Sarah Honig 370.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Sarah Honig’s Debunking the Bull anthologizes 57 of the veteran Jerusalem Post
reporter’s “Another Tack” columns, written since 1999. The column is her
no-holds- barred soapbox for separating fact from fiction, as she sees it, in
relation to Israel’s geopolitical situation.
Few writers are as firmly in
possession of the facts – with enough gumption and conviction to connect the
dots between those facts – as Honig is.Whether or not readers agree with
her hard-hitting conclusions, they’d have to admit she does her homework before
putting fingers to keys.
Honig is a famously formidable writer. In his
introduction to the book, Post Editor-in-Chief Steve Linde extols her “mind for
fine detail… flair for flowery language and the moral integrity to tell the
whole truth as she sees it.”
Before getting into the contents of the
book, I must note that flowery language is indeed a Honig hallmark, for better
or worse. However well-researched and on target her message may be, she tends to
overdress it in lacy layers of alliterative prose, heavy with highfalutin
vocabulary (“bon ton,” “palaver,” “saccharine,” “latifundia”) that sometimes
distracts the reader’s attention from the exquisite garment beneath.
for the book itself, it has one major fault: The essays lack the date of
publication and therefore also a helpful context.
They do not seem to be
in chronological order, nor are they grouped by category.
collection successfully highlights the author’s impressive gift for presenting
her observations through the device of relevant historical and biographical
anecdotes. She seems to be privy to a huge treasury of such stories, which,
however obscure, provide a tangible and educational foundation for her
For example, in “Boycott is Beautiful,” she examines the BDS
movement against Israel by detailing other significant but little-known boycotts
– like the one that led to the ruin of Chinese businesses in America’s 1870s
West. She cites a white supremacist organization’s resolution – “We recognize
the Chinese as an unmitigated curse to the Pacific Coast and a direct threat to
the bread and butter of the working class” – and compares it with “the
terminology adopted by Israel’s renowned champions of democracy against
‘settlers,’ including residents and employees in Jerusalem neighborhoods beyond
the Green Line.”
But her nose isn’t stuck only in history books. She
takes on pop personalities including the late Gloved One (“The only thing I ever
admired about Michael Jackson was his doll collection”) and Pink Floyd’s Roger
Waters, a BDS supporter. Here’s a vintage piece of Honig writing: “Waters has
consistently, almost robotically, espoused every wrongheaded doctrinaire leftist
cause since his star first twinkled in the frenzied firmament of psychedelic and
In another piece, decrying some Western
governments’ warming to Hamas (again, we don’t know when this column was
published), the author points out that “making nice to Allah’s fearsome
warriors” is nothing new.
“It’s a pattern that replicates itself,” she
writes. “The international community can’t wait to whitewash, exonerate, find
extenuating excuses for and otherwise legitimize Arab terrorists, lessen their
culpability, conceal their ideology, make light of their record, explain away
their sins and in general gloss over their proven malice.”
cannot accuse her of beating about the bush.
BORN IN Israel and raised
both here and in the United States, Honig clearly isn’t happy with the current
occupant of the White House. But she wears no rose-colored glasses when
examining past presidents and their Israel policies, either. One column designed
to debunk Israelis’ “tribal myth” that “persistently portrays various White
House residents as our trusted friends” unequivocally concludes that “the US
consistently deprived Israel of victory, indirectly encouraged Arab attacks,
instigated terrorism and incentivized Arab intransigence.”
essay provides a good example of her erudite dot-connecting, tracing the effect
of US foreign policy decisions vis-à-vis the Jewish state: “Way back in 1948,
despite Harry Truman’s hesitant de facto recognition of newborn Israel,
America’s arms embargo emboldened Arab invaders. When Dwight Eisenhower forced
Israel out of the Sinai in 1957, he promised to keep the Tiran Straits open.
Nasser blockaded them a decade later, but America reneged on its assurances,
signaling Egypt that its aggression would be tolerated.
Had the US
honored its undertaking, there would have been no Six Day War and no
‘occupation’ for Washington to urgently seek to end.”
It must be wearying
to maintain a nearly lone voice in the wilderness week after week, pounding away
at the same points, sticking to her guns even though she occasionally must feel
as if she is tilting at windmills. But unlike Don Quixote, Honig refuses to live
in a fantasy world. She’d rather risk getting some of her readers riled up than
leave the “bull” un-debunked.
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