Is Michael Chabon's New Book Anti-Semitic?

The New York Post thinks so! In today's special Sunday edition of Page Six, we are told that his new novel, The Yiddish Policeman's Union, "is bound to set off a firestorm of controversy." Why? Because Chabon "depicts some of his Jewish characters as willing to do anything, including massacring other Jews, in the cause of Zionism."

The book, set in an alternate-reality sorta like Plot Against America, revolves around a population of Jews living among Indians in Alaska because they didn't get Israel after the war. They fight, make war, etc.; the Post calls it "a parody of the relationship between Israelis and Palestinians."

Ring the alarms, OK, but considering the glowing reviews Chabon's book has received recently in the Jewish Forward and the fiercely Zionist New York Sun, might the Post be overreacting when they say that Mel Gibson should direct the movie version?

According to the Post item, Chabon describes a sect of Hasidim in the book as a bunch of violent, slimy slugs—a "'criminal empire that profited on' secular Jews" considered by other Jews to be "'so flawed, corrupted and hopeless of redemption that only cosmic courtesy led the Verbovers even to consider them human at all.'"

Sounds pretty bad—that is, not so "Funny" at all!—but then, why does the Sun's Benjamin Lytal say that "every serious reader of American fiction should pay attention to Mr. Chabon"? And why does the Forward's Mark Oppenheimer call it an "admirably ambitious, and beautiful, work of literature"?

We called them to ask. Couldn't get Lytal on the phone, but Oppenheimer—who hadn't seen the Page Six item—told us he was "baffled" at the notion that the book might be seen as anti-Semitic. "The book takes Judaism seriously as a religion and as a culture. It reflects a deep engagement with the Yiddish language, which so few authors of Chabon's age have."

"One can never control Abe Foxman," Oppenheimer said, "but I think it'll be a big hit."—LEON

Novelist's Ugly View of Jews [NYP]
The Zany Integrity of Chabon [NYS]
Jewish Noir [Forward]