Michael Chabon is a novelist who in 1988, in his mid twenties, shot to fame – or, at least, shot to that rather more modest commodity known as literary fame – with a novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh. I vaguely remember reading it. I think I reviewed it. I don't remember if I liked it. I can't imagine I loved it, because I think I'd remember that. I see from his Wikipedia page that he's written several other books since then, but none of them has made it onto my radar, even though I review literary fiction and talk regularly to friends who do the same thing and who tell me about new books they're excited about.
In any event, Chabon is still out there, and the other day, thanks to several of my Facebook friends, I became aware of a new article he'd written under the title “An Open Letter to Our Fellow Jews.” The piece wasn't actually addressed to all of his fellow Jews – it was meant for those Jews who voted for Donald Trump and who have continued to back him even though his administration is, in Chabon's words, packed with “white supremacist[s], anti-Semite[s], neo-Nazi[s] [and] crypto-fascist[s],” and even though Trump has a “long and appalling record of racist statements.” Despite this execrable record, maintained Chabon, Trump's Jewish supporters have continued to make excuses for him and to argue that however bad it may look, Trump isn't really an anti-Semite.
Well, Chabon insisted, such rationalizations are no longer possible. Trump's Charlottesville remarks were definitive, demonstrating unequivocally that our President's heart lies with the Nazis: “So now you know. First he went after immigrants, the poor, Muslims, trans people and people of color, and you did nothing....Now he’s coming after you. The question is: what are you going to do about it? If you don’t feel, or can’t show, any concern, pain or understanding for the persecution and demonization of others, at least show a little self-interest.”
As noted, I became aware of Chabon's screed because Facebook friends of mine posted a link to it. The friends in question are New York Jews – and as far as they were concerned, Chabon was right on the money. A friend of one of these friends dared to offer a sane dissent: “I am a proud Jew and consider myself a Zionist. I have never heard our president utter a single anti semitic remark, as opposed to the left.” As for Israel, it has “never had a better friend, unlike Mr. Obama who trounced on Israel at every turn.” Verdict: absolutely true. But one of the Jews who've drunk the Kool-Aid wasn't having it. “Keep supporting Nazis and the KKK,” she wrote. “Be proud.”
Do American Jews really believe that there is a sizable Nazi or KKK presence in the United States that represents a serious threat to them? Does Chabon? Chabon professes to deplore Trump in part because “he went after...Muslims.” By what trick of the mind do Chabon and those who agree with him shut out the almost weekly reminders of whom Muslims are going after? Chabon's piece appeared on August 17, the very day of the Barcelona terrorist attack – after which the chief rabbi of that city, Meir Bar-Hen, told the Jerusalem Post that “Jews are not here permanently....I tell my congregants: Don’t think we’re here for good. And I encourage them to buy property in Israel. This place is lost. Better [get out] early than late.”
Bar-Hen wasn't just talking about Barcelona. “Europe is lost,” he said by way of clarification. He's far from alone in this view. Jewish leaders across Europe have been saying the same thing for years – and Jewish families from all over the continent, recognizing that they have no future there, have been emigrating in increasing numbers to Israel as well as to countries like the U.S., Canada, and Australia. They're doing so because of the pro-Muslim – and effectively anti-Jewish – policies pursued by their governments, which, when it comes to such matters, are ideologically on exactly the same page as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. This weekend, a poll found that a third of British Jews feel so unsafe in the U.K. that they've considered emigrating while “almost four in 10 say they hide their faith for fear of antisemitic attacks.”
Last November, when I attended a conference in Rome for Friends of Israel, the Italian Jews I spoke to afterwards about Donald Trump's recent election victory were ecstatic about it: they had heard Obama's Cairo speech, they knew about his Iran deal, they were aware of Hillary's lucrative financial dealings with various Islamic governments, and (like Benjamin Netanyahu) they recognized in Trump a man who's not afraid to speak the truth about Islam and who's a real friend of Jews and the Jewish state. For Europe's Jews, the danger of Islam is a palpable everyday reality. Neo-Nazism, while hardly widespread in Europe, is more common there than in the U.S.; but European Jews don't leave their homes in the morning worrying about being attacked by neo-Nazis.
I hardly know what to make of Jews in New York and elsewhere in North America who, all these years after 9/11, still delude themselves into thinking – or, for some reason, feel obliged to pretend – that neo-Nazis and the KKK are the real existential threats to their existence. If this belief is sincere, it strikes me as absolutely reflexive, unthinking – and, needless to say, dangerous. I suppose these people have spent so much of their lives being marinated in leftism, so many years soaking in every word of the New York Times and taking it as gospel, that the truth has become clouded in cant. And even if they can see the truth, the idea of acknowledging it aloud feels to them too much like sheer bigotry.
I can only encourage these confused souls to pay less attention to fatuous characters like Michael Chabon and more attention to the experiences of their co-religionists in Europe. Seventy-five years ago the Nazis were the Jews' real enemy, determined to rid Europe of their presence; this time around, however uncomfortable it may be to admit it around certain dinner tables in certain deep-blue neighborhoods of certain American cities, the enemy is jihadist Islam, whose followers are every bit as committed to the extermination of the Jews as any Nazi ever was. All I can say to those Jews who nodded in agreement as they read Chabon's ridiculous jeremiad is this: face the plain and simple facts, or be prepared to endure the consequences of your denial.