The moral high ground of Gabriel Allon, Israeli spy and assassin
By Kole Omotoso
IF the Israeli “Never Again!” applied to all humans on earth without any discrimination, humanity would have taken a giant step in doing good for all and sundry.
But an understanding of what has happened to Palestinians since the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, demonstrates that never again applies only to the Israelis, nobody else. This means that it is possible for the Israelis to do to the Palestinians what they swear will never happen to them again.
The crisis of the Middle East is not getting a two-state solution in Israel and Palestine, or preventing Iran from sending nuclear bombs to Jerusalem.
The crisis of the Middle East for the world (the UN) and the world powers (USA, China, Russia, Japan and the Brics) is how to compensate the loser in the region.
The losers are the Palestinians and the winners are the Israelis. The winner has no problem living with his winning but how does the loser live with his loss?
Nobody who reads the captivating spy thrillers of Daniel Silva would long avoid these and other thoughts about the goings-on in the Middle East.
Daniel Silva has written ten or so novels about the adventures of Gabriel Allon, art restorer, professional assassin and ace spy and punishment instrument of Israel against her enemies.
For instance, it was Gabriel Allon who pursued and murdered all the members of the PLO who had been responsible for the death of the Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics of 1972.
That year Daniel Silva, an American citizen was 12 and the incident seared him for life. He is a convert to Judaism and is able to inject into his narratives of the adventures of Gabriel Allon insights into contemporary politics of the Middle East. Daniel Silva is also a member of the US Holocaust Memorial Council.
There is a quote at the beginning of Prince of Fire (2005) of an old Jewish proverb: If you seek revenge, dig a grave for two. Gabriel Allon wins at the end but what a price he has to pay every time he wins: loss of his wife and son, threat to his new love, physical wreckage almost. But he wins.
He does not entertain any moral conflict as to the rightness of what he is doing for his country while he is executing the enemies of the state of Israel.
“There’s a clear moral distinction between the Palestinians and the Nazis. There is a certain justice in Khalid’s cause. Only his means are abhorrent and immoral.”
“Justice? Khalid and his ilk could have had peace time and time again, but they don’t want it. His cause is our destruction. If you believe he wants peace, you’re deluding yourself.’ She pointed towards the screen.
“If he comes to that street, you have a right, indeed a moral duty, to make certain he never leaves there to kill and maim again. Do it, Gabriel, or so help me God, I’ll do it for you”(Prince of Fire, page 237). This is the case for the Jews.
Here is the case for the Palestinians:
“Jews,” she said(a PLO member called Palestina). “You think you have a patent on pain. You think you have the market cornered on human suffering. My Holocaust is as real as yours, and yet you deny my suffering and exonerate yourself of guilt. You claim my wounds are self-inflicted.”
“So tell me your story.”
“Mine is a story of Paradise lost. Mine is a story of a simple people forced by the civilized world to give up their land so that Christendom could alleviate its guilt over the Holocaust.”
“No, no,” Gabriel said. “I don’t want a propaganda lecture. I want to hear your story. Where are you from?”
Ages ago, it was clear that literary work can never really be neutral. Art is never for Art’s only sake. Something drives the passion of the writer and that something is not just the love of words and the seduction of appropriate sentences.
Something outside of the writer, something to which his or her writing tries to promote, invariably drives the passion of the writer. It is up to the reader to realise this as she or he reads these enjoyable adventures.
Take the James Bond novels for an example. Ian Fleming created James Bond in the context of the Cold War and at the end of every adventure, it is the humanism of the West and its love of freedom that trumps the Communism of Russia and China.
It is not for nothing that John Le Carre, another Cold War spy thriller writer lamented the collapse of Russian Communism and its effect on his work.
Daniel Silva writes to entertain and to educate but at the end of the day to make a case for Gabriel Allon’s pursuit of both past and future revenge without forgetting that in the pursuit of that life style, he must be aware of the need to always dig a grave for two. This is what makes the novels such engrossing reading.