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Vivian Gornick stashed book critical of Israel lest she ‘commit literary suicide’

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The literary critic Vivian Gornick reviews a book by A.B. Yehoshua in the latest Nation and the piece represents another landmark in open contempt for Israeli culture. It’s plain and devastating, and ends with the haunting image of a society facing “the escalating isolation and the petrifying last stand,” in which Jews have ceased to be Jews.

(Times are changing. Compare her piece to this lovesong to Israel at 60 that the Nation published in ’08, which four times cited Israeli artists who won “the Israel Prize”– whatever that is, as if Americans should care)

I have excerpts of the piece below, but the news here is the fact that a writer of Gornick’s stature and boldness would drop a book about Israel 30 years ago because to write critically of the country would have been “literary suicide.”

So this is how high liberal culture works. This is dangerous territory. Remember that in 2009, the prominent leftlib journalist Michelle Goldberg told Justin Elliott that criticizing Israel was career poison:

Goldberg: There are people in the Jewish community who understand that they are defending the indefensible [in Israeli conduct].

Elliott: Have you experienced pressures as a journalist not to say things?

Goldberg: “Yes, to be honest, there are certain things I’m not going to talk about…  Everybody knows that if you write certain things you put yourself beyond the pale of certain publications. And not just the obvious ones like the New Republic. I mean you take a certain stance and you consign yourself to the loony left. I think that is maybe becoming less and less true.” She has been told on some occasions, “You can’t write something,” and there “is a degree of self-censorship as well.”

OK, now here is Gornick on the same theme:

I had gone to Israel [30-odd years ago] charged with the task of writing a book-length piece of personal journalism about the country as I found it, on the ground, in the ordinariness of its daily life. I never wrote that book. The country had not aroused my affection, and by then I had learned that to write critically, without sympathy, for the subject at hand was to commit literary suicide. I had met some of the most marvelous people I would ever know, looked at some of the most striking landscapes on the face of the planet, felt living history in the faces all about me. Yet however much I tried during the six months that I lived in Israel, through whichever of the various elements of identity at my disposal (Jewish, female, American), I was unable to connect. I returned to New York with a hundred pages of notes on people, places, events—all in the negative. Everything I had written said, “Yes, but…” As the child of Yiddish-speaking secular Jews, the Hebrew language meant no more to me than any other foreign tongue; as a woman, I balked at finding myself in a country more sexist than my own; as a product of individuating America, I found the tribalism of the culture dismaying.

Here are some of her insights into the culture:

I never knew anyone in Israel who was not an active member of a tight-knit family, and for whom consideration of the family was not permanently compelling. It was as though all Israelis had been raised to be husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, not simply women or men. The idea of living as a person who began and ended with oneself would, if proposed, invariably be met with a blank gaze, followed by: “But that is unnatural! What is natural is to be in a family.” A good many Israelis had married young and seemed to be going through life joined at the hip—a convention that I came to think at least partially responsible for the overwhelming impression I had of the Israelis I knew as men and women with a distinctly limited knowledge of themselves as sensual beings….

Of course, the all-embracing sense of family feeds the remarkable solidarity that Israelis demonstrate in the face of external threat. During my time in the country I witnessed, more than once, the transformation within twenty-four hours of a random population into what felt like a civilian army. It was an impressive sight, one not easily forgotten: the unambiguous reward for being raised to take your place in the tribe. On the other hand, God help you if you did not take your place. In Israel, at that time, if a man or a woman was gay, or unmarried by choice, or a pacifist who refused to serve in the army, a crippling sense of social exclusion—far greater than any that could be leveled in Europe or the United States—dogged one’s life. Such was the price to be paid for living in a society that did not know how to accommodate the one who is different….

Here is a description of her meeting the writer Yehoshua, and his intolerant attitude toward Diaspora Jews:

He looked up and said in a voice rising on a note of insinuation, “So why are you still living in the Diaspora? Why aren’t you living here where you belong?” I laughed. “You’re kidding,” I said. He told me that he most certainly was not kidding and went on to sketch a picture of my life in the States as one at risk in a Christian nation that, at any time, might turn on me; right now, at this very minute, I was standing on a narrow strip of beach with the sea at my back and the goyim, for all I knew, beginning to advance on me. The visit lasted an hour, during which I said little while Yehoshua harangued me….

Here’s her return to Israel last summer:

At the end of last summer, for the first time in thirty years, I spent a week in Israel. The buses were no longer tin cans, no one barked at me in the shops or tried to get ahead of me in line, and the youth culture of Tel Aviv—beautiful young people dressed in Alphabet City black, everywhere, in bars, restaurants, cafés—was striking. Nonetheless, old friends were shocked to learn that I was still neither married nor a mother, and insinuating inflections marked most encounters in a way that still got on my nerves. (Question: “Are you enjoying that book?” Response: “And why shouldn’t I be enjoying this book?”) What was most startling, however, was the frenzy of building that seemed to be going on everywhere at the same time. Maybe it was the killing heat—it was, after all, the end of summer—but everyone and everything, the very air itself, seemed tired: bone tired, bitter tired, millennial tired; tired of the weariness and the canopy of coals, the escalating isolation and the petrifying last stand. It flashed through my mind: perhaps the Jews—because love, of love they have despaired—really are tired of being Jews.

And here in the Boston Review, Gornick is bracingly plain about the American Jewish rise into the establishment. And this was five years ago. She’s saying that the American Jewish experience is now such an entitled one that it doesn’t bear being related in and of itself in fiction (because fiction has an instructive purpose): 

There is no hyphenated [American-]Jewish experience anymore. I have two nieces who are both Ivy League babies and they’re in the ruling class. There’s nothing they can’t do. Nothing. So there’s nothing to talk about. There’s really nothing to write about. Yet you have young people who keep on doing it. All I’m saying is, it doesn’t count

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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102 Responses

  1. MRW on March 16, 2013, 12:18 pm

    Good for her. She’s saying what the goyim are saying quietly amongst themselves when they know no Jews are listening. Just sayin’. This is an American conversation that hasn’t broken out into the street. Yet.

    • Citizen on March 16, 2013, 3:40 pm

      Yes it is. Girls on HBO displays the latest generation of privileged Americans in their daily life. The show is owned, written, directed, acted by the chief protagonist. The key characters in it are at least 50% Jewish. This in a country with 2% Jews. The praise is this is the latest generation of Americans, the one that will make our future. The show is also peddled as the latest version of Sex And The City. It’s more tawdry, more realistic, more filled with angst, and the daily humiliations of life on this planet, less a marketing dream for America’s corporations. Why, it’s almost French! There’s nothing about the state of Israel in it at all.

      I wrote a romansbildung about growing up in America in the late 1970s, with lots of personal details about growing up in the 1950’s-1960s transformed by literary device. It was rejected because it treated Jews like any other Americans encountered by the key protagonist, who was not Jewish. I have the rejections letters to prove it, and also my agent’s letters. Maybe now, my novel has a chance?

      • Citizen on March 16, 2013, 4:05 pm

        You need to know that my rejected novel, which I tried to peddle in NYC many decades ago, never mentioned Israel the state at all. It only dealt with a non-jewish protagonist growing up in America in the 1950s-thru 1970s. But the rejection letter by Simon & Schuster was based on the then pronounced editorial fact that “Before your book will be published, the Ayatollah and Begin will sit down and drink together.”

      • tokyobk on March 17, 2013, 4:15 am

        Thanks for a clear view of your mind and soul.

        Your novel was not rejected because of The Jews, it was rejected because you don’t even understand the editors comments which were about the quality of your writing, not geo-politics.

        PS. Manhattan where Girls takes place is more than 2% Jewish and btw its about a bunch of over privileged mostly Jewish girls written by a Jewish girl.

        How dare she be so successful while Jewish!

      • thankgodimatheist on March 17, 2013, 8:42 am

        “it was rejected because you don’t even understand the editors comments which were about the quality of your writing, not geo-politics.”
        How can you be so sure? Did you read his novel?

      • tokyobk on March 17, 2013, 12:11 pm

        I read the rejection quote and deduced that:
        1) Citizen thinks that the editor was saying something other than “you are a terrible writer and have absolutely no chance of your novel being published.”
        2) Citizen really believes The Jews were the direct and indirect cause of his novel not being published.
        3) Citizen does not mind telling the MW world that his novel was rejected not because it was lousy but because the editors had a gripe against its goyishness. Meaning in sum;
        4) Citizen has a tenuous grasp on communication and probably wrote a crappy novel.
        But, I could be wrong and would absolutely love to read it (skim) and the rejection notes and would promise to preorder if he published it on

      • thankgodimatheist on March 17, 2013, 9:21 pm

        “and probably wrote a crappy novel.”
        Probably? You’re even less sure now, aren’t you? Nice back-peddling though.

      • thankgodimatheist on March 18, 2013, 3:19 am

        In other words shoot first ask questions later.

      • Citizen on March 18, 2013, 9:00 am

        @ tokyobk

        Do you have any knowledge of trying to get a novel published over “the transom?” When I tried to do it in 1980 it was quite difficult to get a rejection that stated anything other than my work did not fit what the publisher was looking for.

        However sometimes a rejection letter would include a bit more. Here are a few samples:

        “It is indeed an ambitious work.”–Charles P. Corn (Dutton)
        “…very interesting piece…”–Michael Korda (Simon & Schuster)
        “…we enjoyed our review of these pages…”–Marian Johnson (WW Norton)
        “Our readers have reviewed the manuscript with interest… it’s obvious that your writing is intelligent.”–Diana Finch (St Martin’s)
        “…extremely creative.”–Barney Rosset (Grove Press)
        “witty, original, provocative”-Alex Jackinson (literary agent in NYC for 26 at the time)

      • marc b. on March 18, 2013, 9:17 am

        In other words shoot first ask questions later.

        you don’t give him enough credit, atheist. after all he took time out of his busy schedule to peer into the mind and soul of citizen. (i know, i know, the mind and soul comment was a bit of poetic license. any student of freud worth his salt knows that anti-semitic sentiment is located in the pineal gland.)

      • marc b. on March 18, 2013, 6:51 pm

        send it to me, citizen. i’d love to read it.

      • chrisrushlau on March 18, 2013, 7:35 pm

        Israel as a suicide cult raises the question of US destiny. Maybe it’s just too hard to meet the David Hume standard for democratic viability: that you go to the aid of the stranger in the city street.
        I answer that doubt with the thought that love is natural and inborn, while hatred and suspicion are taught.
        So if the practical question is, how do you train people in democratic virtue when all indoctrination starts with the premise that “you” are special and “they” need this and that from “you”, and “you” and “I” can do this thing, etc.? I think the whole notion of personal identity is bosh. You cannot simultaneously do what you’re doing and know what you’re doing. There is no place on which to stand from which to observe yourself doing something. So you either sit and daydream about who you are, or you get out of your own way and wing it in action instead of in self-serving reverie.
        The practical answer about education in virtue is that education consists of telling your kids to go play in traffic (what was that, the comedian who didn’t get no respect, Rodney Dangerfield?). Then, when they look perplexed, if they do, ask them, “Why do you look perplexed?” If they say, “Aren’t you going to tell us how?”, you can let them in on the big secret: “Do I look like I know how?”

      • Citizen on March 18, 2013, 9:34 pm

        @ marc b
        I just pulled it out of the closet after three decades. I am thinking of retyping it on my computer.

      • marc b. on March 19, 2013, 2:50 pm

        I am thinking of retyping it

        excellent. if you’re up for it, i’ll be critical but kind. i am a frustrated author too. so frustrated in fact i’ve never typed a page.

    • Krauss on March 16, 2013, 4:14 pm

      I’m not sure. I think that is Jewish paranoia.
      And what is there to whisper about? That Jews are successful? Not exactly a new story.

      What is worth whispering about, however, is the fact that Jews continue to receive affirmative action in places like the Ivy League, actually far greater than actual needing minorities like African-Americans or hispanics when you look at the proportion, and more so than Asians or working-class white gentiles.

      And that is a legacy of privilege. I think we discussed this on this site a few days ago. There was a comment about a segment on NPR where an Asian women professor raised this issue, however gently, that Jews are essentially ‘taking’ the place of Asians when you look at actual Jewish SAT scores etc(which have plunged from the mid 1990s).

      And she made the point, Jews used to criticize, and with good reason, opaque explanations like ‘leadership skills’ because it was possible to discriminate on race in the 1920s and onwards against Jews, which the WASP establishment did.

      But I don’t think this is common knowledge. Right now it’s mostly public intellectuals and laymen like myself and apparently Asian women professors who talk about this.

      And finally, most of Jewish success, if not all of it, is well-earned. It’s concentrated into older hands, who rose during an actual meritocracy, or what was close to one at least. Their children and grand-children? Not so sure.

      • bilal a on March 16, 2013, 11:18 pm

        Ethnic networking , ie illegal discrimination against out groups is certainly a fact of Ivy league admissions, if that matters, but there is anecdotal evidence that the same techniques are applied in certain media, Hollywood, culture, and Wall Street prfessions. But is isapplied, envorced, by seniormembers of the ethnic group in protecting new entrants, which is to say, there is no reason to believe that the previous generation gained conrol of these institutions through meritocracy, rather than by the same methods they employ today. Of course that goes for all ethno centric networking associations, now , and then.

        America is not a metling pot, its Yugoslavia. Its just that some groups retain their ethno centric focus better than others.

      • tokyobk on March 17, 2013, 11:29 am

        What a load of hearsay and, as you admit, anecdote.

        The first generation of Jews to enter Ivy Leagues and high positions of Wall Street outperformed their gentile peers to make quotas. When my father interviewed in the late fifties (at a college that had been Lutheran associated) he was asked point blank, “why should we give up a perfectly good spot for a Jewish applicant). Yale was capped for years at a steady 5 – 10%. The Jews got in were lucky and gifted. One reason Penn was considered a “lesser Ivy” is because they admitted Catholics and Jews liberally.

        If anything the later generations have benefited from networks over work but still no one is saying Jews are getting into Ivies without the requisite scores. Are you?

        There is no doubt that ethnic groups network and that Jews have perpetuated success by extending assistance, often financial to relatives and friends. But that is in a sense how it should be. People should help those near to them and generally.

        Jews outperform any other group in donating to academic prizes and endowments. Jews were traditionally among the largest non-black donors to the United Negro College Fund.

        Its so easy to player hate a group for their successes. And so incredibly lame.

      • marc b. on March 17, 2013, 4:01 pm

        but still no one is saying Jews are getting into Ivies without the requisite scores.

        yes, people are saying that the current admissions process is corrupt. ron unz writes about this topic regularly. you can’t have a meritocratic selection process while simutaneously ‘perpetuating success by extending assistance to friends and family, and rewarding donation performance.’ asians, in particular, have been complaining for decades that the system that prejudicially excluded jews and catholics, when their candidates were clearly academically superior to WASPish candidates (as defined by grades), and which briefly evolved to focus on quantifiable academic qualities, has reverted back to the squishy days of legacy, donorship and amorphous ideals like ‘leadership’. that, in fact, was precisely the argument that the poor admissions dolt had to make on the radio program krauss refers to, that admissions departments at the elite universities shouldn’t have to rely exclusively on grades, class rank and SAT/ACT performance but instead must consider legacy, family donations, and ‘intangibles’. this is precisely the opposite argument made by jews when they were being discriminated against in early 20th century. now, curiously, ‘intangibles’ have made a screaming come back. so, yes, people are arguing that asians, for example, with better academic scores are being rejected in favor of lesser qualified jewish candidates, as well as the few ‘affirmative action’ undergraduates.

      • tokyobk on March 17, 2013, 11:46 am

        Asians on campus are mostly not complaining about Jews. They are complaining in general about Affirmative Action. But I think the Asians are like the Jews of old in the sense that they need to over perform to beat a quota. Otherwise, Ivies would be 50% Asian.
        It used to be easy to reject Asians based on lack of extra-curricular activities, but once Asian parents found out that things mattered besides music and math, Asians began to outperform in these areas too.
        Asian, in fact means Korean and Chinese mostly. Japanese Americans have been richer and more established and tend to follow the same downward mobility as other Americans.

      • Krauss on March 17, 2013, 1:20 pm

        Asians on campus don’t complain because
        1) They’ve been told that the reason why they are left out is either due to affirmative action to NAMs(non-Asian minorities) or “those WASPs” which, if we’re talking about the latter, I think we both can agree upon is a myth which is mostly spread by older Jews who are uncomfortable with the political implications of Jewish, well, arrival into the halls of power.

        2) They just don’t know. This is slowly changing. Again, read Unz’s analytical piece. It’s not flawless but it is a very intellectual attempt to get into the heart of the matter.

        3) Unz’s conclusions is that Asians would be around 30% of all Ivy League students. More so in California because they are over 10% of the population there, instead of around 5.5% nationally(and among those 5.5% you have groups like Hmong and others which are doing very poorly and are disadvantaged in numerous ways).

        4) WASPs would essentially be around 60% and Jews would only a few percentage points, perhaps 5 or 6%. The rest would be NAMs.

        5) There’s a good article in the NYT which explains the background to this, how some of the most gifted students are being kept out of the Ivy League and buried into several paragraphs down, it’s boils down to race:

        70% of poor, high-achieving students are white. I think a majority of them are non-Jewish(Jewish median income is very, very high and considering the de facto quotas for Jews(not against them), it’s simply hard to believe that most of those whites are a bunch of discriminated Jews).

        15% are Asian. That means that 85% of the gifted poor are either white or Asian(and most likely overwhelmingly WASP/Asian). So why is this? Racial politics.

        In fact, the Times’ have been slowly waging a steady and silent campaign against affirmative action in the recent year. There’s a new Op-Ed today, without any balance on the other side(quote remarkable for a liberal newspaper), which essentially agrees with conservative supreme court judges. Leonhardt, their chief economic correspondant together with Appelbaum, has already written negatively about affirmative action.

        There’s a deep racial discrimination going on. And your defensiveness about it doesn’t help. But maybe I’m old fashioned. I would’ve been against quotas when Jews were disproportionally affected. And I’m against them now, when we are benefitting.

        But maybe your ethnic chauvinism gets in the way of being as fair and universal no matter who benefits or not.

      • Krauss on March 17, 2013, 1:38 pm

        P.S., on a slightly unrelated note. I’ve thought about affirmative action and I’m kind of divided. I still see value for it for African-Americans and poor Latinos. But even then, I’d be careful to look at class too. It makes no sense to give a rich black girl preference over a poor Asian kid raised by immigrant parents who work round-the-clock shifts in some kitchen in Brooklyn.
        Or a poor white kid from rural Kentucky for that matter.

      • marc b. on March 17, 2013, 4:19 pm

        But even then, I’d be careful to look at class too.

        precisely. class should be the factor, with a focus on improving academics at the secondary school level for others. the ivies themselves have determined that many qualified ‘poor’ candidates for admission to elite universities don’t even bother to apply as they presume (rightly in most cases) that they can’t afford four years at Harvard or UChicago. And despite their protests to the contrary, elite, private institutions favor those who can pay their own way. private universities, such as harvard, which receive significant federal funds and benefit from non-profit status should be required to foot the bill for ‘poor’ qualified candidates or have federal funding withdrawn.

      • marc b. on March 18, 2013, 10:04 am

        i did a bit more re-reading after your posted comments, krauss, and a few salient points/questions that i’m sure you’re aware of but which have been left out of this thread:

        1. as unz points out, most schools which are either elite state universities or which primarily focus on testing and academics, such as MIT, CalTech, Stanford, Berkeley etc., have significantly lower percentages of jewish enrollment, with non-jewish whites enrolling at ratios of nearly 6-1 over Jews at Caltech, 3-1 at Stanford and MIT, and on, versus the favorable ratios of jewish enrollment over non-jewish whites at harvard, yale, etc.

        2. it does not appear that the ivies request information from applicants on their ‘jewishness’ as opposed to their solicitation of information on african-american, asian, native american, hispanic applicants. when i looked at enrollment statistics for Princeton, Harvard, etc. on their university sites, minority enrollment statistics do include percentages of ‘jews’. but even though it appears that the universities do not request that information on applications, we do know that such statistics exist. so my two-part question is, who compiles the statistics on jewish enrollment and for what purpose?

        3. there has been a running battle over the ‘low’ rate of jewish enrollment at princeton, seen by many as a WASP haven, where jewish rates of enrollment of ‘only’ 10-13% was/are a cause for concern. again, who came up with the numbers and why? i ask ‘why’ especially since the last article i read (a 2009 article i believe) included no allegations of discrimination against jewish applicants, just a statement of wonder as to why princeton would only have a jewish rate of enrollment of 6 times the rate of the general population, versus the 12-14 multiple of representation at harvard, penn or yale.

        4. the varied rationales for low jewish enrollment at princeton or dartmouth, as made, for example, by the princeton diretor of the center for jewish life, is that jews are drawn to urban campuses, and don’t like the idea of being ‘isolated’ on the princeton or dartmouth campuses. odd. i don’t imagine a non-jew suggesting that jews are only drawn to cities would get a good reception. if you’re jewish, arguing a point by reliance on a stereotype is permissible, whereas the same comment by a non-jew is evidence of anti-semitism.

      • marc b. on March 18, 2013, 11:45 am

        on their university sites, minority enrollment statistics do include percentages of ‘jews’ should say do ‘not’ include.

      • American on March 18, 2013, 12:34 pm

        @ marc b

        You might want to confirm this, but I think I lately read that some “public universities” aren’t bound to AA……and “private unviersities” are free to set whatever kind ‘ethnic’ admission policy they want to.

      • marc b. on March 18, 2013, 2:35 pm

        american, i’m not sure if that’s accurate or not. admittedly i’m no expert on the matter. but private universities do track the numbers of minority applicants and admissions, even if they don’t maintain or have quotas imposed upon them. and they do receive significant funding from the feds, so again, i’m not certain if there aren’t, or shouldn’t be, some sort of strings attached to federal funding. (if i remember correctly, federal dollars for research at harvard is a significant multiple of private investment into research, which raises a host of questions about who owns or should own the product of the research.) this is one of those issues i wish i had a couple of months to dedicate to investigating.

  2. seafoid on March 16, 2013, 12:29 pm

    The cost of mass militarisation was always going to be high. The occupation doesn’t end at the Green Line.

  3. Gene Starwind on March 16, 2013, 12:29 pm

    This isn’t new. Even in academia, in many Universities, it is career suicide to be openly critical of Israel, even if you manage to attain tenure. Intellctual cowardice is rampant in America when it comes to Israel and Zionism. Judaism is not the problem. Zionism, which has little to do with Judaism is the real problem.
    In my case, I get a bit of a pass from some when they find out that I lost my cousin to Israeli aggression in 1967. My cousin’s crime against the Jewish Empire? He was a crewman on the USS Liberty doing his job serving his country, America.
    Jews are barely 2% of the US population, but their influence far exceeds even the likes of Heritage Foundation and other similar right-wing ideological repositories. I call them intellectual suppositories because they all have their heads up their arses.
    When I give class lectures on Israel, I am critical of all sides, but when I criticise Israel, I get crap for it. I simply throw it right back in their faces.

    • sydnestel on March 16, 2013, 2:22 pm

      “Heritage Foundation and other similar right-wing ideological repositories. I call them intellectual suppositories because they all have their heads up their arses.”

      Maybe you get a pass from other people, but not me. That’s just fucking antisemitism – straight up.

      • sydnestel on March 17, 2013, 8:46 am

        The full quote is

        “Jews are barely 2% of the US population, but their influence far exceeds even the likes of Heritage Foundation and other similar right-wing ideological repositories. I call them intellectual suppositories because they all have their heads up their arses.”

        which is what I meant to include in the above comment.

      • Cliff on March 18, 2013, 12:31 pm

        Why the hell is it antisemitic?

        Is it antisemitic now to say Jews?

      • EUR1069 on March 19, 2013, 4:42 pm

        @Cliff: Apparently it is. Here’s a story for you. Some years ago I was refinancing my crib & they sent over an appraiser. He looked around, made notes, etc. & we ended up chatting about real estate, neighborhoods, etc. to kill time. It is being Boston the subject of Brookline vs. Dorchester came up at which point I said something to the effect that Brookline used to be Irish (JFK), & now the Irish moved to parts of Dorchester & the Southie, etc. and the “Jews moved to Brookline”. He looked at me funny & his visage froze. He gave me the paperwork & his business card before departing promptly. Sure thing, his last name was Rosenberg or Rosenbaum or something. My point is: if we chatted about Watertown (Armenians), Southie (Irish), or Arlington (Greeks), & had his name been Azarian, Sullivan or Katsabiris, respectively, saying the phrase “the Greeks moved in” or “the Armenians moved in” or “the Irish are in the Southie” would have been perfectly casual. Yet the dude acted as if I was dragging him to a gas chamber. Clearly I said something wrong.

      • hophmi on March 19, 2013, 4:59 pm

        And clearly, because one person who you think was Jewish reacted that way, they all would.

      • tokyobk on March 17, 2013, 9:40 am

        I wonder why it got a pass from MW? I think they have been good about cleaning up the comments section.

      • annie on March 17, 2013, 10:21 am

        you’re right it’s unclear. however the reference to ‘intellectual suppositories’ can reasonably be read as the ‘Heritage Foundation and other similar right-wing ideological repositories’.

        it’s true that in the US way too much policy comes from rtwg political think tanks, (which are quite often run by intellectuals w/their heads up their arses). so, the argument being made is that the american jewish community has more political influence in the US than think tanks. there’s nothing in the original statement that directly implicates the barely 2% in the reference to the right-wing ideological repositories, other than saying they have more influence.

      • tokyobk on March 17, 2013, 11:12 am

        I asked as you see below. I am happy if it is as you say. There was no response. I do not find any pleasure in bigotry.

      • Cliff on March 18, 2013, 8:42 pm

        Then why don’t you chastise your fellow Zionist commentators for blaming the Nakba on the Palestinians?

        Or hophmi calling Palestinians, Nazis?


        It’s endless.

        But you are just another predictable pretentious intellectual hack.

      • thankgodimatheist on March 17, 2013, 9:28 pm

        “That’s just fucking antisemitism-straight up.”
        Triple yawn…

    • hophmi on March 16, 2013, 2:57 pm

      It’s career suicide to be critical of Israel in academia? LOL. Tell you what: you try it, and let me know what happens to you. Are you a disgruntled professor who didn’t get tenure?

      “[Jewish] influence exceeds . . . the Heritage Foundation…”

      Yes, we’re all working together, us Jews, particularly the 75% of us who are liberals, to exceed the influence of the Heritage Foundation.

      Hey Gene Starwind, get a clue: maybe it’s you.

      • Gene Starwind on March 17, 2013, 3:04 pm

        Hey, hophmi:
        I have tenure. The main saving grace is that the Uni where I teach is in Georgia (the US state, not the country), and the trustees there don’t seem all that supportive of Israel. How much anti-occupation content do YOU see on the major networks? I never see any. I HAVE seen anti-Hertitage Fdn content on CNN, ABC and MSNBC. Look at the Hagel hearing in the Senate. What was their main aggro: Hagel wasn’t genuflecting enough to Bibi and the Gang.

        Hey, sydnestel:
        Thank you for proving my point that people like you equate criticism of Israel with hatred of Judaism and Jews. I do not. I also make no apologies for my comments about the Heritage Foundation and other ideologically-similar crucibles for repackaging the same crap in a new wrapper. That’s all that Zionist groups do, they are similar in their intransigence to evolve their views to reflect at least some semblance of reality.
        Jews I have no beef with. My beef is with Israel and it’s entirely based what they have done me and my family. My beef is not ideological, but I DO attack the central dogma of Zionism for what it is: crap.

        Hey, tokyobk:
        marc b is right. My disputed comment was directed towards right-wing ideology-spewer “foundations”. I know a notable number of American Jews who have their head up their arse with regards to the occupation, but I deal with them as individuals. Group-think is dangerous.

      • Cliff on March 17, 2013, 3:49 pm


        you are not a ****ing liberal

        you’re a Zionist/Israel Firster

    • tokyobk on March 16, 2013, 4:54 pm

      Jews “all have their heads up their arises” or right wing think tanks?

      • Ellen on March 17, 2013, 5:35 pm

        toykobk, are you playing dumb or is there a reading comprehension issue?

        Starwind’s comment was quite clear: “right-wing ideological repositories.”

        btw, I relate as having lost family (also while he was in service to the government of the United States) by murder by Zionist terrorists over 50 years ago.

        I guess it served the Zionist cause, but nothing else, and certaintly not Judaism.

      • thankgodimatheist on March 17, 2013, 9:35 pm

        Hilarious back-peddling considering that in your first comment you were so confident..

      • Cliff on March 18, 2013, 12:31 pm


        That is not what he said.

        That’s why it got thru moderation.

  4. OlegR on March 16, 2013, 12:36 pm

    /The country had not aroused my affection, and by then I had learned that to write critically, without sympathy, for the subject at hand was to commit literary suicide. /

    She is generalizing about how a writer should have sympathy about what he writes
    otherwise his book will be lousy
    Either you have trouble with comprehension here Philip or you are
    purposefully misleading your readers.

    • Woody Tanaka on March 16, 2013, 1:20 pm

      “She is generalizing about how a writer should have sympathy about what he writes
      otherwise his book will be lousy”

      LOL Baloney. Stop making excusing, comrade. She’s saying she doesn’t have affection for your shitty little apartheid state, and if she wrote critically of it, she would be pilloried. One need not have sympathy for one’s subject in order to write a compelling book.

    • Blake on March 16, 2013, 3:42 pm

      @ Oleg: Misleading native English speaking readers? I doubt it. One sure does project.

    • on March 16, 2013, 4:51 pm

      olegr, olegr –
      “She is generalizing about how a writer should have sympathy about what he writes
      otherwise his book will be lousy”

      Read the sentence again. She is saying (not ‘generalizing’, just stating)
      “that to write critically, without sympathy, for the subject at hand was to commit literary suicide.”

      Not: “otherwise his book will be lousy”

      Do you want that translated into any other language?

      (btw he’s a she)

    • Carowhat on March 16, 2013, 5:28 pm

      I think she’s rather saying that to write about Israel without apologetics is to commit literary suicide. I have a friend who was told if he ever wrote in public what he said at at a certain dinner party he would never be published again.

    • Hostage on March 16, 2013, 6:20 pm

      She was generalizing about “the subject at hand”, Israel. Here are some more of the things she had to say about that unsympathetic subject:

      Inevitably, I found myself comparing Yehoshua’s Israeli heat with the heat of, say, Camus’s Algeria or Coetzee’s South Africa. Their heat, too, goes hand in hand with an emotional unreality that allows people to do unspeakable things to one another beneath a burning sun in the middle of nowhere. Yehoshua’s heat, however—unlike that of Camus or Coetzee—is neither sinister nor murderous; rather, it is anxious, depressed, exhausted. It’s the exhaustion that makes Yehoshua’s stories remarkable, even profound. The exhaustion runs so deep it feels as old as time itself; as though it has been there since the beginning of instinctual life; as though, knowing as we do in the womb that we are about to be born into loss and abandonment, we are exhausted in advance.

      In every age—what with the undying barbarism of human history—it is given to a few places in the world to make incarnate such existential knowledge. In Israel, for obvious reasons, we have one of those places. Yehoshua’s stories remind us that Israeli literature rightly joins the literature of those other cultures that have earned the right to make of ordinary lives a metaphor for such soul-destroying weariness.

      * * *

      It is common knowledge that Yehoshua is a man of the left who endorses a two-state solution to the ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Yet to his followers abroad he seems more preoccupied with haranguing the Jews of the world who persist in living outside the state of Israel, as though it were they, not the political situation at home, who are making of life in the Middle East the hell that it is.

    • American on March 16, 2013, 10:07 pm

      @ Oleg

      She was talking from her writers pov…but the way she described Israel society is the same as the way Israelis like Danaa and some others who left Israel have described it…’s a unhealth society.

      • OlegR on March 17, 2013, 7:18 am

        Unhealthy by what f’ing standard?
        American ,Syrian, maybe French , Korean ,Japanese?

      • EUR1069 on March 17, 2013, 10:45 am

        @Oleg: language! Chill, dude… “unhealthy” in the sense of having existed in the chosen state of besieged, culturally & racially superior aliens, holding the gun to the heads of its neighbors for the last 65 years & being on a life support from the U.S. (won’t last for another 65, mind you). The simple truth is, artificial geopolitical entities mandated into existence by august international bodies don’t survive in the long run in the environment where none of their neighbors wants them, no matter how you rationalize it in your own heads. God-given land? BS! The first choice of the Zionist founding fathers as Uganda, Madagaskar, & even Vietnam, until they figured that they can highjack Judaism for their nationalist & race-breeding purposes. What if the Jews originated 2000 years ago from what is now Palestine? Gypsies originated 2000 years ago from India. Just try to scoop up the 6 million European Romanis & give them a country in the middle of Rajastan. I guarantee there will be a problem with the locals, 2000 years or no 2000 years. The only way to go healthy is to be the same people again (you’re both Semites & cousins, remember?), give Palestinians full Israeli/Palestinian (only a matter of semantics) citizenship & leave everybody alone, at long last, cuz the world is getting really sick & tired of the dangerous Zionist antics.

      • thankgodimatheist on March 17, 2013, 9:42 pm

        “Unhealthy by what f’ing standard?”

        Your own..As you would like us to believe they exist.

    • marc b. on March 17, 2013, 10:38 am

      you don’t ‘generalize’ when you refer to a specific subject at hand, olerg. and does that make any sense to you, your comment that a writer ‘should have sympathy about what she writes otherwise her book will be lousy?’ so only persons sympathetic to hitler can be great hitler biographers? you might want to rethink your literary theory. it seems a bit leaky.

  5. EUR1069 on March 16, 2013, 1:16 pm

    “there are certain things I’m not going to talk about… Everybody knows that if you write certain things you put yourself beyond the pale of certain publications”

    A’la Pravda 1937 – Karl Radek, come back, all is forgiven! LOL

  6. gamal on March 16, 2013, 1:24 pm

    “She is generalizing about how a writer should have sympathy about what he writes
    otherwise his book will be lousy”

    Interesting literary theory, have you read much? or better still written? how would that cult classic ‘Fear and Loathing in LA” fit this somewhat constrictive notion of “lousy” and non-lousy books.

  7. Sin Nombre on March 16, 2013, 1:44 pm

    It’s career “suicide,” and she’s *jewish.*

    Just like I said contra all the happy talk in that recent thread about Mearsheimer: Yes, his freaking high-school doesn’t have any/enough members in the network of the tribe to blackball him, but as he himself has said, he still isn’t getting invites to write op/ed pieces the way he did before, he still feels he’s getting blackballed by the media generally and certainly would never even be considered for a gov’t post, and on and on.

    And like I said in that Mearsheimer thread, consider just how nasty the people participating in this network are … not to just put up some public objection to what this or that person thinks on the Israel subject, but to happily and *grievously* wound them, deprive them of their very means of living…. As that one unidentified Congressional-staffer essentially and clearly happily said about Hagel’s then-contemplated nomination: “Send him up here and just see how fast and thoroughly we are gonna make him out to be a moral pariah.”

    This is just about as un-American as you can get, and is interesting given the vituperation the jewish groups display when anyone compares Israeli behavior with that of the Nazis. If this isn’t at least fascistic in nature, then nothing is, and what’s worse is that it’s done in an underground, clandestine and even conspiratorial fashion.

    And it *does* now implicate not just this or that individual, but at the very least those jewish groups mentioned who purport to be so “American” which seems to not even notice much less object to this grossly un-American behavior.

    Everyone talks of course about how the “Israel Firster” American jews are actually injuring Israel in terms of helping it destroy a Two-State solution. Well, yet another issue that might be talked about how they are injuring American jewry itself by sure as shit making it appear to believe in if not participate in such grossly shitty, un-American behavior.

    Or, to put it another absolutely concrete and probably already-present way, who in hell in the media, academia or government is gonna trust any jew whatsoever who has any say whatsoever about their career to weigh them fairly regardless of how they feel about the Israel issue?

    And then we see Woody Allen, sobbing over the *non-ethnically*-related victims of the blacklist, whose numbers must pale next to all those noted above with careers in the media, academia or government and who have been cowed by fears of their own “career suicide” if they say the wrong thing.

  8. dimadok on March 16, 2013, 2:15 pm

    I guess being bitter and judged by others ( or feeling like one) is the perquisite of being good anti-Zionist liberal mind.
    I’ll pass on that.

  9. amigo on March 16, 2013, 2:21 pm

    “She is generalizing about how a writer should have sympathy about what he writes
    otherwise his book will be lousy”Oleg R

    “He writes,”

    “His Book,”

    So you are a male chauvinist as well as a racist.

  10. American on March 16, 2013, 2:45 pm

    “There is no hyphenated [American-]Jewish experience anymore.”

    I would somewhat disagree with that. Jews may not be ‘hyphenated”, as in discriminated against or held down in this country…But…I think many Jews continue to hyphen themselves to a large degree.
    I would use mondo as an example of that and the many articles published here in which Jews can’t stop thinking of themselves as ‘hyphen”- a certain group ‘different’ – in the US even though they have succeeded here.
    One I am thinking of for instance, was the Forward Editor and her article relating and addressing how Jews are loved (with another Jew claiming they are not loved).
    So even though barriers to being equal in opportunities to others were removed long ago….the tribal psychology remains, not as a religion, but as a ‘people group’.
    I see a collision that could take place in employing or having Jewish success and yet still insisting on maintaining some special status and privileges of victimhood status for the Jewish group.
    I don’t think they can continue have it both ways. With Jews as successful in the US , contrasted against or even included in, the unrelenting demand of Zionist for Jewish power, domestically in the US and in Israel, and the simultaneous demand Jews still be treated as a privileged victim group….something is going to blow there eventually. It could be that like the ‘Jewish democracy’ hypocrisy in Israel, the hypocrisy of the ‘Successful Jewish Victim’ in the US will also starting taking it’s hits. I think in fact it already has started to be hit at….naturally regarding Israel, but also in many things we have discussed here about domestic privileges like the tax exemption for Jew’s donations to Israel, the DHS allocation of funds, etc.etc..not accorded to any other group.
    I don’t see how they can continue these two contradictory positions indefinitely without people viewing “Jewish success’ as responsible for the Jewish (victim) privilege that benefits it over others or visa versa.
    And then of course comes the “resentment”, or anti semitism according to the zionist, from other groups or among the public for this sort of favoritism they don’t get for themselves or their particular group.
    And the resentment will be compounded further by the Zionist saying that they are “entitled” to be both elite and successful ‘and’ have eternal protected victim status also because of their unique history.
    Their problem is it simply doesn’t work that way for the rest of the world.

    And the censorship that is the topic of this article?….the Jewish success influence still employed as censorship to protect or portray Jews (the Jewish state) as a victim group? That’s a perfect example of the having your cake and eating it too.

    • Krauss on March 16, 2013, 4:18 pm

      The Forward editor, I’m guessing you’re thinking about Jane Eisner, is a pretty crazy woman. Her defining trait is to take something really racist and then say, basically, I’m okay with that. But what about the [Jewish] women?.

      That’s why she was all over the place when those women from America got arrested at the wailing wall. Yet she’s been silent at best on Palestinians, often directly mocking them.

      Recently she made a (typical) scare-mongering article about the need to, and I’m paraphrasing a recent MSNBC commentator here, “boost the race” before it is too late.

      She acknowledged that the language she was going to use in her article “may come across as bigoted and racist to some” but then she went on and did it anyway.

      My long-winded point? Eisner is a thuggish racist. Eisner isn’t representative.

      • American on March 17, 2013, 11:15 am

        “Eisner isn’t representative”…Krauss

        Then who is representative?…..representative meaning representing the majority.
        My impression if that The Forward is suppose to be sort of the premiere ‘mainstream’ Jewish Publication in the US….so how come come they picked a editor you describe as a crazy racist?
        I see the problem of people like Eisner as being they are so tribally narcissistic they don’t even know how racist they actually are…they can’t comprehend their narcissism…it makes them blind.

      • Donald on March 17, 2013, 12:31 pm

        “I see the problem of people like Eisner as being they are so tribally narcissistic they don’t even know how racist they actually are”

        Not commenting about Eisner who I’ve not heard of before, but in general, yeah. It’s visible in that recent New Republic article referenced here the other day, where the author interviewed a relatively cosmopolitan (his own description of the man) Hamas leader who wanted to ship most Israeli Jews back to the countries where they came from and he obviously meant second or third generation Israelis too, not just recent immigrants (not that the latter is acceptable either). The New Republic writer was appalled, as he should have been, but what struck me is how close this thinking is to those who insist that Israeli Jews have the right to have a Jewish majority, and who implicitly or explicitly defend the Nakba. Neither the author nor the Hamas leader had any sense of the rights of the individual to live in the land where he or she grew up, no matter what their ethnicity or what crimes people of the same ethnic background might have committed. The author could see with crystal clarity what was wrong with the Hamas leader’s way of thinking and expected his audience to see it too. It almost certainly didn’t cross his mind or that of his intended audience to notice how close that thinking was to mainstream Zionism.

    • Jeff Klein on March 16, 2013, 4:32 pm

      This reminded me of the raft of “interfaith” and “multicultural” Passover Seders going on the the coming days. Labor Seder, Black-Jewish Seder, International Seder, etc. where Jews “invite” — I should better say demand — that people of other (or no) faith attend and acknowledge the Jewish religious/historical experience. I may be myopic, but I do not get the sense that other religious communities make the same demands on faiths other than their own.

      This kind of practice seems to an exercise in celebrating both Jewish victimhood and Jewish power simultaneously. Likewise, the various interfaith Holocaust observations, school visits to the Holocaust Museum and educational programs like Facing History.

      They all make an offer you can’t refuse. . .

      • wondering jew on March 16, 2013, 8:59 pm

        Jeff Klein- I don’t belong to communities that invite or demand others to participate in their seders. Most of the seders that I have attended have been Jewish only and the only seders that involved nonJews were group seders that my friends hosted where their close nonJewish friends were invited to participate and there didn’t seem anything coerced about their feasting and drinking, so maybe I am unfamiliar with the type of community seders that demand the participation of people in drinking wine and eating lots of food and putting up with a bit of “education” or “propaganda” in order to get to drink wine and eat food.

        On the other hand I always thought that all Christians (those who believe rather than those who don’t) should all have the opportunity to experience a seder, for after all that was what the Last Supper assumedly was, a seder. And to participate in an actual seder would be a way to gain insight into the seder that Jesus participated in. Is this a demand? It seems like a logical gap in the knowledge of most Christians that can easily be filled if there is someone Jewish in the neighborhood who has an opened door on Passover.

      • Jeff Klein on March 17, 2013, 12:11 pm

        I have nothing in particular against Jews who want to invite non-Jews to their Seders. However, the type of public Seders I am referring to have a different, and political, character. They occur in every big city, usually sponsored by the local JCRC. And they do constitute “an offer you can’t refuse” — unless you want to risk being marked as a potential anti-Semite, lose Jewish political support or risk being blackballed by Jewish charitable funders. This is particularly the case regarding African-American social service agencies.

        The same with the various Jewish-led “educational” programs. No accident that widespread high-school Facing History curricula — important for building the right kind of college application — steer clear of the Palestine issue. Years ago I offered to make a presentation at such a class attended by my son. The very liberal (Jewish) teacher was agreeable at first, but somehow it never worked out, despite repeated reminders from me. Of course they studied the persecution of European Jews in elaborate detail, visited the Holocaust Museum, etc.

    • annie on March 17, 2013, 1:31 pm

      i think i remember that video, but as i recall it it was more like a sally field moment, ‘they like us, they really like us.’ i don’t know much more about her so i won’t call her a racist.

      but the larger point (i think) about the insistence by some/many of referencing themselves as a minority for the purpose of attaching the discrimination aspect to themselves, while meanwhile being part of the elite (for those who are, certainly there are jews who are not) is hard to swallow. especially things like having the lionshare of homeland security funding going to that community juxtaposed to the institutionalize federal pressure and discrimination and islamophobia directed at muslims , is facepalm outrageous.

      and yes, people will notice as the pattern evolves, assuming the rich just get richer. there are the haves and the havenots and generally there are a lot more havenots. but to be a haves with the screaming/whining rights of a havenot…not sure that’s gonna fly over the long haul.

      • hophmi on March 17, 2013, 4:39 pm


        Is it your contention that it is impossible for a community to part of an “elite” and experience discrimination at the same time?

        The lion’s share of DHS funding does not go to the Jewish community. DHS issues about $400 million in grants. The lion’s share of one of those grant programs, which is about $10 million of that $400 million, goes to Jewish institutions because they have been the most proactive in submitting the application. So don’t make it seem like th Jewish community is getting most of the DHS money. That’s ignorant.

  11. hophmi on March 16, 2013, 3:01 pm

    Another silly article.

    The writer didn’t like her experience in 1980 because the society was too monolithic and unified. The writer didn’t enjoy her experience because everything “was tired.”

    Yes, this is definitely somebody worth taking seriously. LOL. We get it; she didn’t have a good time. For every malcontent like her, there are 20 who enjoyed Israel and are not, like this writer (and it’s so clear from her writing) self-absorbed and narcissistic.

    • chinese box on March 16, 2013, 10:50 pm

      “Yes, this is definitely somebody worth taking seriously. LOL. ”

      I don’t know about that. I found her perceptions depressingly accurate. And you haven’t done her justice with your weak summary of her points. There are many online stories of idealistic “anglo olim” who move to the country only to be ripped off or taken advantage of by the Israelis because they’re perceived as being wealthy. And “connections” made in IDF service at a young age are what cements one’s future career and success–if you make aliyah at a later age and don’t have lots of money or relatives already in country, you’re SOL. This, added to the busybody questions about her personal life she was constantly subjected to, perfectly explains her sense of alienation. That’s the paradox of Israel–a country of immigrants that somehow manages to remains firmly closed and insular.

    • philweiss on March 17, 2013, 12:01 pm

      But Hophmi what about her statement that to publish a book containing her thoughts would have been suicide? Isn’t this damning of our political culture?

    • Donald on March 17, 2013, 12:07 pm

      ” there are 20 who enjoyed Israel and are not, like this writer (and it’s so clear from her writing) self-absorbed and narcissistic.”

      Wouldn’t people who “enjoyed” Israel and weren’t deeply troubled by its treatment of the Palestinians be better candidates for the charge of being self-absorbed and narcissistic? I suppose one could “enjoy” Israel and also be troubled by its disgusting human rights record, but you didn’t put any conditions on what you meant by “enjoy”.

  12. just on March 16, 2013, 3:11 pm

    How very sad– all of it, especially this:

    “There is no hyphenated [American-]Jewish experience anymore. I have two nieces who are both Ivy League babies and they’re in the ruling class. There’s nothing they can’t do. Nothing. So there’s nothing to talk about. There’s really nothing to write about. Yet you have young people who keep on doing it. All I’m saying is, it doesn’t count.”

  13. Les on March 16, 2013, 4:03 pm

    The most important American Jewish institution is, by far, our big media, both print and broadcast. The entirety of its owners and managers publicly support Zionism if in their own fashion. Zionists accept that Palestinians are expendable. Other Jews believe that such a racist nostrum is antithetical to Judaism. Having taken sides in this division, we should not be surprised at the attempt of our media to paper over what amounts to a split in the very definition of Judaism. How long before individual Jews become aware of the incompatiblity that divides them? Will it take the likes of a Jewish Martin Luther to get the attention this great theocratic divide deserves?

  14. jon s on March 16, 2013, 5:14 pm

    This is Phil’s caption:
    “Vivian Gornick stashed book critical of Israel lest she ‘commit literary suicide’”.
    And this is the quote:
    “The country had not aroused my affection, and by then I had learned that to write critically, without sympathy, for the subject at hand was to commit literary suicide.”
    Clearly Ms.Gornick is reflecting – in a general way- on the lesson she’s learned , that a writer needs to write with sympathy towards the subject – otherwise it’s “literary suicide”, meaning the quality of the writing suffers. A far cry from Phil’s caption.
    In the review itself she describes Yehoshua’s stories as “remarkable, even profound”, while obviously disagreeing with his critique of the Diaspora.

    • Sumud on March 17, 2013, 8:03 am

      [my emphasis]:

      The country had not aroused my affection, and by then I had learned that to write critically, without sympathy, for the subject at hand was to commit literary suicide.

      The “subject at hand” is Israel. If she had written:

      The country had not aroused my affection. By then I had learned that to write critically, without sympathy, for a subject at hand was to commit literary suicide.

      …you might have a point.

      But she didn’t.

    • Citizen on March 17, 2013, 8:55 am

      @ jon s

      She says she wrote with a critical eye on Israel; she wrote, “critically, without sympathy” for the subject at hand. And that Israel “had not aroused my affection.”

      She did not like her experience in the country. She wrote about those experiences.
      The lesson she learned was not about the quality or merit of her writing, but about the rejection she got in publishing and literary circles because her work was viewed there as not sufficiently sympathetic to Israel–she did not approve of the country as she experienced it. Many classics in world literature were once denied publication for political reasons, devoid of literary calculus. She is saying she learned that lesson the hard way when she wrote about Israel. Has anyone here read her literature?

      • Citizen on March 17, 2013, 9:03 am

        Further, she says: “Everything I had written said, ‘Yes, but…’ ”
        This directly suggests that while she acknowledged positive things about the country, each positive thing that registered with her came with a negative thing attached.

        And she experienced that one cannot write about the country like that and expect to get published. So she put her work away.

      • Citizen on March 17, 2013, 9:47 am

        If anyone doubts Ms Gonick’s critical writing talent ability, I suggest they read:
        Before the Law
        Isaac B. Singer: A Life fails to fully illustrate the complexity of the writer’s struggle with his heritage.
        Vivian Gornick

        Makes me want to read the book about Israel she “put away” as too critical of that country to be published by the ptb.

  15. RoHa on March 16, 2013, 11:06 pm

    “perhaps the Jews—…—really are tired of being Jews.”

    So stop.

  16. DICKERSON3870 on March 16, 2013, 11:06 pm

    RE: “[T]he news here is the fact that a writer of Gornick’s stature and boldness would drop a book about Israel 30 years ago because to write critically of the country would have been “literary suicide.” So this is how high liberal culture works.” ~ Weiss

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    I cried when they shot Mr. Kennedy
    As though I’d lost a father of mine
    But Malcolm X got what was coming
    He got what he asked for this time
    So love me, love me, love me, I’m a liberal
    [GET IT? – J.L.D.]

    I go to civil rights rallies
    And I put down the old D.A.R.
    I love Harry and Sidney and Sammy
    I hope every colored boy becomes a star
    But don’t talk about revolution
    That’s going a little bit too far
    So love me, love me, love me, I’m a liberal
    [GET IT? – J.L.D.]

    I cheered when Humphrey was chosen
    My faith in the system restored
    I’m glad the commies were thrown out
    of the A.F.L. C.I.O. board
    I love Puerto Ricans and Negros
    as long as they don’t move next door
    So love me, love me, love me, I’m a liberal ~ Phil Ochs
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  17. DICKERSON3870 on March 16, 2013, 11:56 pm

    RE: “[T]he all-embracing sense of family feeds the remarkable solidarity that Israelis demonstrate in the face of external threat. During my time in the country I witnessed, more than once, the transformation within twenty-four hours of a random population into what felt like a civilian army.” ~ Vivian Gornick

    SEE: “Israel’s Trauma Psychology and the Attack on Gaza”, By Avigail Abarbanel, Sunday 4th January 2009

    [EXCERPT] . . . Israel has been itching for a ‘good war’ for a while now. The botched attack on Lebanon in 2006 was a psychological disappointment that did not fulfil its purpose, and only led to a deepening chasm between the political and military arms in Israel. An Israeli friend told me in disgust the other day, that there is an atmosphere of ‘national orgasm’ in Israel about the prospect of attacking Iran. While people are being bombed in Gaza, all Israelis can talk about is the coming attack on Iran. But there is a link between the two.
    Israel’s social problems have grown exponentially over the past 15 years. It’s a very different Israel now than the one I grew up in. There is more violent and organised crime than ever before, and more domestic violence and abuse of children than ever. There are more drugs and drug use, and they have drunk-driving, something I have never encountered while I was still living there. This is reflected in official reports as well as in the daily newspapers.
    My brother who lives in Israel described to me how soldiers who spend their military service in the Occupied Palestinian territories implementing Israel’s brutal occupation, come home on weekends only to get involved in drunken armed brawls and murders. This was unheard of in my time.
    Israelis have never been particularly kind to each other. It’s one of the reasons I left actually. In my late twenties I started to grow weary of the unkind, harsh and unforgiving atmosphere around me. It was a tough place to live in not because of our ‘enemies’ but because of how people treated one another. You would believe that we were all enemies rather than people who have some kind of a shared heritage. The only thing that could unite people and temporarily brought out more kindness and a sense of cooperation was a feeling of being under collective threat, and in particular a ‘good wholesome war’ . . .

    SOURCE –

    • DICKERSON3870 on March 17, 2013, 9:40 am

      RE: “[T]he news here is the fact that a writer of Gornick’s stature and boldness would drop a book about Israel 30 years ago because to write critically of the country would have been ‘literary suicide’.” ~ Vivian Gornick

      SEE: “Why Zionist lobby bullying strengthens occupation”, By Larry Derfner, Haaretz, 3/14/13

      [EXCERPT] Brand­ing harsh crit­ics of Is­raeli pol­icy as anti-Semi­tes helps the oc­cu­pa­tion thrive, and what’s good for the oc­cu­pa­tion is good for Is­rael, cer­tainly for Ne­tanyahu’s Is­rael, and what’s good for Ne­tanyahu’s Is­rael is good for the Jew­ish es­tab­lish­ment of Britain, the United States and sev­eral other coun­tries.

      It’s a shame: These peo­ple are going to bat for Is­rael’s sub­ju­ga­tion of a peo­ple, for Is­rael’s wars of ag­gres­sion to de­fend that prac­tice, and they’re doing it in the name of all the hor­rors the Jews ever faced and at times still face. I don’t know any­thing more cyn­i­cal than that. I don’t know any greater dis­honor of Jew­ish his­tory than that.



  18. ritzl on March 17, 2013, 2:21 am

    How does, or maybe why is, A.B. Yehoshua’s views on who is or is not a “real” jew differ from Sands, or dare I say it, Atzmon? Country of origin? No, that can’t possibly be it. Political usefulness? Maybe. Self-serving arrogance, with the intent of making other “discordant” Jews feel inferior in an effort to discount their otherwise healthy input into Israeli “life?” Probably.

    It seems he’s in a fatalistic box of his own making, and looking for strokes. A celebration of his own [acquiescence to] dysfunction. And this is a “left” position in Israel? I suppose it correlates pretty closely with the left dysfunction in the US. Yet another “shared” value?

    Gornick’s article is a slow build, but definitely worth a full read. Much to ponder. Thanks.

    • Citizen on March 17, 2013, 9:51 am

      @ ritzl, obviously Atzmon has chosen not to live in Israel, regardless of anyone telling him that’s where the real jews live.

  19. amigo on March 17, 2013, 8:13 am

    News (well not really) from the Jewish State.

    “Coalition pact calls for bill making Israel Jewish first, democratic second.”

    Read all about it.


  20. Dan Crowther on March 17, 2013, 8:47 am

    The passage about her return trip to Israel is key to everything. It’s something I’ve witnessed a hundred times over: most young israeli’s aren’t jewish. not in any sense that people in the states would be familiar with. it’s shocking to see, quite frankly.

    I remember asking a friend of a friend named Elad ( i wasn’t well versed on names and what they could tell me at the time) where he was from, where he came from – he was a very handsome, dark skinned dude, I thought he was Arab or Persian, he say’s “I’m Israeli dumbass, what you think I’m some Arab?” My friends, jews mostly, looked at me and laughed, “his names Elad, idiot!” I was defiant: but he’s tall and fit, tan and handsome, and he’s good at basketball!” This was years ago, and in the years since, I’ve witnessed similar many times; I’ve always gotten this sense that deep down Israeli’s want to tell world jewry to screw, and I can totally understand where they’re coming from. Those other guys were sooooo proud of Elad, they lived vicariously through him, and I feel that’s how the dynamic is in general; eventually the Elad’s of the world are going to want to stand apart, they already do, but they’ll want it to be official. Anyway, I’m glad Im not the only person who’s noticed that

    • annie on March 17, 2013, 10:40 am

      dan, he could have very well been an arab or persian jew. it’s sad, the hasbara/brainwashing that’s gone into convincing iraqi, and other middle eastern jews they are not of arab origin even tho their ancestors all spoke arabic.

      • Dan Crowther on March 17, 2013, 11:05 am

        oh of course, the racism and such i left aside, cuz it was so obvious

  21. Nevada Ned on March 17, 2013, 9:06 am

    I read the article by Vivian Gornick in The Nation. She refers to the Israeli novelist A. B. Yehoshua as an important member of the Israeli “peace camp”. Let’s clarify the record: Yeshoshua supported Israel’s 2006 invasion of Lebanon, and he also claimed that Israel’s 2008 assault on the refugees of Gaza was “necessary”. (For an account of Yehoshua’s support of Israel’s 2008 invasion, see the account in the hawkish Jerusalem Post.)

    Some Israelis really are stalwart critics of Israel’s racism and violent aggression. But I wouldn’t include Yehoshua, who is more of a fair-weather friend.

    • Krauss on March 17, 2013, 1:36 pm

      Well said. Only in the racist lens of Israeli society can a guy like that be described like a ‘liberal’. He’s not.

  22. DICKERSON3870 on March 17, 2013, 10:10 am

    RE: Everyone and everything [in Israel], the very air itself, seemed tired . . . tired of the weariness . . . the escalating isolation and the petrifying last stand. It flashed through my mind: perhaps the Jews—because love, of love they have despaired—really are tired of being Jews [I.E. Perhaps they are unable to deal with themselves; unable to “occupy their own skin(s)” ~ see below, J.L.D.]. ~ Vivian Gornick


    ● QUESTION PROPOUNDED OF GORNICK: “One thing I’ve noticed that recurs in your work—you describe writers who are able to be alone with themselves and the reader. For example, you referred to Wells as being alone with himself.”

    ● GORNICK’S ANSWER: “That is the aim, isn’t it—to be alone with yourself. We live in a world, in a culture that has misused the word loneliness. Our culture seems to be explaining itself in terms of a flight from loneliness. The question that interests me and many others is an old one: who is there in the room when you’re alone? What is it you’re fleeing when you’re fleeing loneliness? Are you fleeing the fact that you can’t deal with yourself? You’re not able to occupy your own skin? The writers in these essays all raise these questions for me.”

    SOURCE –

  23. pabelmont on March 17, 2013, 10:38 am

    Since I am reading “Unorthodox” (a story of a Brooklyn woman escaping from Satmar orthodoxy), I get a feeling I never had before for a culture that inculcates marriage and family and social control (and religious control) in a way that is (to say the least) quite foreign to me.

    Apparently, Gornick suggests that Israel is/was similar, and I am surprised. Not a “western”, cosmopolitan, individualism-cherishing culture? No sunlight between our cultures? A surprise.

    / Yehoshua’s heat, however—unlike that of Camus or Coetzee—is neither sinister nor murderous; rather, it is anxious, depressed, exhausted. It’s the exhaustion that makes Yehoshua’s stories remarkable, even profound. The exhaustion runs so deep it feels as old as time itself; as though it has been there since the beginning of instinctual life; as though, knowing as we do in the womb that we are about to be born into loss and abandonment, we are exhausted in advance./

    Are Israelis (or some of them) exhausted, anxious, depressed? Are they (or some of them) running away, perpetually running away, from doom? Israel — created as a safe haven for Jews — failed, because they cannot (some of them) be saved, from themselves, their devils, their own doom, carried with them like the shell of a tortoise?

    (And as we know, the society as a whole has determined to make itself into a devil that the Palestinians can never escape from, even as the Israelis tell themselves stories of the antisemitism and murderous, devilish sentiments harbored by their neighbors.)

    Does Gornick criticise Israel? Or is it sympathy? More important, is it accurate description?

    /But for those who know [A. B. Yehoshua’s] early work, it is painful to hear him speak of who is and who isn’t a Jew, because at times he can sound like a West Bank settler with a gun in his hand and murder in his heart, declaring the land of another his land. It’s the bully behind that sound—whether it comes from the left or the right—that makes one cringe. It seems then not to matter why one is bullying; it matters only that another is being bullied. In the court of humanity, the violence one human being does another is a nonnegotiable crime. Very nearly, in this court, there is no such thing as a just war./


    /but everyone and everything, the very air itself, seemed tired: bone tired, bitter tired, millennial tired; tired of the weariness and the canopy of coals, the escalating isolation and the petrifying last stand. It flashed through my mind: perhaps the Jews—because love, of love they have despaired—really are tired of being Jews./

    Israelis being “really tired of being Jews”? or really tired of being Zionists, of escaping from being victims into an entire nation of organized victimizers, caught, with no escape visible?

    Gornick’s is a valuable essay. I hope it widely read and commented upon.

  24. wondering jew on March 17, 2013, 4:53 pm

    “literary suicide” what could Vivian Gornick mean? 1. Everyone who writes a book writes it for a publisher or publishers in mind. Publishers want to sell books. Do travel books where the person was consistently negative about the land one traveled in sell a lot of books? One would guess not. Why would one want to write about Israel in the first place, because Jews buy a lot of books (30 years ago especially, someone can update me on the statistics post kindle and internet, but I used to hear 30% hardcover purchasers were Jews, 10% paperback were Jews.) Would such a negative book sell a lot of books? Not. She didn’t go to Israel to do an expose which sells a lot in 2013, she went to Israel to write a book that would sell well on the Upper West Side, and she found she couldn’t write a book that would sell well, so she realized it was stupid to write the book that she could write, for it wouldn’t sell. Nothing nefarious about all this as implied by Phil Weiss.

    • Citizen on March 18, 2013, 9:16 am

      @ yonah fredman
      I’ve never written a novel with any particular publisher in mind. I know I am not alone in this.

      • wondering jew on March 18, 2013, 12:00 pm

        Citizen- I was too absolute in my “all writers have publishers in mind”. but Vivian Gornick writes nonfiction in order to live off of the proceeds. I bet you on her tax form she lists writer as her occupation.

      • Citizen on March 18, 2013, 1:48 pm

        @ yonah fredman
        Adjusted point taken.

      • American on March 18, 2013, 12:15 pm

        @ Citizen

        From what I hear self publishing is the way to go…..evidently it has become such a big practice among new and unpublished writers that the publishing houses now peruse self published books to see what they might be able to pick up and sell.

        I think it’s gonna be an even bigger trend…..just like Netflix now starting to take the movie monopoly away from Hollywood.

        The only thing missing is some main stream press/media review outlet for these books….but that could eventually change also.

      • Citizen on March 18, 2013, 12:40 pm

        @ American
        Yep. I think you are right. The internet was not commonly available when I did the snail mail “over the transom thing” back in the late ’70s & very early ’80s. I’m working on it.

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