I hesitated to post this video of Jewish Review of Books editor Abe Socher interviewing former Gulag prisoner Natan Sharansky and historian Gil Troy about their new book, Never Alone. The book is the subject of “Sharanksy’s Exodus,” the excellent review by Daniel Gordis in the Spring issue of the JRB. Gordis’s review highlights the phenomenon of Orwellian doublethink — “the round-the-clock public charade” of knowing one thing but saying another that dominated Soviet life:
Doublethink, Sharansky believes, has many Israeli and Jewish leaders in its grip. He calls the late prime minister Shimon Peres’s book, The New Middle East, “embarrassingly childlike,” not, he intimates, because Peres ought to have known better but precisely because he must have. When Peres told Sharansky that he shouldn’t insult Arafat because Arafat was the Palestinians’ leader and “they love him,” the former prisoner of the Gulag was utterly unmoved. “They love Arafat no more than the Russians liked Stalin at the height of the purges,” Sharansky told Peres. The conversation ended.
Israeli and Jewish leaders have nothing on us. The doublethink that was once a Communist vice has become an American habit.
Socher’s interview is oriented to Jewish themes and Israeli issues. At several points, it anticipates the celebration of Passover starting this Saturday evening. However, important elements of the discussion should be of wide interest, as in the comments starting at 25:00 on the struggle against “the fear society.” Sharansky’s comments regarding his interviews with Jimmy Lai, Vladimir Putin, and Margaret Thatcher are also intriguing.
Quotable quote (Sharansky at about 24:00): “Again, I want to emphasize I’m not speaking about the danger to democracy. I’m speaking about the danger to the freedom of people. After all, freedom begins inside you. If you are afraid to speak publicly about your views, you’re not a free person.”