On Thursday night at the Center for Jewish History in New York, a panel spoke about Jews as “culture brokers” in the publishing business, and Jason Epstein, who co-founded The New York Review of Books, told about his relationship with Benzion Netanyahu, the late father of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Benzion died earlier this year.
Epstein related that at the instance of Herman Wouk, he first published a book of letters written by Benzion’s son Jonathan, who was killed in Israel’s 1976 Entebbe raid, and after that he worked with Benzion on his masterwork, The Origins of the Inquisition in Fifteenth Century Spain. Epstein:
So we became very close friends… [And that book] really has changed forever how the Spanish Inquisition will now be seen by scholars… His book is recognized as the classic account. So I came to know him very very well. I admired him enormously. Even though we disagreed completely on politics and Israel. He was a so-called revisionist Zionist, he was a disciple of Jabotinsky. And he thought the only way Israel could survive is, well he once told me, by killing all the Arabs. I thought that may have been a bit of an exaggeration, but despite that, it didn’t affect my friendship, my admiration, indeed my love for him.
And I came to see what Bibi Netanyahu’s situation was because the old man dedicated that masterwork not to the three sons, he had three of them beside Bibi and Jonathan, but only to Bibi [actually Jonathan; see below], and he did a very touching passage to accompany that dedication. And he said nothing about Bibi in it, and one of the Bibi’s problems obviously is that his father never, never held him in the kind of esteem in which he held his older brother. To me that explains a lot about what’s going on in Israeli politics…
Epstein referred to his political differences with Benzion in this piece for Tablet, but didn’t quote him on killing all the Arabs, though he did state that Benzion regarded the Arabs as “implacable enemies.”
The dedication of the Spanish Inquisition volume, at Amazon, is:
This book is dedicated with unrelieved grief to the memory of my beloved son JONATHAN who fell while leading the rescue force at Entebbe on July 4, 1976.