Two weeks ago, the left-leaning Israeli media and professoriate raised a hue and cry over an alleged government decision to “ban” from schools the novel Borderlife, whose plot revolves around a romance between an Israeli and a Palestinian. As Liel Leibovitz points out, nothing like a “ban” was issued; the only decision was not to include the book on a list of works required for all students taking the nation-wide matriculation exam: a list that already includes multiple novels about love between Jews and Gentiles (both Arab and European). The real root of the controversy, writes Leibovitz, is the left’s desire to impose its views:
In declining to canonize [Borderlife], the Ministry of Education made a call to favor works that explore not the nation’s failings—aside from the interfaith love story, Borderlife is rich with descriptions of IDF soldiers behaving cruelly toward bedraggled Palestinian innocents—but its glories. And that, to some in Israel, is hard to take.
To those guardians of good taste and right thinking—comprising, if you’re inclined to stereotype, authors and academics and op-ed writers and entertainers and the other usual suspects one finds everywhere among the tender and progressive elites—a book is only worth its salt if, [as they might put it], it problematizes power relations and undermines the hegemony of the privileged classes. [Thus] so many Israeli novels—many of which have pride of place on the Ministry of Education’s list—are shivering, introspective mea culpas about all sorts of wrongdoings, real and perceived. But try to argue that the Jewish state should teach, say, Jewish values, and you’re likely to be labeled a benighted brute.