Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Martin Peretz and His Critics

The pillorying of Martin Peretz continues apace these days, as the editor-in-chief of The New Republic continues to suffer the consequences of writing that “Muslim life is cheap, most notably to Muslims” on his blog, The Spine. The charge of racism is, of course, the default reaction of most liberals to nearly anything, and certainly to anything they oppose; and, lest we forget, Islam is not a race, making the charge of racism in this case a blatant absurdity. Still, the opportunism of Peretz’s critics cannot be wholly held against them. It cannot be denied that what Peretz wrote is an ugly, crude, and in many ways inaccurate claim.

Continue reading at The New Ledger.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Golem: Universal and Particular

The most famous and enduring of all Jewish legends is that of the golem, the artificial man. Indeed, with the possible exception of the demon Lilith, briefly pressed into service as a feminist icon, the golem remains the only post-biblical Jewish myth to be widely adopted by non-Jewish culture. Among its recent incarnations are a computer game that bears its name and the army of humanoids who populate James Cameron's film Avatar.

The roots of the legend are ancient: the Talmud claims that Adam himself—and thus, theologically speaking, all of humanity—was a golem until God breathed a soul into his nostrils. But the creature as we know it today has a much later and remarkably precise genealogy. He was born in late-16th-century Prague under the auspices of Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel, known as the Maharal, who, using kabbalistic magic, is said to have created a humanoid creature out of mud or clay to defend the Jews from their enemies.

Continue reading at Jewish Ideas Daily.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Gideon Levy and Uncomfortable Truths

The political left in many countries has a long history of defending despicable acts of violence when they are committed by the right people. From Norman Mailer’s campaign to free murderer Jack Abbott, who upon release promptly went and murdered someone else, to Bernadine Dohrn’s effusive praise of Charles Manson, right up to today’s disgusting international campaign on behalf of cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal, there are few crimes too vile and horrendous for the left not to defend should the perpetrator belong to the correct movement or a fetishized oppressed minority.

Israel recently saw a particularly egregious example of this in the case of Sabbar Kashur, a Palestinian convicted of raping a young woman under false pretenses. According to initial media reports, Kashur was accused because he had claimed to be Jewish and the woman would not have slept with him had she known he was an Arab.

The Israeli left immediately rushed to Kashur’s side, accusing the entirety of Israeli society of racism and denouncing its justice system as akin to Nazi Germany or apartheid South Africa. Much of the foreign press quickly followed suit. But without question the most fervent defender of the convicted rapist was Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy.

Continue reading at The New Ledger.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Greatest Collection of Nightmares on Earth

Michael J. Totten interviews me on Israel, the Middle East, and other topics.

TEL AVIV — I learn most of what I know about the Middle East from the people who live here, and I was a bit shocked when I discovered, years ago, that many reporters—especially wire agency reporters—absorb most of what they know, think, and believe about the region from other journalists. I didn’t know anyone, local or foreign, in the Middle East when I first got here, and I initially had to rely on the people I met randomly in cafes and bars and in person via the Internet to teach me what’s going on and how the place works. All my information came from the street. Most of my understanding still comes from the street—not from on high, not from newspapers or press releases, and not from foreign reporters who do not live here. Eventually I worked my way up to the prime minister’s office in Lebanon, and I’ve almost gotten that far now in Israel, but my real education has taken place during long sessions in cafes and bars with Arabs, Kurds, and Israelis.

Benjamin Kerstein’s name will appear on the Acknowledgements page of my book when it comes out in the spring because he has taught me an enormous amount about Israel during the time I have known him. I met him five years ago when I first came here from Lebanon, when Israel was still a partially Arabized abstraction in my eyes. He was one of the first people who humanized the place for me, and he taught me more than he knows about the Israeli people and how they see themselves and their place on earth and in history. The parts of my book that take place here are better than they would be if I did not know him.

Continue reading at The New Ledger.