On Michael Levy’s inadvertently revealing Strange Horizons book review of Israeli SF writer Lavie Tidhar’s alternative history novel Osama

There is a book review at the widely followed Strange Horizons of Lavie Tidhar’s 2011 novel Osama, by academic Michael Levy that is very telling, even if inadvertently so. It is from September 2011, reviewed on the week of the ten year anniversary of the 9-11 attacks.

Tidhar’s Osama has surely been his most heavily praised novel so far, and even earned Tidhar a Kitchies, BSFA and Campbell Memorial nomination. It’s an alternative history, apparently bearing a lot of similarities to P K Dick’s The Man in the High Castle. I have not read Osama so can’t give an opinion one way or the other on this novel.

So I have no idea – given Tidhar’s left-wing progressive and pro-Arabist politics – whether the novel’s political bent would grate on those of us not given to moral and cultural relativism and related, or not. Perhaps, perhaps not. Remember I have clashed a fair bit with Lavie “the Palestinians have become the true Jews” Tidhar over the contents of my blog (to put it mildly!); much of it revolving around Tidhar personally, and his fellow ‘progressive’ genre mates likewise.

Things would reach a nadir when Tidhar falsely accused me of e-mailing him a death threat! I replied to that dense and perverse misreading and slander on my person over here. This stand-alone article of mine on Tidhar is also pertinent and it has links to other previous articles Tidhar related and relevant. The final article of mine in my series on the anti-Semite Australian liberal genre writer Anna Tambour, in which Tidhar features heavily (if you want to know why just read the article), is pivotal to getting the whole non-existent ‘death threat’ brouhaha. That article was published online at my blog, the same day I sent Tidhar that e-mail. Naturally Tidhar didn’t bother mentioning that, even though it is central, fundamental to what I was getting at with my figurative ‘dead and buried’ line. That is my clear allusion to Tidhar’s political credibility being dead and buried. Well of course Tidhar didn’t mention any of that.

Getting back to the theme of this article, the book review of Osama by Michael Levy; there are  a few excerpts from Levy’s review of Osama that are pertinent here, so I comment on them below.

Levy writes:

Tidhar points out, for example, that far more Iraqis and other citizens of the Middle East have died as a result of the War on Terror than have Americans and Europeans.

Firstly, Tidhar and Levy echoing Tidhar are wrong here and in a way that is indicative of the worst of the Left’s outrageous and odious lying propaganda. Yes more Iraqis have been killed in the chaos and conflict since the US/British invasion of Iraq in 2003 than were killed on 9-11 and other terror attacks on US citizens by Al-Qaeda. However that’s because the majority of those killed in Iraq, were killed by their fellow Iraqis and foreign jihadists (from places like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Libya and elsewhere in the Muslim world). This whole odious and obtuse Big Lie about American and allied forces killing tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians has its roots in a Lancet ‘study’ published in October 2006.

It turned out the ‘study’ included largely fabricated data and was heavily distorted by ‘researchers’ with a clearly biased and skewed political agitprop agenda. In fact it was not only a clear misrepresentation of the facts, but predicated on outright lies. The elephant in the room, the fact that the tragedy of violence in Iraq post the US invasion was and remains fueled by an IRAQI CIVIL WAR, was simply ignored by Lancet and those parroting Lancet‘s nonsense.

You know the civil war between Sunnis and Shi’ites, Baathists and the various Shi’ite factions themselves. The bombings of markets, police stations, government buildings, mosques, hospitals, traffic and roadside intersections and security checkpoints and the like were and are carried out by these respective factions. The kidnappings, torture and killings of bureaucrats, diplomats, trade union organizers, policemen, teachers, doctors, academics by these home-grown Iraqi jiahdists, Baathists and foreign Islamist jihadists alike has destroyed any vestige of ordinary civilian life in Iraq. There has also been the murders of homosexuals, honor killings and the killings of Christians for being Christian. The bloodletting, bombings and killings go on and the Americans and British forces have now departed (the recent killings of ’emo’ teenagers alone in Iraq is a tragedy worth recounting). Tidhar goes along with Lancet’s Big Lie and those echoing this Big Lie. Levy seconds it all naturally enough.

You would think American army and marine engineers and British sappers were planting roadside bombs everywhere and Apache gunships and F-15s were bombing and straffing Iraqi shopping markets, mosques, police stations and municipal buildings going by this Big Lie. A lie as outrageous as it is taken for common unquestioned ‘wisdom’ among the Left.

As Jeff Jacoby reported (from link above):

National Journal took a close look under the hood of the Lancet/Johns Hopkins study. Reporters Neil Munro and Carl M. Cannon found that it was marred by grave flaws, such as unsupervised Iraqi survey teams, and survey samples that were too small to be statistically valid.

The study’s authors refused to release most of their underlying data so other researchers could double-check it. The single disk they finally, grudgingly, supplied contained suspicious evidence of “data-heaping” – that is, fabricated numbers. Researchers failed to gather basic demographic data from those they interviewed, a key safeguard against fraud.

“They failed to do any of the [routine] things to prevent fabrication,” Fritz Scheuren, vice president for statistics at the National Opinion Research Center, told the reporters.

Bad as the study’s methodological defects were, its political taint was worse:

Much of the funding for the study came from the Open Society Institute of leftist billionaire George Soros, a strident critic of the Iraq war who, as Munro and Cannon point out, “spent $30 million trying to defeat Bush in 2004.”

The later WikiLeaks affair in 2010 would only ironically confirm Lancet‘s nakedly dishonest propaganda effort here, entirely inadvertently of course.

Effectively Lancet and the liberal media parroting the Lancet report and similar reports predicated on the same ‘logic’, when not fabricating mortality statistics out of whole cloth, are guilty of blaming Iraqi civilian casualties in toto – in reality the majority of these dead and wounded caused by faction fighting and terror in an Iraqi civil war – on the US and allied armed forces. Yes the US and UK armed forces are responsible for the deaths of civilians in Iraq, yet the majority – by a long shot – were caused by Sunnis and Shi’ites, Iraqi and foreign jihadists slaughtering one another and their perceived supporters in Iraq, real or imagined. One hopes for Levy’s and Tidhar’s sake that they don’t lump the deaths of jihadists and Baathist combatants killed by US and allied forces in with those of civilians, as the victims of terror.

For the record I always opposed the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, and was on record in this respect at the now defunct Asimov’s Magazine Forum.

Here is some further harebrained gibberish from Levy’s review:

Tidhar’s unusual perspective (from the Western point of view at least) as an Israeli, a person whose country has been a constant nexus of terrorist violence, both against Israelis and by them, as a seasoned traveler who has lived extensively in parts of the non-western world, and as someone who has accidentally had a number of close brushes with terrorism, makes it possible for him to recognize how complex the issues involved are and, without condoning terrorist violence, see the terrorists as real people, neither entirely evil nor entirely heroic, to some extent themselves victims of the very terrorist acts they perpetrate.

Levy with the usual odious moral equivalence, typical of the Western liberal. Israel has been a victim of jihadist terror (wow Levy as an American Jewish Leftist even recognizes that Israeli Jews are targeted for death by jihadists! That’s something). Of course he then makes it clear that he doesn’t see Israel as any better than its fascist jihadist enemies motivated by genocidal Jew-hatred, since Israel is equally guilty of terrorism in Levy’s eyes. What terrorism exactly Levy (and Tidhar for that matter)? Where and when exactly Levy and what is your source in this respect? Hey why bother with evidence when it’s standard Leftist ‘reasoning’ to accuse the Jews oh I mean the Jew Nation of willful terrorism sans evidence.

Does Levy mean the deliberate killing of an innocent Palestinian boy on the first day of the intifada that began in 2000, that was used to spark the flames of fury and hate against Israel and the Jews? Namely the blood libel that is the notorious Mohammed Al Durah affair – the killing of a Palestinian boy that never happened, that was faked by the liberal French media in cooperation with the Palestinians. Does Levy mean the massacre of Palestinians at Jenin in 2002 by the IDF? A massacre that never happened, that was entirely fabricated, a lie sold by the Palestinian Authority and eagerly propagated by the Western media telling their anti-Semitic readers and viewers what they were so desperate to believe. Once again as with the Mohammed Al Durah affair, it was a lie eagerly swallowed and sold by the left-wing media. Does Levy mean the Gaza Beach libel of 2006, when IDF artillery was blamed for Palestinian civilian casualties caused by Hamas planted landmines? A libel eagerly sold by genre writer China Mieville no less?

Does Levy mean the Palestinian and Lebanese civilians used as human shields by the likes of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah respectively in their war against the Jews? As international humanitarian law recognize that it is a war crime to intentionally and cynically use civilians as human shields, blaming Israel for any such casualties is tantamount to laying the blame for war crimes committed by Muslim jihadist groups on Israel itself, the Jews in other words. This is not only perversely hypocritical it is also anti-Jewish prejudice pure and simple.

Does Levy mean the death of the American Rachel Corrie of the anti-Semitic and jihadist supporting left-wing group The International Solidarity Movment/ISM? Corrie died the martyr’s death the ISM were seeking, by putting herself in front of a moving IDF bulldozer burying tunnels used by Hamas to smuggle explosives and weaponry, to kill the Jews let’s not forget. In other words, Corrie gave her life resisting Israeli efforts to stifle and curtail Hamas’s openly stated jihad to kill Jews. She is a hero to anti-Israel Leftists and their fellow anti-Zionists, neo-Nazis and Muslim extremists alike. Levy doesn’t inform us if that’s what he means by Israeli terror.

Wonder if Levy and Tidhar for that matter even have a clue about what I reveal in the above three paragraphs (along with most all of my critics)? Levy doesn’t back his claim of Jewish terror with anything, and why would he? It’s a given assumption among the anti-Israel Left (most likely Levy’s majority readership at Strange Horizons) that the Jew nation is routinely guilty of terror and oppression. Facts and evidence are distinctly not needed, and definitely not welcome.

Asserting as Levy does, that Tidhar has some kind of special insight into jihadist terrorism by virtue of the latter being an expat Israeli living in the West, is illogical and harebrained. There are other expat Israelis living outside of Israel who beg to differ on Tidhar’s views of terrorism and jihad, and Israel for that matter, and harshly so. Yet Levy ignores this obvious objection to the supposed veracity and profundity of Tidhar’s political philosophy, the better to endorse Tidhar’s worldview, no matter the transparent illogic used to do so by Levy.

Now here is a killer quote from Levy’s review, even as it is so ho-hum predictable with the “intellectual” Left:

Adding to the impact of the ending is the author’s willingness to show us that, as Noam Chomsky so succinctly stated, “It’s close to a historical universal that the term ‘terror’ is used for their terror against us and our clients, not our terror against them.”

Here is what I have written on Chomsky elsewhere at this blog in my clash with the harshly anti-Israel Jew and Nick Mamatas suck-up genre fan Mark Pontin (pasted again in part below):

That Noam Chomsky gave his support to Hezbollah (to be specific the arming of Hezbollah in fact a few months prior to the Hezbollah-Israel war of 2006, that would see Hezbollah rockets rain down on Israeli civilian population centers) and Chomsky has said things like “I see no anti-Semitic implications in denial of the existence of gas chambers, or even denial of the Holocaust… ” The latter relates to the whole Robert Faurisson affair in France.

Chomsky stated in an interview here with Al Manar TV on 13 May 2006:

Hezbollah’s insistence on keeping its arms is justified… I think [Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan] Nasrallah has a reasoned argument and [a] persuasive argument that they [the arms] should be in the hands of Hezbollah as a deterrent to potential aggression, and there is plenty of background reasons for that. So until – I think his position [is] reporting it correctly and it seems to me [a] reasonable position, is that until there is a general political settlement in the region, [and] the threat of aggression and violence is reduced or eliminated, there has to be a deterrent, and the Lebanese army can’t be a deterrent.”

Never mind what lying slurs Chomsky writes about Israel and his whitewashing of Islamist tyranny (when not clearly supporting it), that’s a whole other thing… . Chomsky’s books are advertised on neo-Nazi websites, at white supremacist rallies and on Muslim extremist sites as well. Even the late Osama Bin Laden recommended him! Chomsky was exposed for his friendly associations with Holocaust Denying fascists in France like Serge Thion and Pierre Guillaume, but most notably Robert Faurisson. Faurissson is one of the most notorious Holocaust Deniers and anti-Semitic fascists in France. Chomsky wrote an approving preface to one of Faurisson’s books in which Faurisson was unambiguous on his Holocaust Denial and a lot more ugly anti-Semitism besides. In Chomsky’s glowing preface to the book, Chomsky wrote that he saw Faurisson as a “relatively apolitical liberal”. Chomsky wrote to Australian historian Bill Rubinstein (1980/1) justifying his associations with Faurisson:

I see no anti-Semitic implications in denial of the existence of gas chambers, or even denial of the Holocaust…”  and “I see no hint of anti-Semitic implications in Faurisson’s work…”

See Werner Cohn’s essay, ‘Partners in Hate: Noam Chomsky and the Holocaust Deniers’ for the extensive details here. http://www.wernercohn.com/Chomsky.html

Also see the writings of W Rubinstein, Edward Alexander, Nadine Fresco and Rachel Neuwirth here.

Chomsky and his cult lie about the Faurisson affair as a freedom of speech issue to this day. Freedom of speech had nothing to do with it of course, it’s simply a disingenuous straw man.

Chomsky also gave us these gems… (from http://www.paulbogdanor.com/chomsky/quotes.html )

The Jewish community here is deeply totalitarian. They do not want democracy, they do not want freedom.”
(Interview, Shmate: A Journal of Progressive Jewish Thought, Summer 1988)

Jews in the US are the most privileged and influential part of the population… privileged people want to make sure they have total control, not just 98% control. That’s why antisemitism is becoming an issue.”
(Variant, Scotland, Winter 2002)

There is plenty more where that came from.

End of pasted excerpt.

Can Levy tell us why he takes a harshly anti-Semitic and clearly insane jihadist terrorist supporting Jew (Chomsky is insane by the very fact that he give his support to the arming of those self-admitted Muslim fundamentalists openly dedicated to the liquidation of all Jewry, Chomsky included) seriously on uh terrorism and one assumes on Israel related political matters? Or anything else for that matter? Which other anti-Semitic Jews and their expositions on terror and politics does Levy admire? Chomsky’s mate and fellow Hezbollah supporter Norman Finkelstein? Who knows? No of course Levy would never answer these questions! And what are Tidhar’s views, on this lying anti-Semitic ‘Jew’ Noam Chomsky? What do you think?

As I say I have not read Osama, but given Lavie “the Palestinians have become the true Jews” Tidhar’s relentlessly dishonest and obscene anti-Israelism and associated persistent pro-Arabist Islamist whitewashing and historical revisionism; and Levy’s positive review here (and Levy’s odious paint-by-the-numbers harebrained liberal politics dissected above), the political posturings and conceits of Osama may well be of the superficial and masochistic. Of course this is just speculation on my part. Tidhar himself, aside from his endorsement of the moral and cultural relativism that is de rigueur in contemporary liberal discourse, is so obviously clueless of the real dynamics and roots of the hateful and irrational ‘religious’ Islamist dogma and the terror and oppression it inspires.

Let us not miss this: amidst the whole so-called ‘death threat’ e-mail brouhaha; Tidhar obscenely denies any anti-Semitism on writer China Mieville’s part, despite the mountains of indisputable evidence I presented in this regard, in an eleven part series on the latter! Instead Tidhar shoots the messenger. Tidhar wrote:

“This person has been blogging increasingly rabid, if incoherent, posts about China Mieville and Nick Mamatas but has recently latched on to me.”

And so we couldn’t expect Tidhar’s much praised Osama to begin to get to grips with the real facts of Muslim extremism and terror. It would not be out of a willful and cynical silence or non-disclosure on Tidhar’s part. It is simply that Tidhar and Levy and fellow ‘progressive’ political travelers are utterly clueless about the foundations of Muslim fundamentalism, its history and the bigoted religious dogma underpinning that history and its contemporary tragic dimensions. The likes of Tidhar and Levy don’t know and don’t want to know. Any more than they want to acknowledge the base and indisputable anti-Semitism that courses like a thick muddy river through the Western liberal mind. Hardly. As Levy’s review shows, Levy can only shill for and endorse the political sentiments of one of the most notoriously dishonest anti-Semitic Jews around, Noam Chomsky.

On Tidhar’s odious comment, “the Palestinians have become the true Jews”, it’s worth a fisking (from an article Tidhar wrote for the Jewish Daily Forward, perversely titled ‘Remembering how to be a Jew’!). That’s the self-same Palestinians who overwhelmingly voted for Hamas in the municipal elections in 2006, explained away by the anti-Semitic Left as a vote against the corruption of Fatah, as if the Palestinians don’t know what a vote for Hamas means! and as if Fatah are not extremist! The Palestinians whose ‘moderate’ leadership, Fatah and the Palestinian Authority praise suicide bombers and terrorists as glorious martyrs in their mosques and in their media, who teach Palestinian children that Jews are subhuman unbelievers in their schools and kindergartens. That’s just Fatah, whose prime minister Mahmoud Abbas’s  university thesis endorsed Holocaust Denial, who praises jihadist terrorists – suicide bombers among them – to the skies and who is the leader of an organization that calls for the destruction of Israel on its constitution. Then again Abbas is the successor to Yasser Arafat, who remained an unrepentant jihadist to his dying day. And I haven’t even gotten onto Hamas and Islamic Jihad! Fatah unveils a statue to a mass murdering terrorist in downtown Ramallah. Palestinians cheered as Saddam Hussein’s scuds raining down on Israel in the Gulf War of ’91. Surveys of Palestinians have shown widespread support for jihadist terror against Jewry and the destruction of Israel and even support for Al Qaeda attacks on anti-Israel Europe. There is likewise widespread support for Sharia Law, inclusive of the oppression of females, homosexuals and ‘unbelievers’.

It’s worth remarking – given the title and topic of Tidhar’s novel here – that Arabs who self identify as Palestinians rioted in a village near East Jerusalem upon the news of Osama Bin Laden being killed by US Special Forces, in anger at their hero’s death.

In Gaza, under Hamas rule, there has been a relentless wave after wave of rocket and mortar strikes directed against Israeli civilians for years. Thousands of rockets, mortars and missiles have landed in Israel, striking homes, a shopping mall, highways, kibbutzes, factories and farmland, even kindergartens have been hit. These are the Palestinians, “the true Jews” to Lavie Tidhar! Tell that to the Jewish citizens of Sderot. This kind of ‘thinking’ reeks of the sinister replacement theology (the Palestinians as Christ-like in their innocence and suffering, the Jew nation as the Jewish Christ killers, demonic and malicious) coming from the ‘progressive’ anti-Israel and yes anti-Semitic Christian churches. This irony is naturally lost on progressive ‘secular’ anti-Israel Jewry like Tidhar.

It is a telling and chilling irony that one of the most praised and talked about ‘serious’ alternative history novels of the present day, has its author Lavie Tidhar and glowing reviewers such as Michael Levy, deeply ensnared in their own alternative universe having no bearing to the real world.

That alternative universe is the one cozily inhabited most obviously by the Western cultural and moral relativist Left.

Tidhar’s Osama is *possibly* more in keeping with the sinister zeitgeist of our age than any philosemitic novel such as Leon Uris’s Exodus would be. Things have changed. Or have they really?

The conceit behind Osama is certainly an intelligent and daring one, shades of The Man in the High Castle, as has been pointed out naturally enough. Osama may well be well-written and entertaining. However that doesn’t change the fact of the odious whitewashing, ignorance and apologetics of Islamist despotism and terror that infects the ‘progressive’ Left, and certainly Lavie Tidhar is no exception. One has to wonder if it is thus even possible for such an odious worldview and mentality to not contaminate Tidhar’s political fiction, the novel Osama most obviously so?

Some readers out there may perhaps be reminded of the alternative history novel of American Jewish writer Michael Chabon, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union. Not only is this also an alternative history written by a very well-known American Jewish writer (winner of the Pulitzer for The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay) with a central Jewish theme, but the dénouement of Chabon’s political novel leaves a bad taste in the mouth. It is simply sinister.

D G Myers, a prominent American Jewish literary critic writes in his review of Chabon’s novel (I recommend reading the whole lengthy thing. Myers also called out China Mieville for his vicious anti-Semitism, unlike you know our genre house ‘Jews’):

If Chabon’s narrator—the book is told in third person—is an outside observer who does not belong to Sitka [the Jewish homeland or enclave in Alaska in Chabon’s alternative history – red wolf], spying upon those who dwell in a parallel Jewish universe where Israel has ceased to exist, then the world of the novel is not one in which Israel has ceased to exist, because the narrator (who belongs to the novel if not to Sitka) knows full well that it lives and thrives. The reader is expected to shudder in recognition: even if Jewish history had turned out differently, you see, the results would have been the same. But such recognition is possible only from a vantage point that is entirely impossible from within the “alternate history.” In The Yiddish Policemen’s Union Chabon has not created a linguistically intact world where Jews yak away happily again in Yiddish, but only a polemical contraption for slashing at the cruelties and inevitable failures of the world he calls the greater Creation.

“What interests me is the drama of the Jews, rather than deciding in my novels whether Israel or any other homeland is necessary for us,” Chabon said in the Guardian. By eliminating Israel from the equation, however, he removes the most interesting scene of the drama. Since 1948 every serious Jew living in the diaspora has had to decide whether to emigrate to Israel. If not he must answer how then he will be a Jew. Because American Jews do not live in a world of their own with a unique language and customs, anyone like Chabon who goes out of his way to affirm I am a Jew must devise some strategy for adjusting to a culture that can never claim his undivided allegiance. The Jewish religion provides one strategy, but Chabon is no more drawn to it than to Zionism. His characters are strangers to the synagogue, and it no longer even occurs to them to wonder if there is any warmth to be found inside. What Chabon devises instead are Jewish superheroes, magical Little Leaguers with Jewish names, a fantasy Jewish kingdom in a faraway place, and a Yiddish language he never spoke and has small desire to learn.

For a Jew who turns his back on Jewish religion and the state of Israel, what remains but to invent a cultural alternative? After the Holocaust, Judaism offers him little but suffering, and he himself does not suffer. The French critic Alain Finkielkraut has given a name to such men: imaginary Jews. “They have taken up residence in fiction,” Finkielkraut writes. “The Judaism they invoke enraptures and transports them magically to a setting in which they are exalted and sanctified.” But it is an imaginary Judaism, which they have created out of nothing. Chabon’s fiction is a monument, not to the drama of the Jews, but to their absence from his pages.

As Lars Walker summed it up in his review at Touchstone Magazine:

The lesson of The Yiddish Policemen’s Union is that the real danger in the world comes from the devout, whatever their religion. Chabon has cleverly, in his alternate universe, created a world without Islamic terrorism (because we all know there’d be no Islamic terrorism if there were no Israel). But there is terrorism nevertheless, coming out of those famously vicious groups, orthodox Jews and Christian evangelicals.

This book, it appears to me, is the heart-cry of the assimilated, secular, self-hating Jew. When the Muslim terrorist says it’s all the Jews’ fault, Chabon (it would appear) hangs his head and says, “It’s true. But it’s not my fault. It’s the fault of those black hats. They’re just crazy.”

So the book saddened me. I should also mention that I read it to the end, though—something which I rarely do with books that offend me deeply. This one was just too good to put down, even when I thought it morally perverse and dangerous.

Cautions for language apply—not only obscenity and cursing, but actual blasphemy. Also a lot of jokes about Jews that no Gentile could get away with.

Read at your own risk.

Interestingly the liberal Israeli SF critic Abigail Nussbaum penned a review of Chabon’s novel at Strange Horizons that is only lukewarm in praise. Nussbaum would hardly be the type to recognize what Myers and Lars do easily enough, but she clearly sense something wrong with Chabon’s tale, but can’t quite put her finger on it…

A thorough comparison of Yiddish Policemen’s Union and Osama and the politics in these respective novels, may well be a worthwhile exercise. However not having read Osama, I cannot be the one to do it. The shared self-flagellating anti-Israel politics of Chabon and Tidhar is worth remarking upon, as is the apathy to their sinister anti-Israelism by their Jewish colleagues and peers in the mainstream and genre literary communities respectively (at best and for the most part).

Then again if you truly get the loopy mad mad mad world we live in today, and Jewish ‘intellectuals” adherence to the god of modern-day liberalism in which moral and cultural relativism are pillars not to be shaken; your response to this article should be a mere shrug and a sigh, ‘but of course!’. Unless of course you are one of the ‘progressives’, in which case this entire blog article will read like a textbook on advanced molecular biology and biophysics, entirely incomprehensible.

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