The Deracinated Jews of Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fantasy

Set in a fictional analogue of 16th-century Italy (on a planet with two moons), the Canadian novelist Guy Gavriel Kay’s All the Seas of the World gives much attention to religion. Or at least, it gives much attention to the relations among members of three predominant faiths, which correspond to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—except that the only substantive difference is which astronomical bodies the adherents revere. Michael Weingrad writes in his review:

Rather than religious civilizations engaged with fundamental human questions through theology and philosophy, mysticism and ethics, devotion and practice, we get a caricature of religion as a kind of team sport, where your mascot (sun, stars, or moon) determines whom you cheer for. There is nothing necessarily wrong with a fantasy writer imagining a world in which religions are silly contrivances. Yet Kay seems to want to engage real history, while this conceit makes the past into something merely unfortunate.

So extreme is this indifference to the substance of religious civilization that it extends even to the overtly supernatural elements in the novel. In two instances (that turn out to be largely unimportant to the plot), Kay’s characters encounter supernatural phenomena. . . . But neither phenomenon is referred by any character to their religious traditions; it’s just stuff that happens. When [the “Christian” heroine] Lenia says that she and [the Kindath, i.e., Jewish] Rafel don’t believe in miracles, she really means it—even when they happen to her

But Rafel’s Jewishness—Kindathness—most resembles a contemporary North American Jewish ethnic identity formed by a measure of family loyalty and guilt, and a degree of historical awareness, but nothing so thick as practice, belief, community. Rafel lives on the margins of Kindath community, but so do most all of Kay’s Kindath characters in these novels, at least in terms of culture and mentality.

Read more at Investigations and Fantasies

More about: Fantasy, Israeli literature, Religion

Using the Power of the Law to Fight Anti-Semitism

Examining carefully the problem of anti-Semitism, and sympathy with jihadists, at American universities, Danielle Pletka addresses the very difficult problem of what can be done about it. Pletka avoids such simplistic answers as calling for more education and turns instead to a more promising tool: law. The complex networks of organizations funding and helping to organize campus protests are often connected to malicious states like Qatar, and to U.S.-designated terrorist groups. Thus, without broaching complex questions of freedom of speech, state and federal governments already have ample justifications to crack down. Pletka also suggests various ways existing legal frameworks can be strengthened.

And that’s not all:

What is Congress’s ultimate leverage? Federal funding. Institutions of higher education in the United States will receive north of $200 billion from the federal government in 2024.

[In addition], it is critical to understand that foreign funders have been allowed, more or less, to turn U.S. institutions of higher education into political fiefdoms, with their leaders and faculty serving as spokesmen for foreign interests. Under U.S. law currently, those who enter into contracts or receive funding to advocate for the interest of a foreign government are required to register with the Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). This requirement is embedded in a criminal statute, and a violation risks jail time. There is no reason compliance by American educational institutions with disclosure laws should not be subject to similar criminal penalties.

Read more at Commentary

More about: American law, Anti-Semitism, Israel on campus