Thursday, December 2nd | 28 Kislev 5782

May 20, 2016 1:25 am

Michael Chabon and Israel’s ‘Occupation’

avatar by Abraham H. Miller

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

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

Author Michael Chabon’s traveler’s tale based on his recent trip to Israel reminds us that being a celebrity does not remotely qualify one as being an expert on the Middle East, and being a best-selling author does not restrain one from indulging in mindless hyperbole.

Mouthing anti-Zionist shibboleths and being a celebrity will get you a spread in the anti-Zionist, Zionist Forward, and if your ego is as large as Chabon’s, I would imagine that when you read your own words in the newspaper, you end up believing you really had something profound to say.

“Most grievous injustice I have ever seen in my whole life,” Chabon says about Israel’s “cruel” occupation. Really, the most grievous injustice you have ever seen, Mr. Chabon?

I guess you missed the Tiananmen Square Massacre. How about the Soviet invasion of Georgia or the Crimea? The leveling of Grozny? The butchery of Bosnian Muslims? The routine hangings of homosexuals from cranes in Tehran? The slaughter of Egypt’s Coptic Christians after the Muslim Brotherhood came to power? Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons attack against the Kurds? Maybe you missed the recent scenes of carnage in the streets of Aleppo or Syrian refugees struggling for life in the seas off the coast of Greece?

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The wanton violence against innocent Jews generated by Palestinian incitement and glorification escapes your notice. But not your wife, leftist terror apologist Ayelet Waldman, as she tweets that the Jews have it coming. It’s the occupation, you know, because before the occupation there never was Palestinian violence, pogroms, or promises to throw all the Jews into the sea. And the Palestinians have always sought to embrace a peace plan that would lift the occupation. You do remember Arafat’s outreach at Camp David and Abbas response at Taba?

Your wife tweets about the national character of Israelis as if not giving up an airplane seat is proof and sending highly trained disaster teams all over the world or treating Syrian refugees in Israeli hospitals is not. In her self-hating vision, for example is proof.

You live in Berkeley. How could you show your face in the community if, perhaps, you just might find that Israelis have a right not to be murdered at random? That beautiful and vibrant young Israelis have a right not to have their lives stolen and equally not to have their deaths justified by your bigoted wife generating a caustic tweet.

For years, the Hillel in your community refused to display the Israeli flag as some Jews might find it offensive; Hillel celebrated that ancient Jewish holiday Cinco de Mayo but not Passover; and even now its doors are open to Jewish students who are affiliated with Students for Justice in Palestine, arguably the most antisemitic group on the Cal Berkeley campus.

When a Holocaust victim brought the bombed out shell of Jerusalem Bus 19, the scene of a suicide bombing, to Berkeley, the Jewish establishment, which usually cannot agree on the time of the Sabbath, rose up against her with a near single voice. After all, as your wife might tweet, didn’t the victims deserve it because of the occupation?

But if you want to have a glimpse as to how liberal Berkeley would handle the Intifada, I suggest you go to the Bancroft Archives on campus and open the files on the People’s Park Confrontation. You might make note of the only aerial gassing in America of an entire campus after its entrances and exits were blocked by the National Guard and local police agencies under the direction of then Alameda County Sheriff Frank Madigan.

The reckless use of chemical weapons affected nearly every classroom and drifted up into Strawberry Canyon where school children were having a picnic day. In the days that preceded the gassing, Alameda County Sheriff’s Deputies irresponsibly used shotguns loaded with highly lethal double zero rounds shooting into unarmed crowds. One man was killed, another blinded, and others wounded. By numerous accounts, they were nothing more than spectators.

Although there was an investigation into the demonstrations, no one was ever so much as brought to trial.

Of course you were barely out of knickers back then, but if you read through the files in the Bancroft Archives you might contrast the response to People’s Park to how Israelis handle more threatening and violent demonstrations and how the conduct of their police and military is regulated.

Not that any of that will make a difference to someone who believes that a “just” cause gives virtue to wanton violence and whose wife thinks that not giving up an airline seat is a definition of national character.

What did Nobel Laureate Saul Bellow discover in the exemplary character of Israelis in 1976, To Jerusalem and Back, that eluded Michael Chabon 40 years later? Or is it less about the character of the Israelis and more about the integrity and decency of the authors?

Abraham H. Miller is an emeritus professor of political science at the University of Cincinnati and a distinguished fellow with the Haym Salomon Center. This article was originally published by The Jewish Journal. 

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