The Arty Semite

Who Killed Haim Arlozoroff?

By Benjamin Ivry

  • Print
  • Share Share

The Cairo-born French Jewish ethnopsychiatrist Tobie Nathan is a man of many talents. A prolific novelist as well as teacher, Nathan recently published “My Patient, Sigmund Freud” with Les Éditions Perrin.

Nathan’s new novel, “Who Killed Arlozoroff?” from Les Éditions Grasset reveals other fields of knowledge. It starts with a French journalist with Egyptian Jewish roots entering a Tel Aviv bar and ordering a mitz gezer. A self-appointed critic standing next to him, guzzling Arak, slates his choice of beverage, a plausible sequence of events to anyone familiar with Tel Aviv.

Nathan indubitably is familiar with the city, since he just spent five years stationed there as French cultural counselor, although last September he was transferred to the French Embassy at Conakry, Guinea. Plausible details are essential to his fluently adventurous narrative.

History tells us that in 1933, the left-wing Israeli political leader Haim Arlozoroff was assassinated on a Tel Aviv beach, soon after returning from Nazi Germany where he negotiated the release of some German Jews. The still-unsolved crime, notes Nathan, became a “myth which made it possible to separate leftists from rightists,” since left-wing Israelis believed that Arlozoroff was killed by right-wingers, whereas anyone who believed any other hypothesis “would be labeled right wing.”

Another historical fact is that Magda Behrend, who later married Joseph Goebbels, was a friend of Arlozoroff’s sister Lisa. From this, Nathan develops a fictional love affair between Arlozoroff and the future Mrs. Goebbels, as a plausible motive for murder. Also invented is a more recent murder victim named Mordechai Monco, a septuagenarian Holocaust survivor, former gay prostitute, and Mossad spy. As a boy, Monco is successively raped by Nazis, a Rabbi, and a British officer, in a series of misadventures worthy of Voltaire’s Cunegonde.

Throughout such wild subplots, the somber majesty of Tel Aviv’s history underlies the plot, adding dignity even to sensationalist episodes. Nathan notes that the famed 1909 photo by Avraham Soskin of the founding of Tel Aviv implies that the city was established by “freely negotiated contract,” whereas the still-mysterious killing of Arlozoroff reminds us that in reality, “everything began with a murder, on this precise beach.”

Myths of origin are essential to ethnopsychiatrists like Nathan, following in the footsteps of the science’s Hungarian Jewish principal founder, George Devereux.

Watch Tobie Nathan lecture at Bar Ilan University in 2006 here.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Haim Arlozoroff, Tobie Nathan, Ethnopsychiatry

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.