In Sam Freedman’s article on The American Council for Judaism, he writes that Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union “parodied Zionism.”
Did it really? That’s not how I read it. And this isn’t the first time I’ve seen Chabon’s book used as evidence of a strain of American anti-Zionism. As Commentary‘s Jonathan Tobin wrote a few weeks ago:
Novelist Michael Chabon is generally coy about his position on the Jewish state. Unlike his wife, writer Ayelet Waldman, Chabon tends to refrain from open anti-Zionism, although as the author of a bestselling novel, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, whose premise was the destruction of the state of Israel soon after its birth and the fanaticism of those who wished to bring it back into existence, it’s not as if his views are much of a mystery.
Which is a little like saying that 1984 is a manifesto urging a fascist takeover of Europe, or that Fahrenhei 451 was an endorsement of censorship.
In the spirit of those and other dystopian novels, Chabon asked us to imagine a world without Israel not as an exercise in wishful thinking, but to demonstrate its historical necessity and the price we’d all pay without it.
The Jewish autonomous region granted Jews in his novel is the anti-Altneuland — grim, soggy, where Jews are once again robbed of their dignity and autonomy, subject to the caprices of a world that cares little about either. It’s a novel lamenting, not endorsing, Jewish powerless.
Chabon’s Alaskan Jewish homeland is a “parody” of Zionism the way Philip Roth’s America under Lindbergh was, in The Plot Against America, a “parody” of America: Both novels demonstrate the absurdities and horrors that would have come about if the Jews’ enemies were given further victories in the 20th century.
But here’s Chabon speaking for himself, if that matters:
“I strongly believe in Israel’s right to exist; but even more, I fear that it is necessary. I have no doubt whatsoever that there is only one regime, one government in the world that can be trusted not to turn its back on Jews.” He adds: “On the other hand, the unreasoning, knee-jerk support for any country, including Israel — the ‘my country right or wrong’ attitude — is utterly alien to me.”