Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Michael Chabon is under fire for a book that is not yet officially in print. Chabon – who is Jewish – writes about a fictional world where the State of Israel was not founded in 1948, and Holocaust survivors find themselves living in Alaska in an uneasy truce with Native Alaskans. But Chabon has dared to write about haredim, noting the corruption and self-serving behaviors common to today's haredi world. For that, Chabon is being attacked.
Is Chabon wrong? No, I don't think so. (But I have not read the book yet, so my endorsement is conditional.) Why is Chabon right? Read these posts. (Please scroll to the bottom of the page and read upward – this is a huge page, so it may take two minutes or so to load.) Also note the book is a mystery, and the hero is also a Jew, two salient facts left off the NY Post hit piece on Chabon titled, "Novelist's Ugly View Of Jews."
The other charge against Chabon is that he creates a world where Jews stage attacks against other Jews in order to increase sympathy for the Zionist movement. These types of allegations were common in 1946 Iraq, in Israel during the 1950s, in Morocco and Algeria, and in other places. Most allegations have been clearly proved false – but not all. Even if they all had been proved false, Chabon is writing a fictional account of a world that never was; he is not writing history.
Mostly, this attack on Chabon appears to come from haredi-connected sources, especially from Chabad sources. Chabad, while not named in Chabon's book, is thought to be the model for his haredim.
Chabad is no stranger to manipulating the book world, and it is rumored that Chabad has launched a new project aimed at influencing and controlling how it – and, by extension, other Orthodox Jews– are represented in books and print. (There's nothing wrong in this per se, as long as the the efforts are ethical and above board. But offering authors money to leave out troubling aspects of Chabad's history and the like cross the line, as do hit pieces that distort the authors clear intent. Chabad is guilty of both. A favorite Chabad tactic is to promise an author speaking engagements across the world at Chabad events – if the author will tailor his or her book to Chabad's requirements. This is what happened to Bryan Mark Rigg, as Rigg himself notes. Similar offers were made to Sue Fischkoff – although she publicly denies this.)
Those of us that care about good literature or truthful history should stand up for Chabon. A good way to do that is to pre-order The Yiddish Policeman's Union from Amazon.com. Please do it today.