The Return of Moral Fiction

This past weekend I was in Washington, D.C., to teach a seminar on “American Jewish Fiction and American Jewish Identity” to an a parliament of rabbinical students from the three major branches of American Judaism. Very quickly I was instructed in an important lesson. Literary discussions invariably crumble into a quarrel over first principles, because no one shares any these days. On one side was the postmodern resistance to what one student (a Brown grad) called “the tyranny of the author”; on the other side, an even stiffer resistance to any source of authority outside “Our sages, may their memory be blessed.” One side did not care what an American author had to say about any topic on which the Talmud might be consulted instead (“Who cares what [Cynthia] Ozick says about idolatry?” a young Orthodox Jew cried); the other side did not believe that authors really say anything at all.

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The Return of Moral Fiction

Must-Reads from Magazine

Salaita, Out

Sympathy deferred.

I have written before about Steven Salaita. Once a tenured professor of English at Virginia Tech, he resigned from that position on the strength of an offer from the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign to serve in the American Indian Studies program. But in the summer of 2014, UIUC rescinded the offer, mainly over of a series of reprehensible Salaita tweets.

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Syria’s Forsaken Rebels

Has Washington given up on Syria?

Last week, I wrote about one of the troublesome byproducts of the Trump-Putin summit in Hamburg: a ceasefire in southwestern Syria that Israel worries will entrench Iranian control of that area bordering the Israeli Golan Heights. The day after my article came out, the Washington Post reported on another troubling decision that President Trump has made vis a vis Syria: Ending a CIA program that had provided arms and training to anti-Assad forces.

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The Democratic Party’s False Centrism

It's a duck.

Democrats are finally digging out of the wreckage the Obama years wrought, and are beginning to acknowledge the woes they visited upon themselves with their box-checking identity liberalism. So, yes, the opposition is moving forward in the Trump area, but toward what? Schizophrenia, apparently.

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Challenging Violent Speech—Unless It’s About Israel

The border of incitement.

The idea that speech can itself constitute an act of violence grows ever more popular among the left’s leading polemicists. They argue that employing a politically incorrect word can be triggering; that the wrong gender pronoun can provoke; that words and sentences and parts of speech are all acts of aggression in disguise. The left seeks to stop this violence, or less euphemistically: to silence this speech.

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Russian Undressing: An Explanation

Podcast: How bad is it?

On the first of this week’s COMMENTARY podcasts, Noah Rothman and Abe Greenwald join me to sort through—and we do it systematically, which is a first for us—what is going on with the Russia investigation and how it divides into three categories. There’s the question of the probe itself, there’s the question of collusion, and there’s the question of obstruction of justice. It’s really good. I mean it. Give a listen.

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