Jeff Goldberg, Mohamed Morsi, and Gil Troy Walk Into A Bar: Two New Posts on OZ

In the first, Jeff Goldberg complains that Egyptian president-elect Mohamed Morsi wouldn’t give him a straight answer on women or Christians in the Egyptian government, and on the same day, it’s announced there’ll be a female vice president and a Christian vie president in Morsi’s government:

On Monday, after Mohamed Morsi had been declared the winner of Egypt’s presidential elections, Jeff Goldberg quoted his interview with Morsi from last year, in which Morsi ducked questions about whether the Muslim Brotherhood could support a Christian or woman for president. Continue reading

Why We (And Especially Lefties) Should Read “Israeli Army Fiction”

In my latest piece for Open Zion, I look at a supposedly racist story in The New Yorker, and I argue that anti-Zionist Phil Weiss cannot read Israeli fiction well because he doesn’t have much moral empathy for Israelis:

I have a fantasy in which I tell all of America about William Empson. Yes, there are more pressing topics than a dead literary critic. But every time a political polemicist badly misreads fiction—as the anti-Zionist writer Phil Weiss has misread Israeli author Shani Boianjiu’s short story (just out in The New Yorker) about IDF soldiers and Palestinian demonstrators—the English major in me cries, and I dream again of subjecting the nation to a semester of Remedial Irony. Because even if New Criticism is not exactly news, Weiss’s inability to parse Israeli art points to an intolerance for the Israeli perspective, a hostility to complexity.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. Weiss quotes disapprovingly the following line from the story, about a gory photograph of an injured Palestinian in Gaza, “The world said that the Israeli Army had done it with artillery fire, but the Israeli Army knew that the family had been killed by a dormant shell that Palestinian militants had left by the sea.” Weiss thinks that’s Hasbara, but he’s wrong.

To find out why he’s wrong—and why it matters—go read the rest.

Welfare Reform? Not For The Orthodox

I’ve stopped posting everything I write for Open Zion, but this piece is important:

I have good news: Commentary now loves poor people’s babies.

This may come as something of a surprise. For decades, the magazine has frightened its conservative readers with Malthusian horrors: “young, often teenaged, unmarried mothers” incentivized by welfare to breed a “permanent underclass.” Welfare, Commentary consistently argues, creates a parallel society, with values so different that “in many welfare families, no one has ever held a regular job,” and children are not “socialized to the world of work.” Hordes of the just-hatched bastards (in the technical sense) rove the streets, preying on vulnerable young Hudson Institute staffers. Not exactly compassionate conservatism.

So what explains the magazine’s Scrooge-like conversion? Well, I left out a word. Actually, Commentary loves poor Orthodox people’s babies.

Jews and Immigration

My latest post at Open Zion addresses American Jews and immigration. Here’s how it starts:

Yesterday, citing a new study from the Workmen’s Circle, Peter asked why American Jews aren’t as pro-immigrant as their leadership (or their history) might suggest. I’m not sure that American Jews are so anti-immigrant. Sure, roughly fifty percent of American Jews supported Arizona’s draconian immigration-enforcement bill in 2010, but so did more than sixty percent of Americans.

Still, I do think Peter has hit on something. You just have to flip the question around and ask: Why is the American Jewish leadership so enthusiastically pro-immigrant? Why have the “congregational arms of all four major branches of Judaism,” among many other national groups, supported a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants?

Go read my answer.

On Wings of Song

Of course, you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but there are covers, and there are covers.

Take Thomas Disch’s On Wings of Song, which was recommended several years ago by John Crowley, who taught me at Yale. Like much of Crowley’s work, On Wings of Song is finely written, richly imagined “science fiction.” The novel, published in 1979 and set in an imagined 21st century America, pirouettes from a Iowan police-state—complete with fundamentalists, horrific termite farms (protein), and neo-feudal manors—to a decadent, unstable, bohemian New York. The protagonist, a sometime singer and frequent sufferer, wants to, through music, depart from his body and fly (as is possible in his day). It’s a very sad novel about, among other things, artistic transcendence, and it is itself, as a result of remarkable artistic control and workmanship, transcendent. Without knowing much about Disch’s life, one can sense that there’s been a remarkable transmutation of autobiography into something far stranger.

And then there’s the cover. Continue reading