Ozick hagiography in NYT does her the service of leaving out her views of Palestinians

US Politics
on 16 Comments

What did you think about the mini-hagiography of Cynthia Ozick in the New York Times Magazine yesterday? Ozick, at 88, “is one of the greatest fiction writers and critics alive today,” writes Giles Harvey, but he carefully avoids mentioning the Israel-Palestine conflict and her views on that score. I think that’s progress. Ten or twenty years ago the Times would have included those ideas, knowing that objections would only appear as letters to the editor which they could print or not in greatly shortened form. Now they realize it would utterly ruin the depiction of Ozick as wise guru if they wrote about her absurdly one-sided racist views of Palestine– “a society unlike any other, where hatred trumps bread. They have reared children unlike any other children, removed from ordinary norms and behaviors” (more below) — and they’d hear about it online.

So: there’s lots about her Judaism, and a jab or two against universalism, and some about anti-semitism, but Israel/Palestine is absent.

It’s also the classic example of secular liberal treatment of a great novelist as a holy prophet, which to me is bullshit. In practice intellectuals who step outside their field are merely smart people with opinions that might be right or wrong and that applies to novelists once they leave the world they create in their works as much as it applies to scientists outside of their fields.

The idea is supposed to be that they have deep insight into the human condition or they wouldn’t be great novelists, but unfortunately in the real world they are often about as smart as Ozick writing about the Palestinians.

Here are excerpts from the New York Times piece, titled “Cynthia Ozick’s Long Crusade,” by Giles Harvey, including some of the Jewish bits:

Here, too, we see how deeply Ozick’s being is suffused with Jewish thought. For Jewishness, her work also insists, depends upon the principle of havdalah, or distinction making. Jew and gentile, God and man, or (to recall the terms of her “amiable discussion” with [Harold] Bloom), God and idol: These are categories that should not be muddled. The same goes for literature, and for the judgment of literature. According to Ozick, literature is different from all other human activities, and its singularity consists in its recognizing and honoring human difference…

[H]er work offers a liberating model of engagement with identity. Her commitment to Judaism sharpens her powers of discrimination and inoculates her against the dubious allure of the universal….

But Ozick, however fierce her identification as a Jew, is admirable in her freedom from identitarian parti pris. T.S. Eliot’s rank anti-Semitism does not blind her to his poetic virtues; she praises Tolstoy’s early novel “The Cossacks” despite its whitewashing of genocidal Cossack violence against Jews…

Ozick came of age at the century’s midpoint, during the heyday of the New York Intellectuals, the group of largely Jewish writers and thinkers who, possessed by left-wing politics and a belief in the primacy of literature as a tool for comprehending self and society, “refused to be refused” by a WASP-dominated cultural establishment…

Now for Ozick on Palestine! In leaving out those views, the Times purposely sidestepped news, in this nugget from Ozick’s resume: the time she appeared at a rightwing pro-Israel organization and smeared the noble rabbi Michael Lerner–who on June 10 stood up for Palestinians at the Muhammad Ali memorial– saying that Lerner was a bad rabbi for dropping out of the Jewish Theological Seminary and ending up at the Naropa Institute. Eleanor Kilroy exposed Ozick’s racist attitudes at our site, and Raymond Deane hung her on her own words in the Irish Left Review. Deane quoted from her 2003 Wall Street Journal screed against Palestinians, titled, “What does the ‘Palestinian nation’ offer the world?”

Ozick… launched a vicious attack on the Palestinian people themselves. “By replacing history with fantasy, the Palestinians have invented a society unlike any other, where hatred trumps bread. They have reared children unlike any other children, removed from ordinary norms and behaviors… What has been the genius of Palestinian originality, what has been the contribution of the evolving culture of Palestinian sectarianism? On the international scene: airplane hijackings and the murder of American diplomats in the 1970s, Olympic slaughterings and shipboard murders in the 1980s. And toward the Jews of the Holy Land, beginning in the 1920s and continuing until this morning, terror, terror, terror, terror.”

More Deane:

In a 2006 review of the play My Name is Rachel Corrie (based on the diaries and letters of a young American activist crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer) she refers to “the culpable Palestinian origins of the current fighting” and “the brutal cynicism of Rachel Corrie’s handlers, eager, for propaganda value, to bait bulldozers and tanks with the lives of their young recruits.” Corrie’s engagement with the oppressed is described as “slumming” and her espousal of Gandhian ideals dismissed as “neo-Marxist paraphernalia and hate-America jargon” (for a celebrated novelist, Ozick writes execrable prose). The play itself is “a show trial. And there are Jews in the dock.”

Phil Weiss contributed to this post. 

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16 Responses

  1. a blah chick
    June 27, 2016, 12:57 pm

    I’d forgotten how hateful she was on Palestinians. I’m wary about pointing to something as a “turning point” but i do think that in the last few years being rabidly Zionist is not seen as something to share with the wider world.

    Didn’t Mondo have a post here about “Anti-Palestinianism”? I was dubious at the time but I’m coming around to it. There really does appear to be something special in hatred or dislike for Palestinians, not just by the PEP types.

    • Mooser
      June 27, 2016, 1:25 pm

      “i do think that in the last few years being rabidly Zionist is not seen as something to share with the wider world. “

      Zionism’s value as a social asset is rapidly depreciating.

    • eljay
      June 27, 2016, 1:56 pm

      || a blah chick: … There really does appear to be something special in hatred or dislike for Palestinians, not just by the PEP types. ||

      The inconvenient existence of Palestinians in Palestine sours the mythical – and mythically pure – “return” of Jews to “a land without a people” and to an “historic homeland” where heroically the desert was made to bloom.

      The existence of Palestinians in Palestine inconveniently exposes the past and on-going injustice and immorality of Zio-supremacism and of the religion-supremacist and (war) criminal “Jewish State” project.

      What’s not to hate or dislike?

  2. Marnie
    June 27, 2016, 1:16 pm

    What an incredibly horrible woman.

  3. Citizen
    June 27, 2016, 2:21 pm

    The Algeminer slams her and the NYT because she praised work by TS Eliot and Tolstoy who, they say, were anti-semites. and hence unworthy literary figures. But they also praise her for her “powers of discrimination and inoculates her against the dubious allure of the universal,” pointing out she disliked how Ann Frank became nothing more than “the girl next door.” She didn’t mean Rachel Corrie who is no household name in America. Perhaps she meant the blonde shiksa in Jewish American literature, or barely veiled in so many Hollywood movies and sit-coms? Long ago, she was a contributor to one of the Chicago literary magazines I used to contribute to too.

  4. Kay24
    June 27, 2016, 3:56 pm

    She is a mean, vicious woman. To think that Helen Thomas got attacked and accused of being anti-semitic because she said the Jews should go back where they came from. How the media favors the pro Occupation, anti Palestinian writers, who live in a little zionist bubble and cannot see the damage done by the Occupiers, the massacres, and the illegal settlements. The way they write one would think they are writing about a helpless nation, constantly attacked by well trained military armed with the latest weaponry, and fully supported by the US, and that over 2000 Israelis were killed by the Palestinian Defense Forces.

    • Citizen
      June 27, 2016, 4:02 pm

      In their own minds there is always more jew-haters right around the corner, including on Main St & Elm St, USA. Why is this, and why will it always be so? Because it always has been so–it’s in the non-Jew’s DNA! Hence, it’s always Israel-right-or-ostensibly-wrong.

    • Marnie
      June 27, 2016, 11:53 pm

      Exactly Kay24, Helen Thomas was crucified for telling the truth and this horrible woman is honored and makes blood libels against Palestinian men, women and their children…she must be ecstatic with the escalation of murders of Palestinian children, especially since 2014.

  5. Blake
    June 27, 2016, 3:58 pm

    Looks like the indoctrination worked well on her. I am sorry to say but people who cannot ask questions about what they were told when younger they honestly cannot be very bright.

  6. Sulphurdunn
    June 27, 2016, 4:37 pm

    “…is one of the greatest fiction writers and critics alive today,” writes Giles Harvey.” Really? I teach English literature and I’ve never heard of this woman or her work. I live in rural Appalachia. Am I missing something?

    • Citizen
      July 5, 2016, 4:53 am

      Yes, who’s who in the most influential literary circles is not signaled by anybody in Appalachia.

  7. gamal
    June 27, 2016, 6:49 pm

    “Lerner was a bad rabbi for dropping out of the Jewish Theological Seminary and ending up at the Naropa Institute”

    oh he is Kagyu, that declare “We are the practice lineage”

    Tilopa
    Naropa
    Marpa
    MILAREPA
    Gompopa

    thats the Kagyu A team

    and on to the Karmapa’s, but in all of that Rechungpa the derided pupil of Milarepa is my favourite, some woman married him and then he gave away all her families wealth to beggars who knocked at the door, they beat him, its best steer clear of religious guys we are not just useless but are a constant source of chaos.

    I was ruined by the Nyingma, in all honesty I have to say Vajrayana Buddhism and Dzogchen have done me the world of good now it all makes no sense whatever, we are all winners, worth having worse callouses on my buttocks than the soles of my feet, in the Nyingma we neither think nor talk but we do sing.. er… are the 4 thoughts by Gompopa, shit I am no better at Buddhism than I am at Islam, but don’t judge, they both have so much stuff you are supposed to know and in order.

    ChogyamTrungpa Rinpoche, the Vidyadara, shook up the Abrahamic world, before the booze killed him, they don’t come like that anymore old school and shockingly shamelessly bad. His main remaining pupil the nun Pema Chodron a white American? woman is the opposite very good totally gentle sober very famous her video teachings are wonderful.

    good for the Rabbi.

  8. Boris
    June 27, 2016, 8:41 pm

    She had also predicted Trump’s presidency.

    “WHERE HATRED TRUMPS BREAD” http://www.freeman.org/m_online/jul03/ozick.htm

  9. RoHa
    June 27, 2016, 11:03 pm

    “What did you think about the mini-hagiography of Cynthia Ozick”

    Not a lot. Never heard of her.

  10. Boomer
    June 28, 2016, 7:12 am

    re: “a society unlike any other, where hatred trumps bread. They have reared children unlike any other children, removed from ordinary norms and behaviors”

    Projection is routine among Zionists. Also, inversion of facts and responsibility, invective, denial, etc.

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