The Shamelessness of Ayelet Waldman

In her recent eyewitness account in The Atlantic Monthly, ‘The Shame of Shuhuda Street’, Israeli-born and North American-raised writer, Ayelet Waldman, wife of Pulitzer-Prize winning novelist and screenwriter Michael Chabon, breaks “her silence” to expose what she perceives as intransigent Israeli policies in the West Bank city of Hebron,.

Were it not for the remarkable timing of its appearance the article would be notable only for her claim to have witnessed through her car window a litany of human rights transgressions that on close examination amount to nothing.

Nonetheless, by regrettable but telling coincidence Waldman’s article also happens to precede by mere days the truly horrifying abduction by Hamas operatives of three Israeli teenagers from the very same Hebron area that she reports from. Shortly after, Hamas launched its rocket campaign against Israel’s civilian centers, precipitating Israel’s Operation Protective Edge.

That unfortunate sequence of events amplifies.Waldmans article into something far more than mere sanctimonious breast-beating by a mid-list novelist, and renders her piece emblematic of the very ugly symbiosis that has come to pass between the Israel-bashing pronouncements of the American Jewish culturati and the harsh, bloody realities of the perpetual terrorist siege laid to the Jewish State.

In fact, the unfortunate timing of Waldman’s article and the abduction and murder shortly thereafter of Israeli teens by Hamas operatives is such that if one didn’t know better one could imagine some sort of well-coordinated operational propaganda link between The People’s Republic of Berkeley, where Chabon and Waldman make their home, and the Hamas terrorist apparatus in the West Bank.

Of course, nothing of the sort exists. Yet one cannot ignore the fact that expressions of the sort of specious and faddish hostility expressed in Waldman’s article– reflective of the views of an entire strata of the American Jewish progressive intelligentsia — contributes in its own small way to an atmosphere conducive to the sort of heinous crimes committed by Hamas, and even to assaults on Jews from Kansas City to Berlin.

But first to the Waldman article’s tour of West Bank horrors.

She is outraged to discover in Kiryat Arba, a settlement on the outskirts of Hebron, that the occasional visitor still leaves commemorative stones at a monument dedicated to Baruch Goldstien, a mentally ill army reservist who, in 1994, in an act condemned throughout Israel, and by Jews everywhere, killed a number of Palestinians at their prayers.

Angrily she brushes the stones from the monument –mass murderers ought not to be honored–and then worries that a passing Israeli army patrol will find cause in this gesture to arrest her. Of course, they simply drive past.Waldman who, nonetheless, paints the scene with atmospheric tension. This sort of non-encounter with the IDF, in which nothing occurs, is a commonplace right-of-passage among intrusive activists from abroad descending on the territories to “make their bones” as Progressive heroes. In fact, the IDF could care less about Ayelet Waldman. Probably the passing patrol were pondering from which Arab shopkeeper to purchase ice cream cones.

Extemporizing about the mass-murderer Goldstein, Waldman seems to lay blame for his lunatic act directly at the feet of any and all Israeli governments—which government serving in which period evidently doesn’t matter–as though Goldstein was no less then the avenging sword of all Israeli territorial policy, past, present and future.

That Goldman was simply a nut who acted, nearly twenty years ago, no differently then mass murderers do today, nearly every day, in Waldman’s adopted American home never really occurs to her.

Moreover, in her piece, Waldman waxes indignant over store fronts along Shuhuda Street that have been welded shut since 2000 and that no one from any side has any real interest in seeing reopened. She is furious that at an IDF checkpoint she was asked for identification papers. And lastly she is filled with Zola-like wrath at the fear she claims to have beheld in the eyes of two Palestinian children exiting from a doorway on Shuhuda Street. She concludes her car tour of Hebron with a hummus and salad sit-down lunch with the professional peace activists who chauffeured her around.

Based on such flimsy stuff she bravely decides, as is declared at the articles end, to break her silence, go public in a big way with her outrage.

The truth however is that regarding Israel, Ayelet Waldman has never really shut up.

On the Peace Now website she is quoted at length, including such remarks as: “I believe it is appropriate for Jews from the Diaspora to express opinions about the situation in Israel, particularly when it comes to the kind of truly surprising aggression that we have seen lately…” and by her own admission, owning that she has a rather long history of taking a public stand against Israel: “”When I debate issues of Israel I am sometimes accused of being naive.”

If Waldman is the B-Team of the Israel-phobic literary set, the A-Team includes husband Michael Chabon, the playwright Tony Kushner, cultural historians Tony Judt and Norman Finklestein, Tikkun editor Michael Lerner and the popular linguist and political theorist Noam Chomsky.

For years their constant Israel-bashing, piously hinted at or openly expressed in writings and on the lecture circuit, has persuaded some American Jews, shaken by the tough realities of a seemingly intractable conflict, to divest themselves of faith in the Jewish State and to frame doing so as some sort of brave moral act.

In the corridors of national literary magazines, in the pews of synagogues, in the halls of academe, a mounting sense of disgust with Israel, buoyed by the literary set, has displaced history and reason with progressive cant; a childish denial of the reality of the homicidal lethality of Hamas’s determination to not merely settle for a State of their own but to win for themselves all of Israel, from the seashore to Jordan.

If Waldman’s Atlantic article is her play to become a poster child for the growing American Jewish anti-Israel exodus it has sadly failed. The recent war in Gaza has brought back some deserters, horrified at the spectacle of Israeli children cringing under school desks and elderly women stretched face down on city streets as the Hamas rockets fell.

The recent Hamas murder campaign has persuaded at least some of the unfaithful that Israel is, after all, fighting for no less then its very life and not, as Waldman and her Harry Potterized cronies believe, to satisfy the aspirations of land-hungry ideological zealots.


About the Author
Alan Kaufman is an American-Israeli novelist and memoirist. His latest novel, The Berlin Woman, has just been published by Mandel Vilar Press. His other books include the novels Matches (Little Brown) the memoirs Jew Boy (Cornell University Press) and Drunken Angel (Viva Editions).
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