Michael Chabon Fights Judaism, and Loses

June 15 2018

Invited to speak at Hebrew Union College’s commencement ceremony, the novelist Michael Chabon took the opportunity not only to attack Zionism—and especially the Jewish residents of Hebron—but also to advocate for intermarriage and to express his dissatisfaction with Judaism itself, which strikes him as a “giant interlocking system of distinctions and divisions.” Nothing, Chabon began and ended his speech by saying, is worse than distinctions and divisions, except perhaps “the erection of border walls and separation barriers.” In a thorough dissection of the oration, Elli Fischer writes:

Chabon expresses discomfort with “monocultural places” with “one language, one religion,” but the application of these words to Judaism is simply astonishing. Virtually every Jewish community in history has developed its own dialect. There are five Judeo-Arabic dialects alone. There is a dizzying variety of Jewish culture and multiform expressions of Jewish religiosity. Chabon, however, has no access to this amazing, diversity because he speaks no Jewish language. . . .

Chabon writes “I ply my craft in English, that most magnificent of creoles,” as if speaking English, with all its layers and loan words, makes one multilingual all by itself. Perhaps sensing this, he adds: “my personal house of language is haunted by the dybbuk of Yiddish.” Alas, it is a small dybbuk . . . and not very frightening. . . . Consequently, even as Chabon celebrates even the most superficial cross-cultural fusion, the Judaism he describes is suburban, third-generation American Judaism, a monolingual, monocultural, monochromatic (but not necessarily monotheistic) sliver of the totality of Jewish experience.

Chabon singles out the Shabbat eruv for ridicule three times in his speech. For him, an eruv is just another boundary, another way for Jews to mark who is in and who is out. But the word eruv literally means “mixture” or “combination.” The legal theory behind it is that many private and semiprivate domains can be combined into a single household so that one may carry things from one to another on Shabbat. Creating an eruv involves negotiation with all those, including non-Jews and nonobservant Jews, who share that space. The “walls” of the eruv are, in fact, generally not walls at all. They [consist] only of posts and wires, on the premise that two posts with a lintel form a doorway. The eruv circumscribes a community with walls that are entirely doors. . . .

The very idea of a wall made of doors undermines Chabon’s dichotomies. . . . Instead, all Chabon sees, all he wants to see, is that the eruv divides the inside from the outside and is therefore abhorrent; living in an eruv and living in Hebron—it’s all the same. No need to make distinctions.

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Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Hebron, Intermarriage, Jewish language, Judaism, Religion & Holidays, Shabbat

 

The Significance of Mahmoud Abbas’s Holocaust Denial

Aug. 19 2022

On Tuesday, the Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, during an official visit to Berlin, gave a joint press conference with the German chancellor Olaf Scholz, where he was asked by a journalist if he would apologize for the murder of Israeli athletes by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Munich Olympics. (The relationship between the group that carried out the massacre and Abbas’s Fatah party remains murky.) Abbas instead responded by ranting about the “50 Holocausts” perpetrated by Israel against Palestinians. Stephen Pollard comments:

Scholz’s response to that? He shook Abbas’s hand and ended the press conference.

Reading yet another column pointing out that Scholz is a dunderhead isn’t, I grant you, the most useful of ways to spend an August afternoon, so let’s leave the German chancellor there, save to say that he eventually issued a statement hours later, after an eruption of fury from his fellow countrymen, saying that “I am disgusted by the outrageous remarks made by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. For us Germans in particular, any trivialization of the singularity of the Holocaust is intolerable and unacceptable. I condemn any attempt to deny the crimes of the Holocaust.” Which only goes to show that late is actually no better than never.

The real issue, in Pollard’s view, is the West’s willful blindness about Abbas, who wrote a doctoral thesis at a Soviet university blaming “Zionists” for the Holocaust and claiming that a mere million Jews were killed by the Nazis—notions he has reiterated publicly as recently as 2013.

On Wednesday, [Abbas] “clarified” his remarks in Berlin, saying that “the Holocaust is the most heinous crime in modern human history.” Credulous fools have again ignored what Abbas actually means by that.

It’s time we stopped projecting what we want Abbas to be and focused on what he actually is, using his own words. In a speech in 2018 he informed us that Israel is a “colonialist project that had nothing to do with Judaism”—to such an extent that European Jews chose to stay in their homes and be murdered rather than live in Palestine. Do I have to point out the moral degeneracy of such a proposition? It would seem so, given the persistent refusal of so many to take Abbas for what he actually is.

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Read more at Jewish Chronicle

More about: Anti-Semitism, Germany, Holocaust denial, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority