“It has become a cliche to call antisemitism the canary in the coalmine, an indicator of deeper problems and divisions in society. It is not a particularly welcome metaphor: it places Jews in the role of the canary, whose sole purpose is to die so that other, more valuable, lives might be saved. But it does speak to a deeper truth, which is that the antisemitism that has become embedded in the Labour party is not only a problem for Jewish people, and it should not only be Jews who stand against it. This is a problem for everyone.”
“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. One is reminded of Edelshtein’s complaint about American Jewish writers in Cynthia Ozick’s classic story ‘Envy; or Yiddish in America’:
You have to KNOW SOMETHING! At least the difference between a rav and a rebbeh! . . . Their Yiddish! One word here, one word there. Shikseh on one page, putz on the other, and that’s the whole vocabulary!
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 (the one Edelshtein noticed) and not very frightening—or knowledgeable.”
“There is no other ethno-cultural minority in America targeted with such ferocity from the left and the right. No other group is simultaneously branded as complicit in white supremacy and as false assimilators who threaten white ascendancy. And there is little that is new here; one need only look at late nineteenth-century political discourse to see how Europe’s Jews were simultaneously attacked by the communists as exploiters of the proletariat and by the proto-fascists who warned of the coming racial war between Aryan and Jew. The Zionists who emerged in this context believed that Jewish statehood would end anti-Semitism; that the Jews would henceforth be a ‘normal people’ with a homeland, a flag, a language, and a destiny. They were wrong. If anything, the Jewish state has compounded the ways in which anti-Semitism is articulated today. The Alt-Right’s ‘Jews will not replace us’ and Steven Salaita’s ‘there’s not enough space in the world for both Zionism and Palestinians’ could have been articulated a century ago with little revision.”
“We have but one Jewish State. It shocks me to the marrow of my bones that conservative, reform, liberal and reconstructionist Judaism are legally unrecognized by the State of Israel. That indeed only one expression of our religion is officially sanctioned from birth to death and all the intervening mitzvot. Yes, other societies have, do and will discriminate against Jews, but it is only the State of Israel that bars official state recognition of what you, in this audience, so devoutly observe.”
“If you were in my place, neighbor, what would you do? Would you take the chance and withdraw to narrow borders and trust a rival national movement that denied your right to exist? Would you risk your ability to defend yourself, perhaps your existence, to empower him? And would you do so while the region around you was burning?
Having concluded that every concession I offer will be turned against me, I remain in limbo, affirming a two-state solution while clinging to the status quo. And yet I cannot accept our current state of seemingly endless conflict as the definitive verdict on our relationship.”
Source: an excerpt from Yossi Klein Halevi’s Letters to my Palestinian Neighbor (via The Jewish Week)
Erika Dreifus is a freelance writer and book publicist. She is also the editor and publisher of The Practicing Writer, a free (and popular) e-newsletter that features opportunities and resources for fictionists, poets, and writers of creative nonfiction.
For nearly seven years, subscribers have welcomed The Practicing Writer, a free monthly e-newsletter that helps fiction writers, poets, and writers of creative nonfiction with their craft and business. Always listing paying publication opportunities, always announcing contests and other opportunities that don’t charge entry/application fees. Click here [HYPERLINK TO http://www.erikadreifus.com/newsletter/ ) to learn more, click here [HYPERLINK TO http://www.erikadreifus.com/newsletter/current/) to read the latest issue online, or go ahead and subscribe right now (and get a free writing-contest guide!).