Why I Signed the "Elephant in the Room" Petition
Also, knock knock.
It has been a long while since I posted anything to Substack. There have been several reasons for this, of which I will briefly note two.
First, I have been incredibly busy doing exciting work, both in my job and free hours. I have been reading more than I ever have in my life—about 3 books a week on average—including works that I dismissed in college as being excessively recondite and far removed from my areas of interest.
Second, I am reluctant to intervene in the public sphere with short essays and op-eds, which in the past were my main modes of writing. While I am proud of some of what I have written over the years, I regret not waiting longer to start publishing under my real name. My advice to younger writers has always been that they have to write badly before they write well. I would now alter this to say: you need to write badly in drafts before you write well publicly. Alas, one can’t change the past. On the plus side, I suppose the reputation I earned from that writing is not quite terrible.
But this does not mean I have not been writing at all. I merely want to carefully consider my thoughts and words before hitting submit. I am currently working on a long form book review essay on the future of the Israeli left, which I hope will be published early next year. I am also thinking about a book project—again. (If any readers of this newsletter are connected to a book agent who specializes in commercially unviable memoirs, please do connect us.)
Anyway—to the point of this email. I recently put my name to a petition titled, “The Elephant in the Room.” If you have not seen it already, I encourage you to read the full text and take a look at some of the names of the 2,700+ people who have signed it to date. I think you will be quite surprised at the diversity and range of scholars, writers, activists, and community leaders listed there.
The petition is an urgent cri de cœur addressed to the leadership American Jewish community. It is a document that does not hesitate to break taboos, including usage of the term ‘apartheid’. The core message is that we must recognize the connection between the Israeli government’s ongoing judicial coup and the desire of its constituent parties to complete the transformation of Israel into Greater Israel. Even if this particular anti-democratic plot is thwarted, we cannot return to business as usual.
Without equal rights for all, whether in one state, two states, or in some other political framework, there is always a danger of dictatorship. There cannot be democracy for Jews in Israel as long as Palestinians live under a regime of apartheid, as Israeli legal experts have described it.
Despite some reservations about the language, I proudly put my name to the petition. While I did not plan to do anything beyond this, I was pleased when the French journalist Stéphane Bou reached out to me and offered a platform to explain my decision. It is published in interview format here. I used the opportunity to sketch out what I see as a crisis of hegemony (at least when it comes to Israel) within the American Jewish community.
I am happy to report that I was able to carefully write this while flying to Edinburgh for a wonderful vacation, now sadly concluded. Despite no longer subscribing to the full gamut of religious beliefs of my parents, I simply can’t kick the habit of visiting kivrei tzadikim when traveling overseas.
On a final note: Until the foul megalomaniac in charge of what was formerly Twitter is contained, I am no longer posting on the site. I maintain my account solely to follow the news and occasionally communicate via direct message. You can now follow me on Bluesky. I have a small number of invites to give away, if anyone is interested. Overall, it is a much friendlier place—for now, at least.
Until next time, hopefully soon!