruel monstrosity (playfully and brilliantly refuted in “Loving the Wall” and “A Short Meditation on Walls”); that it is the party responsible for derailing the peace process (summarily dispatched in “Is Peace Possible in the Middle East?”); and -- most absurd of all -- that it is the Middle Eastern country that mistreats Christians (a brazen inversion of the truth definitively trounced in “Israel’s Oppressive Treatment of Christians?”).