Monday, June 19, 2017

Review of 'Kingdom of Olives and Ash': Immoral Equivalence, Distortions and Half-truths

...There’s one glimmer of hope in the book, in an essay called “Occupied Words,” by the Norwegian novelist Lars Saabye Christensen. Christensen reflects on a sad reality: “You can talk matter-of-factly about ISIS…but as soon as you talk about Israel, the tone is different, implacable, loud. Comparisons are made with South Africa. Comparisons are made with the Nazis. Anything can be said about Israel. And there’s a lack of proportion or a blind spot, in this increasingly hateful language, in which anti-Semitism appears as a shadow, a trace, a rumor being spread.” His fellow essayists in Kingdom of Olives and Ash prove Christensen right. Even—or maybe especially—in intellectual circles, anything can be said about Israel. Horrified readers should break their silence.

Daniella J. Greenbaum..
Commentary Magazine..
14 June '17..

In March 2004, a group of Israel Defense Force soldiers founded Breaking the Silence, a nongovernmental organization ostensibly seeking to hold the military to its own stated standards of warfighting conduct. In theory, such a group could serve an important role in checking abuses. In practice, however, Breaking the Silence is something different. It has dubious sources of funding, pursues explicitly leftist political aims, and routinely misrepresents facts to paint Israel in the worst possible light.

Kingdom of Olives and Ash, a new collection of essays edited by Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman, features 26 different writers—all of whom visited Israel on delegations organized by Breaking the Silence. The book is a latticework of propaganda, pieced together by distortions and half-truths. The writers are talented, so there are no misplaced commas even though there are plenty of misguided ideas. The felicitous, compelling prose that makes this collection so readable is precisely what makes it so dangerous.

In their introduction, the married novelists Chabon and Waldman explain that they had long avoided the conflict: “Horrified and bewildered by the blur of violence and destruction, of reprisal and counter-reprisal and counter-counter-reprisal, put off by the dehumanizing rhetoric prevalent on both sides; we did what so many others in the ambivalent middle have done: we averted our gaze.” This claim is belied by the fact that Chabon wrote a novel 10 years ago featuring an entire counter-history of the Jewish state, while Waldman, the daughter of a Sabra émigré, has spent a decade fulminating about Israel’s misdeeds on social media.

No, Chabon and Waldman are neither ambivalent nor in the middle.

(Continue to Full Review)

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