Howard Jacobson is Jewish. He’s a writer who is quite successful. But don''t get too enjoyed over his success for he is a Jewish writer who sought to be too clever by half despite a major slash he cut this year directed at those English citizens who "belong to the tribe", like these, who seek to downgrade and degrade Israel. As
Jacobson fearlessly broke with the politics of the literary and arts world by decrying the ascent of acceptable anti-Semitism in Britain and, even more bravely, made it clear that fashionable anti-Zionism is just a gussied-up version of the older hatred. Indeed, these themes are at the center of The Finkler Question, which is why his victory was so unexpected, not only to him but to everyone else as well.Jews who are funny, who have the flare of the comic in them, the smart, snotty and flippant variety, are a problem. For them, the case usually is, the most funniest topics and situations they can make fun of are Jewish ones, and in quite a negative sense, sryle and misconstrued content.Now, I am not against making fun of one’s self, or family or the whole gantzeh tribe. But when Howard Jacobson, author of “The Finkler Question”, which won this year’s Man Booker Prize, takes on Hanukkah, with expected results, it is all so disappointing, and frustrating. And yes, it makes one angry.In his Hanukkah, Rekindled, written in Dublin of all places, and published in New York of clal locations (but in the New York Times, and we all know whazt that means), he makes this point:
...But how many Jews truly feel this narrative as their own?...Hanukkah — at least the way it’s told — struggles to find a path to Jewish hearts...it doesn’t quite feel authentic. Isn’t there something a touch suspicious, for example, about our defeating the Syrian-Greek army? It lacks equivocation...Exodus played to our strengths. Similarly, Esther — who had married out of the faith, remember — turning the tables on Haman. In our best stories, we lose a little to gain a little. We use our heads. Trouncing the Syrian-Greeks sounds worryingly like wish fulfillment...Of course, being a galut Jew, it doesn''t occur to him that it is not wish fulfillment but motivation to fulfill our national responsibilities and obligations. Heaven forbid that Jacobson should think of the IDF in this context, not to mention (he is British, you know) the Irgun, Lechi or Palmah.A Jew a soldier? A hero? A brave, self-sacrificing individual? And tens of thousands of them now? Jacobson can''t be proud of that so he puts down the who thing with a smirk.And he adds:
...The cruel truth is that Hanukkah is a seasonal festival of light in search of a pretext and as such is doomed to be forever the poor relation of Christmas. No comparable grandeur in the singing, no comparable grandeur in the giving, no comparable grandeur in the commemoration (no matter how solemn and significant the events we are remembering...those Hasmoneans — who sound too hot for this time of the year — don’t have a chance of engaging our imaginations.Irony?Mr. Jacobson, that even isn''t sardonic wit.It''s a manifesto of the League of Trembling Israelites who are embarrassed by their own kith and kin and our heritage and tradition. So what’s to be done? Either Hanukkah should merge with Christmas — a suggestion against which the arguments are more legion even than the Syrian-Greek army — or it should be spiced up with the sort of bitter irony at which the Jewish people excel. He is upset that our Jewish festive period is “Doomed to be forever the poor relation of Christmas” was the point that the New Yorker highlighted.But in a saving development, the next day, three letters were published at the NYTimes that reduced Jacobson to the level of an ignoramus (no presents on Chanukkah?)
Why did Jacobson write that piece that way? Is that hsi real thinking or did he seek to align himself with the paper''s character?
Just this past October, Jacobson expressed this opinion:
"Sincerity and charm aren''t the only measures. There is also seriousness. If you are going to weigh in on matters of religion…and expect to be listened to, you can''t turn yourself into a pantomime grouch. Where the subjects are grave, it behoves you to have gravitas."
Specifically on Israel, he wrote this last April:
"Where peace is the prize…topographical niceties are not only brutally irrelevant, they are counterproductive. Never mind the rights and wrongs of it, in politics you must sometimes swallow your conviction of rectitude."
And he wrote this, too:
"Fanatical and uninformed anti-Zionism of the sort that peppers the letters pages of serious newspapers has much to answer for morally and intellectually, but the most serious charge against it is that while it satisfies the self-righteousness of its propounders, it does little to help those it calls victims, and still less to persuade those it calls oppressors."
As Contentions blogger J Tobin noted, Jacobson’s piece:
"Illustrates that even a British Jew immune to the self-hating anti-Zionism so prevalent in the UK is still incapable of taking pride in remembrance of a successful struggle for political and religious freedom. It’s as if even Jacobson can’t fathom the idea that Jews aren’t supposed to be the victims in every story.
Why do Jews have to be their own worse enemy? What smug self-satisfaction titillates them so? Is it prestige to be invited by the NYTimes to knock your family and friends for a laugh (or a pretty penny)?