I rarely find myself disagreeing with Leonard Fein, but in his April 13 column, “American Jews Are Different, Not ‘Partial,’” his criticism of the Israeli writer A.B. Yehoshua’s distinction between “complete” and “partial” Jews (that is, between Israelis like Yehoshua and all American Jews) misses the point.
Fein objects that Yehoshua “disrespects” Jews who do not live in Israel — but why should anyone, inside or outside Israel, care whether Yehoshua “respects” him or not? More basic is the mischievous confusion in Yehoshua’s distinction itself. “Complete”? “Partial”? Would Yehoshua feel qualified also to tell us what a complete human being is? A complete parent? Moses must have been “partial” because he never made it to the Holy Land; Yigal Amir is “complete” because although he assassinated Israel’s prime minister, he fulfilled all of Yehoshua’s requirements.
The question we should be asking ourselves is not why Yehoshua believes his standing as a novelist gives him authority to speak thoughtlessly about other matters, but why we should take him seriously when he does.