A New Biography Misinterprets Meir Kahane and His Legacy

In a review of Shaul Magid’s recently released biography, Meir Kahane: The Public Life and Political Thought of an American Jewish Radical, J.J. Kimche admits to having had high hopes for this study of the militant rabbi. He had anticipated a “serious, balanced, and rigorous consideration [of] Kahane’s work,” which would serve as a corrective to other biographies that have downplayed Kahane’s intellectual contributions and “focused largely on his political and personal activities.” Kimche found instead that Magid’s book reveals a good deal more about the author’s own preconceptions about race than its subject.

Despite its title and self-description, surprisingly little of this work is about Meir Kahane. The first hundred pages (of a 200-page book) focus largely on political and sociocultural stirrings within the United States during the 1960s, especially within the radical elements of the black and Jewish communities. Though Magid draws interesting parallels between the rhetoric and actions of Kahane and those of the Black Panthers and Jewish socialists, the reader is left wondering why such marginalia occupy fully half of this biography.

The merits of the book are eclipsed by Magid’s obsession with race. Magid accepts contemporary racial theories as gospel truth and employs them to analyze Kahane, Zionism, and American Jewish history. In perhaps the most revealing line of the book, he states that “we live in a white-supremacist (or, I would add, in Israel, a Judeo-supremacist) society.” Statements of this kind exemplify Magid’s methodological axiology: America is fundamentally racist, Israel is fundamentally racist, Kahane is obviously a racist, and American-centric racial theories are the most useful paradigms for analyzing both Kahane’s ideas and the conflict in the Middle East. It is a pity that Magid never pauses to interrogate these questionable assumptions.

Such axioms are especially surprising considering how little of Kahane’s writing revolves around race.

Read more at First Things

More about: Jewish studies, Meir Kahane, Race


How to Save the Universities

To Peter Berkowitz, the rot in American institutions of higher learning exposed by Tuesday’s hearings resembles a disease that in its early stages was easy to cure but difficult to diagnose, and now is so advanced that it is easy to diagnose but difficult to cure. Recent analyses of these problems have now at last made it to the pages of the New York Times but are, he writes, “tardy by several decades,” and their suggested remedies woefully inadequate:

They fail to identify the chief problem. They ignore the principal obstacles to reform. They propose reforms that provide the equivalent of band-aids for gaping wounds and shattered limbs. And they overlook the mainstream media’s complicity in largely ignoring, downplaying, or dismissing repeated warnings extending back a quarter century and more—largely, but not exclusively, from conservatives—that our universities undermine the public interest by attacking free speech, eviscerating due process, and hollowing out and politicizing the curriculum.

The remedy, Berkowitz argues, would be turning universities into places that cultivate, encourage, and teach freedom of thought and speech. But doing so seems unlikely:

Having undermined respect for others and the art of listening by presiding over—or silently acquiescing in—the curtailment of dissenting speech for more than a generation, the current crop of administrators and professors seems ill-suited to fashion and implement free-speech training. Moreover, free speech is best learned not by didactic lectures and seminars but by practicing it in the reasoned consideration of competing ideas with those capable of challenging one’s assumptions and arguments. But where are the professors who can lead such conversations? Which faculty members remain capable of understanding their side of the argument because they understand the other side?

Read more at RealClearPolitics

More about: Academia, Anti-Semitism, Freedom of Speech, Israel on campus