Perhaps There Are No Bad Jews, but There Certainly Are Bad Books about Them

In Bad Jews: A History of American Jewish Politics and Identities, the New Statesman’s Emily Tamkin explores American Jews’ “ever-evolving relationship to the nation’s culture and identity, and each other,” as the publisher’s blurb has it. Tal Fortgang writes in his review:

Neither systematic enough to be a serious work of history nor bold enough to work as a pop-sociological provocation, Bad Jews is a book about Jewish identity marked by several identity crises. It wants to be critical of the Jews she clearly thinks are “bad,” but it’s committed to treating all things as equally Jewish; it wants to analyze the particularistic while maintaining Tamkin’s universalistic bona fides; it aims for objectivity but slides into hackneyed leftism without realizing. What it ends up doing is either trailing off before each story ends or reciting the kind of pablum you would expect from a mediocre progressive candidate for public office when asked what her Jewishness means to her.

Trendy activist language eventually seeps through. [Tamkin] frequently fixates on the importance of “whiteness,” but toggles between treating it as a legal, cultural, racial, or other category. Her bible is a 1998 book called How Jews Became White Folks and What That Says about Race in America, as if a UCLA anthropologist named Karen Brodkin provided the world with the definitive history of the Jewish-American experience, and as if her readers could not seriously challenge that “whiteness,” whatever it is, is the force that moves all of American history.

Tamkin’s brand of emotivist universalism . . . knows only two modes: solidarity with victims and iconoclastic rage at villains. It cannot bear the thought of heroic Jews who are neither.

Read more at Commentary

More about: American Jewish History, American Jewry

The ICJ’s Vice-President Explains What’s Wrong with Its Recent Ruling against Israel

It should be obvious to anyone with even rudimentary knowledge of the Gaza war that Israel is not committing genocide there, or anything even remotely akin to it. In response to such spurious accusations, it’s often best to focus on the mockery they make of international law itself, or on how Israel can most effectively combat them. Still, it is also worth stopping to consider the legal case on its own terms. No one has done this quite so effectively, to my knowledge, as the Ugandan jurist Julia Sebutinde, who is the vice-president of the ICJ and the only one of its judges to rule unequivocally in Israel’s favor both in this case and in the previous one where it found accusations of genocide “plausible.”

Sebutinde begins by questioning the appropriateness of the court ruling on this issue at all:

Once again, South Africa has invited the Court to micromanage the conduct of hostilities between Israel and Hamas. Such hostilities are exclusively governed by the laws of war (international humanitarian law) and international human-rights law, areas where the Court lacks jurisdiction in this case.

The Court should also avoid trying to enforce its own orders. . . . Is the Court going to reaffirm its earlier provisional measures every time a party runs to it with allegations of a breach of its provisional measures? I should think not.

Sebutinde also emphasizes the absurdity of hearing this case after Israel has taken “multiple concrete actions” to alleviate the suffering of Gazan civilians since the ICJ’s last ruling. In fact, she points out, “the evidence actually shows a gradual improvement in the humanitarian situation in Gaza since the Court’s order.” She brings much evidence in support of these points.

She concludes her dissent by highlighting the procedural irregularities of the case, including a complete failure to respect the basic rights of the accused:

I find it necessary to note my serious concerns regarding the manner in which South Africa’s request and incidental oral hearings were managed by the Court, resulting in Israel not having sufficient time to file its written observations on the request. In my view, the Court should have consented to Israel’s request to postpone the oral hearings to the following week to allow for Israel to have sufficient time to fully respond to South Africa’s request and engage counsel. Regrettably, as a result of the exceptionally abbreviated timeframe for the hearings, Israel could not be represented by its chosen counsel, who were unavailable on the dates scheduled by the Court.

It is also regrettable that Israel was required to respond to a question posed by a member of the Court over the Jewish Sabbath. The Court’s decisions in this respect bear upon the procedural equality between the parties and the good administration of justice by the Court.

Read more at International Court of Justice

More about: Gaza War 2023, ICC, International Law