December 24, 2003


De-Zionification: U.S. Jews rethink the state of Israel. (Mark D. Fefer, 12/24/03, Seattle Weekly)

I GUESS I GOT MY TERMS confused. I imagined "progressive" referred to the sort of activists behind, say, the new alternative Geneva peace plan, people looking to move beyond the shrill polarities of the Israel-Palestine debate to some fair-minded middle ground. But most of the "progressives" in Wrestling With Zion: Progressive Jewish-American Responses to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, edited by playwright Tony Kushner and Village Voice theater critic Alisa Solomon, are instead far-lefties, intent on rebutting the perceived one- sidedness of Jewish establishment opinion with an equally one-sided, and familiar, anti-Zionist slant: Israel is roughly equivalent to the Third Reich, and the only thing standing in the way of Palestinians fully realizing their deepest aspirations is Israeli cruelty and intransigence (never Arab crimes, failures, and corruption). In that respect, Zion wrestles its way to a predictable rout.

Yet this anthology of some 50 essays (plus poetry and a roundtable) is still a gripping, ambitious, valuable rout, arousing contempt, admiration, anger, wonder, and all the responses strong writing provokes. I'm not equipped to engage every point of interpretation or fact (though if, as Naomi Klein contends, "children all over the occupied territories are being named Rachel"—after bulldozed activist Rachel Corrie from Evergreen State College—I will eat my skullcap); but I was pleased to find them widening my perspectives, however dubiously.

When Adrienne Rich writes that American Jews "have paid an intellectual and spiritual price for the narrowing of sight demanded by conformity and reliance on Israel as surrogate identity" and that "part of this price has been estrangement of many Jews from any Jewish affiliation," I'm not sure the situation isn't exactly the reverse; but it's an important idea to consider. Similarly, you can't help but pause to reflect when longtime Village Voice essayist Richard Goldstein compares Israel to the phallus—"I hate it, I want it; I have it, I don't. I attack it, yet I'm afraid to live without it."

Mr. Goldstein has some "issues", eh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 24, 2003 7:54 PM

Kushner has just come through a month of plaudits from the usual crew of PC media critics and publications due to HBO's recent broadcast of his Reagan-bashing 1980s play about the AIDS outbreak, "Angels In America."

Somehow I doubt if Tony took pen in hand and wrote a similar play expressing his feelings towards Israel -- at least based on the selection of essays he helped organize for this book -- HBO would give it multiple prime time airings and a one-hour media roundtable to follow, and critics would throw flowers in its path and declare it the No. 1 TV event of the year (USA Today's ranking on Monday, though apparently neither drew much of an audience compared with the channel's normal Sunday night programming).

Posted by: John at December 24, 2003 8:22 PM

"Issues" doesn't begin to describe the insanity of leftists (especially Jews) who hate Israel.

Europeans, I could understand - they seem to fall back on anti-Semitism, from the hard left to Haider. But in New York? I suppose once moral courage is tossed overboard, insanity follows pretty quickly.

Posted by: jim hamlen at December 24, 2003 9:16 PM

And, by the way, isn't time we killed the notion that every idiocy that comes spewing out of the mouth of some nutcase with oral diarrhea can broaden our horizons, or widen our perspectives, or is important to consider. Some ideas are just too dumb to think about and are a waste of perfectly good neurotransmitter.

[I seem to be a little crotchety today. Must be my inner Scrooge. Hey, what's that clanking . . .]

Posted by: David Cohen at December 24, 2003 10:02 PM

"children all over the occupied territories are being named Rachel"

Along with "Scud," "Saddam" and "Jihad."

Though I think "Saddam" has gone a bit out of fashion, of late.

Posted by: Barry Meislin at December 25, 2003 2:31 AM

Shalom, Barry.

Posted by: David Cohen at December 25, 2003 8:31 AM

Peace on Earth....

And goodwill to all...

Posted by: Barry Meislin at December 25, 2003 9:02 AM

What we have here is a far left rag printing a review of another far left piece of trash. As a Seattleite I have foamed at the mouth at much that I have read in the Weekly, but at least they published one of my letters, once Link... but it is the only complete source for info on what happening in the cultural life of the city... just don't try to make sense of the articles, sort of like Playboy in reverse!

Posted by: Michael Gersh at December 25, 2003 9:38 PM