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May 4, 2016 6:49 am

Jewish Novelist Michael Chabon Rails Against Fictional ‘Occupation’

avatar by Stephen M. Flatow / JNS.org

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Michael Chabon at a book signing. Photo: Charlie Reiman via Wikimedia Commons.

Michael Chabon at a book signing. Photo: Charlie Reiman via Wikimedia Commons.

JNS.org – As a novelist, Michael Chabon has a vivid imagination. One of his novels centers around a world in which there is no state of Israel, only a large Jewish refuge in Alaska. Chabon’s imagination was on full display last week, when he toured Israel and denounced an “occupation” that exists only in his mind.

Together with other American Jewish critics of Israel, Chabon visited Hebron. Afterwards, he told The Forward that “the occupation [is] the most grievous injustice I have ever seen in my life.” Now keep in mind that 80 percent of Hebron is occupied by the Palestinian Authority. But for some reason, Chabon is concerned only about the 20 percent controlled by Israel.

The Israeli military presence in that small part of the city is necessary for one simple reason: Hebron’s Arabs have a long history of massacring their Jewish neighbors. Evidently, that reality does not trouble the visiting novelist. No, somehow the fact that Israeli soldiers protect the city’s handful of Jewish residents is — to quote Chabon — “the most grievous injustice I have ever seen in my life.” That tells me only that Chabon, like many pampered prize-winning novelists, has not seen many injustices.

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Chabon’s knowledge of Middle East history is likewise brimming with fiction. He explained to The Forward that he first began criticizing Israel during the 1982 Lebanon War, when he was “reading about the massacres in the refugee camps. I was like, wait, Israel? Is that what they are doing?”

Well, no, Michael, that was not what “they” were doing. It was what the Lebanese Christians were doing. No sane person ever accused Israel of perpetrating massacres in Lebanon; the most Israel was accused of was failing to foresee that the Christians might wreak vengeance on their enemies. Of course, it’s all too easy for a novelist sitting in the comfort and safety of the United States to demand that Israel adhere to absurdly unrealistic standards of behavior.

Chabon also told his interviewer that he visited the Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, which is inhabited mostly by Arabs. Jews are “illegally taking over houses and these people are fighting for their neighborhood…[American Jewish donations are] going to support the takeover of Silwan.”

You would think a writer would be a little more careful about his choice of words. Chabon’s language reminds me of white racists in the 1970s who were “fighting for their neighborhoods” against African-Americans who were supposedly trying to “take over.” Sorry, Mr. Chabon, but there is nothing “illegal” about Jews purchasing houses in a mostly Arab area, any more than there is anything wrong with African-Americans purchasing houses in a mostly white area. It’s called integration. Welcome to the 21st century, Michael Chabon. South African apartheid is gone and Arab apartheid deserves the same fate.

Chabon mentioned in the interview that he is co-editing a book of essays “marking 50 years of Israeli occupation.” Bookstores should place it on the fiction shelves. Israel stopped occupying the Palestinians back in 1995, when prime minister Yitzhak Rabin pulled Israel’s forces out of the cities where 98 percent of the Palestinians reside. It is only in the minds of purveyors of fiction such as Michael Chabon that Israel is still “occupying” them.

Chabon’s own essay in the book concerns one Sam Bahour, “a Palestinian-American businessman who moved to Ramallah to build the Palestinian economy in the wake of the Oslo peace accords, only to watch the Israeli occupation deepen around him.” Fascinating! Ramallah is the capital of the Palestinian Authority regime. There are no Israeli soldiers in Ramallah. Yet somehow Sam Bahour, in Ramallah, is “watching the Israeli occupation deepen around him.” Now that requires a powerful imagination indeed.

Michael Chabon is a talented novelist. Unfortunately, it seems that when the subject is Israel, he has trouble separating fiction from reality.

Stephen M. Flatow, an attorney in New Jersey, is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in a Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995.

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  • nelson marans

    Unfortunately we have too many lapsed Jews who are antisemitic. They should have been taught by the Holocaust but apparently they are not eager to learn. If they are so enamored of the PLO let them go to live in Ramallah and see the terror and corruption of the Palestinian Authority.

  • Elmo Glick

    How could Israel be “occupying” land that recovered from the Arabs in 1967?
    Some of the areas described as “settlements” were Jewish communities until the Jews were massacred or expelled in 1948.

  • For a similar response to the project that brought Chabon to Judea and Samaria, read my blog post, “An Open Letter to Ayelet Waldman, Dave Eggers, Michael Chabon and Geraldine Brooks” at PollaksPolitics.com.

  • Arthur Toporovsky

    How sad that Mr. Chabon, and his wife, Ms. Waldman, cannot imagine that a tour of Hebron, led by an organization paid by foreign NGOs to malign Israel, might not be entirely truthful. How shameful that Mr. Chabon and his wife, Ms. Waldman, are so ignorant of history that they do not know of the thousands year old Jewish community of Hebron that was expelled by the British mandatory forces after the murder of Jewish men, women and children during rioting by the local Arabs (who did not identify as “Palestinian” at that time). Stupid is as stupid does.

  • I am a survivor. Yesterday I spoke at a Holocaust memorial ceremony at the Justice building in Jerusalem. I after telling the story of my escape from the Nazis, quoted the Prime Minister who said That anti-semitism and anti-Israel will continue no matter what. He was so right, I just added “”THE WORST ANTI-israel, ANTI-SEMITES UNFORTUNATELY ARE jews. Jews. JEWS!!!!!Apologetic self hating jews. We can fight the obvious hatred of non jews, mainly based on envy and narrow minednes. But the Jews like Soros,Betzelem. Haaretz, are just the most dangerous.

    • Antoinette

      I cannot agree with you more.IAm not a Jew. But love Israel and admire the Jews as a nation. So gifted and intelligent but if they are against their own- wow it frustrates me more than any liberal useful idiot.

  • Michael

    This is the problem when you have spent a few decades sitting around the Peet’s Coffee on Solano Avenue in Berkeley with all the other “progressives.” All working on their poetry and/or diatribes in the comfort of an economy without room for working people.

  • jeffberkman

    Mr. Flatow…thanks for your intelligent response to Chabon’s trash. It is somewhat demoralizing to have to counter the Jews that vilify the Jewish State…but we have no choice—we must.

  • Carol

    Unfortunately, Mr. Chabon, fact and fiction have a way of melding together, and becoming declared, and thereby perceived, as fact in minds not able to cross over, differentiating.

    I have a hard time, and do not understand, self-hating Jews. Would someone try to explain?

  • Cheryl Fistel

    Sam Bahour’s experience of one’s neighborhood, and world becoming unfamiliar to one, is as universal as the movement of populations from place to place for work. My neighborhood in the Bronx lost both kosher delis, a supermarket that carried smoked whitefish; it lost its Jewish bakery. Then its last synagogue as the demographic of the area changed first to Hispanic, then to Moslem. It’s normal, Mr. Chabon.

  • Myron Slater

    This is one writer that I will not read! His incorrect information, shows his research is nonexistant and so I will never believe what he writes.

  • J. Kaiden

    The ignorance of Michael Chabon and the liberal American Jewish community is staggering. Vladimir Lenin surely had these masochistic fools in mind when he coined the term “useful idiots”…

  • Pierrette winter

    I have lived Michael Chabon’s books, but they are now in the garbage bin. You are dead to me, Mr. Chanon. Your comments verge on the ridiculous, and do not do you honour. I am appalled by the inflation of language, the lack of decency you have displayed. You are, of course, free to disagree with Israel. But you are not free to defame it.

    • Pierrette winter

      My e-pad corrects words. No wanted to say I have loved.

  • Alexis Jemima

    For an otherwise-intelligent person to be willing to believe so much insidious, hate-inspired and hate-inspiring obviously untrue crap about a highly ethical and moral little country that is just trying to survive!–is a symptom of the purest evil.

    I feel the deepest contempt and disgust for this Michael Chabon. I don’t care that he was given a talent to write; I will not read his books. He’s rotten at soul and heart.

  • artists like creating worlds that they can control, the more unrealistic the better, since then they can imagine it into ‘their’ reality, and spread their reality back into the world we try to survive so much less artistically than they. a form of impotence turned into power play via media of words and material more flexible than the real world allows us to play with. we have israeli artists too unable to shift their power games onto a populace that doesnt trust them anymore in the real world, and indifferent to their imaginary and imagined realities. they too go with the occupation-fiction the arabs and the western left (abandoned) intellectuals and artists have succeeded in imposing on the media a ‘reality’. the PC narrative that is trying to suicide Israel when it cant destroy us from outside by BDS or arab armies. or terrorists. their minds and hands are bloody. or just bloody minded. like the Eurongos.j jewhaters and antisemites joining to become anti-israel(ites).

  • The PLO/Hamas terrorist entities occupy large areas in Judea, Samaria, and the entire Gaza Strip. PLO-occupied Hevron and Bethlehem are historic Jewish cities that predate Islam. Israel gave away land for peace and got nothing. Under Israeli governance, Arabs were better off, and under the PLO/Hamas occupation Arabs are worse.

  • Pinchas Baram

    Chabon has more than once publicly denounced Israel and Israel supporters in an extreme, disgusting manner. Enough of the politesse. This piece of dreck, this f**cking jewish traitor, should have his teeth knocked out.

  • Linda Golden

    Mr Chabons wife is even worse…few things are more pathetic than Jews, raised in the United States , with no understanding of life in Israel, going there and in the space of a visit, decide what “life is really like”. And, then writing about his faulty perceptions as fact. Nothing sadder than a self hating Jew passing himself off as a humanitarian.

  • Alana Ronald

    I hate these “useful idiots”.

  • Lia

    Mr Flatow is fast becoming one of my all-time heroes for speaking truth so simply and yet so powerfully.

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