Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Tussle Over Horowitz's Book

As I mentioned before, Elliott Horowitz wrote an excellent book on Purim and its connection with violence. But, as some are wont to do, instead of reading a book objectively they come into a book with all sorts of preconceived notions. This was typified by Hillel Halkin's review of Horowitz's book. In the June 2006 issue of Commentary Magazine, Halkin reviewed Horowitz's book. I did not bother to mention this, solely because it was painfully obvious Halkin did not read the first half of the book, or chose to ignore it (as Horowitz points out in his response), and that Halkin was only interested in finding fault. Halkin takes issue with the very notion that Jews could be violent and thus can not believe (or address) most of Horwitz's points. In fact, much of Horowitz's thesis had already been published years ago in his articles on the topics. (Perhaps Halkin doesn't read academic journals? Although he feels it fine to review an academic work).

Well in the October 2006 issue of Commentary Magazine, Elliott Horowitz responses as does Halkin. Halkin's response, however, is so juvenile and void of content, he does more to undermine his position than anything Horowitz could have done. Halkin to buttress his position resorts to name calling and a general ad hominem attack. So, for example, Halkin starts by noting
As I stated in my review, Elliot Horowitz wrote an interesting but not entirely honest book. How he has written an uninteresting and thoroughly dishonest letter.
Setting aside Halkin's vitriolics, Horowitz, as he is wont to do, uses the terrific image of the Godfather movies to prove his point. He notes that there is a distinction between the Godfather and Bonnie and Clyde, one which just has violence and the other which explores it. Horowitz, thus illuminates his purpose of exploring the sources and theological underpinnings of his thesis. [Now, there are not that many Jewish academics who cite to movies (or as he does in another of his articles compares the imagery in a haggadah to Bugs Bunny) so this somewhat is refreshing.] Halkin, of course, fails to note this (apparently he is not one for subtleties) and instead turns the movie quote into a childish retort of
If Horowitz wanted to write a Jewish version of The Godfather . . . he should have done a movie script.
Additionally, Halkin fails to address most of Horowitz's most salient points. So, Halkin still ignores the entire first half of Howowitz's book and fails to explain the rampent use of the term Amalek to this day. It is disappointing that Commentary publishes such drivel, but does demonstrate that one should not judge a book by its cover nor a review (or reviewer) by its inclusion in Commentary.

You can read the full exchange here for yourself until the end of October 2006.

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