Interview-cum-Book Review based on self-published political thriller, "The Horns of Moses"
| As Israel's 60th birthday bash reaches its climax, here's a political thriller which may have its author dubbed 'party pooper of the year'.
The unique premise of "The Horns of Moses" turns the concept of suicidal terrorism on its head and relates how a group of ageing American Jews - ' The Stony Island Gang' - devise a series of tit-for-tat bombings in the Palestinian Authority and Lebanon.
What's more, the potential recruits for 'Project Moses' are terminally ill elderly Jews willing to die for the cause. This is a first novel for David H Brandin, a retired mathematician and computer scientist, who was inspired in part by his own wife's experiences as a Nazi death camp survivor.
Almost all of the story's characters are based on real people and Brandin's anti-hero, David Green urges his fellow plotters to "think about our obligation as Jews".
Yet Brandin insists that while he is not himself religious, "ensuring Israel's survival is something I do believe in strongly, as a refuge for Jews - the next time the world goes nuts. My wife is a Holocaust survivor so that sensitizes me to the idea of a safe haven. I don't think I can get passionate about killing myself though".
But how or why did he actually devise the idea?
"I began to wonder why the Israelis didn't have their own suicide bombers. It struck me as a rather natural thing to do for a dying person; ignoring, of course, Jewish heritage, culture and the proscription against suicide and murder".
Isn't that 'ignoring' nearly everything about Judaism? Isn't this horrific scenario wholly antithetical to (traditional) Judaism?
"Sure, it's antithetical. Some undoubtedly will be offended. Most Jews I know or meet respond to the book story line with: 'Oh, Jews don't do that'. On the other hand, I don't buy the argument that the irreligious don't believe in revenge. In fact, even religious Jews believe in revenge. They may not want to do it themselves but they'd be delighted if someone else did the deed. I don't think it's useful to get into biblical arguments".
Would people of the Stony Island Gang's generation really think in that way?
"Some of my friends [yes, that age group and in Chicago] would fit right in to the way the Stony Island Gang thought - suicide might be a stretch but if the Nazis had actually marched on Skokie (a predominately Jewish area of Chicago, Illinois - where in the 1970s a group of Neo Nazis tried to stage a march), there might have been a bloodbath.
"Sure, suicide is a difficult pill to swallow - this is one of those 'authors asking the reader' to go along with a premise. It's not as though such a premise is impossible to believe; in fact I think it's quite plausible. I do know Jewish doctors who have thought such a path might be reasonable for a terminally ill patient. The entire beginning of the book has gone into developing the premise - there undoubtedly will be people who don't accept it - on the other hand I think it's believable".
Simon Wiesenthal, always said it was not his place to 'forgive' the Nazis for their atrocities. But while he spent the best years of his life hunting them down, is there even one documented instance of his recommending their murder? Even the State of Israel has used the death penalty only once - on Adolf Eichmann - while in Britain it was abolished largely through the efforts of Lancashire Jewish MP, Sydney Silverman. In other words, Jews routinely will do anything to prolong life and the rabbinic authorities have agonised for years about euthanasia. So, in this scenario, isn't Brandin's word 'offended' in relation to Jewish suicide bombers rather weak?
"I have the deepest respect for Wiesenthal and other Holocaust survivors. I'm married to one. Her mother was one, too. To the extent that I could understand the horror, and I think that is impossible, I bend to their humanity. But 'never again' is to me, a bit more persuasive. As Lowenthal (an Israel Defence Force Major) said in the book,'if you fight a civilised war you will lose'. My phrase about people being 'offended' might be a lightning rod too. Those who think 'offend' is an inadequate statement from me will undoubtedly condemn the book. We're getting into political attitudes here. In the interests of full disclosure, I'm conservative. However, the Holocaust never happened to me. It's easy to say they went like sheep into the ovens but may be it's not so easy not to follow the flock. Nevertheless, liberals, I suspect, embrace the flock. I would at least consider other options".
The Hezbollah War and the recent fighting between Hamas and Fatah made publication timely. Did you also hope to coincide with Israel's 60th anniversary celebrations?
"I placed the story in 2007 and was amazed that the Palestinian Civil War occurred in parallel with it. I did not time it to correspond with the 60th anniversary of the 'Catastrophe' as the Palestinians put it. What's happening in Lebanon today is yet one more example of how Israel lost that war".
** I won't reveal too much of this unlikely if audaciously original story. It's won Brandin eight 5-star customer reviews on Amazon. So, perhaps I'm in a minority when I say: Often gratuitously crude and clumsily written - Brandin's background as a technical writer rather than as a stylist lets him down. However, 'The Horns of Moses' brash, racy style makes compelling reading and is bound to have the chattering classes yakking until their jaws ache.
'The Horns of Moses' (was first published in November 2007 by iUniverse/Author House which awarded the novel its Editor's, Publisher's and Reader's Choice Awards. Its available in hardback at $27.95 (£14.00 - approx.) and paperback 17.95 - U.K. £9.00 approx.).