New Under the Sun is a collection of Jewish Australians writing about religion, politics and culture (naturally enough, the Australian Jewish News thinks the book is vitally important.) While some chapters are worthwhile, it suffers from a classic case of avoiding the elephant in the room. Israel is barely mentioned. The Jewish state is discussed, analysed and profiled, and yet virtually no discussion appears about the occupation. But then, why would it? Most Jews prefer to avoid it, too. Israel should not be the central focus of Jewry – and the book’s contents prove this – but if a serious publication wants to truly understand the nature of Australian Jewry, robust and various perspectives on Israel must be offered. The editors and publisher clearly didn’t want this. Much easier to write about the Holocaust, migration and adult education, topics bound to cause no offence to anybody.
Comedian John Safran contributes a chapter and features a fictional interview with Federal Labor MP Michael Danby – a Zionist fond of bullying – and yours truly. It’s mildly amusing, aiming to parody the overly sensitive nature of Zionists like Danby and Jews such as myself who believe that the Israeli occupation has corrupted the Jewish soul. It’s also bleedingly obvious.
Unfortunately, New Under the Sun is a failed attempt at in-depth analysis. At a time when Diaspora Jewry overseas is starting to wake from years of blindly supporting the Jewish state, Australian Jews, it seems, are happy to continue the fiction. They’ll be rudely roused soon enough.