Anti-Semitism and the North American Novel

Laura Z. Hobson’s The Gentleman’s Agreement, a best-selling 1947 novel, brought American “genteel” anti-Semitism into the limelight, especially after it was turned into a movie. It was preceded, and partially inspired, by a Canadian novel called Earth and High Heaven, also a loosely autobiographical account of interfaith romance and concealed but intense anti-Semitism. The author of the latter, Gwethalyn Graham, was a Canadian Christian who had had a romance with a Jew, while Hobson was a Jew who had fallen in love with a gentile. Both novels were part of a wave, writes Rachel Gordan:

The 1940s were a decade when several novelists tackled the topic of anti-Semitism. Saul Bellow’s The Victim (1947) and Arthur Miller’s Focus (1945) are among the more highly regarded of these novels today, in large part due to their authors’ status in the pantheon of American Jewish writers. Yet middlebrow novels, including Graham’s and Laura Z. Hobson’s, had greater impact on readers. Magazine serialization, bestseller status, and news of their purchase by Hollywood studios contributed to their popularity in the 1940s. With brief or no mention of the horrific anti-Semitism of wartime Europe, these novels were praised for holding up a mirror to bigotry at home even as North American soldiers fought more frightening instances of racial hatred abroad. To American commentators, these “social-protest novels” filled a uniquely American need to feel superior to their wartime enemies when it came to questions of national morality. To wring one’s hands over the discrimination of country clubs, hotels, and playgrounds—against the backdrop of Nazi Germany—was a variation on today’s “humble brag.” The United States and Canada may have had problems when it came to anti-Semitism, but in comparison to Europe’s, it was impossible to deny that theirs was the lesser evil.

Read more at Moment

More about: American Jewish literature, Arthur Miller, Canadian Jewry, Fiction, Saul Bellow, The Gentleman's Agreement

As Hamas’s Reign of Terror Endures, the International Community Remains Obsessed with Jews Living in the Wrong Places

On Thursday, foreign ministers of the G-7—the U.S., Canada, Japan, Britain, France, Germany, and Italy—along with the EU, made an official “statement on the situation in the West Bank,” an area where they are very concerned, it appears, that too many Jews are dwelling. In particular, the G-7 condemned Israel’s decision to grant municipal status to five ad-hoc villages built without proper permits. Elliott Abrams comments:

I can see “condemning” murder, terror, kidnapping, and “rejecting” that legalization. Indeed in the next sentence they “reject the decision by the government of Israel to declare over 1,270 hectares of land in the West Bank as ‘state lands.’” Building houses should not be treated with language usually reserved for murder.

The statement then added complaints about the Israeli settlement program more generally, and about Israel’s decision to withhold some tax revenues it collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Why does Israel ever withhold such funds? Sometimes it is in the immediate aftermath of a terrorist attack. Sometimes it’s domestic politics. But it’s worth remembering something else: the Taylor Force Act, which became law in 2018 and stated that the “Palestinian Authority’s practice of paying salaries to terrorists serving in Israeli prisons, as well as to the families of deceased terrorists, is an incentive to commit acts of terror.” Until those payments cease, most forms of aid from the U.S. government to the Palestinian Authority may not be made. The payments continue. It is not clear if the State Department is pressuring the Palestinian Authority to end them.

Such moral considerations are entirely absent from the G-7 statement. The statement may be correct when it says, “maintaining economic stability in the West Bank is critical for regional security.” But it should be obvious that ending the pay-for-slay program and rewards for terrorism is even more critical for regional security. It’s a pity the G-7 did not find time to mention that.

The statement, it’s worth noting, appeared on the U.S. State Department website.

Read more at Pressure Points

More about: Europe and Israel, Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror, U.S. Foreign policy, West Bank