He has written an indecent review of Shlomo Sand's book The Invention of the Jewish People, which he titled, Indecent Proposal, in The New Republic.
We didn't like Sand's book either. And really it's not so surprising that an obnoxious book gives rise to an obnoxious review in return.
Halkin begins by opining that Invention is, "...a book so intellectually shoddy that once, not very long ago, it would have been flunked as an undergraduate thesis by any self-respecting professor of history." And he concludes his lengthy essay with the assessment that aside from Sands' call for a liberalization of conversion, the materials in the volume constitute, "an otherwise deplorable book."
Given that our current book project asserts that Jewish liturgy contains the secret sauce that defines Jewish identity, we love it when Halkin, backed up against the wall, pressed to prove the Jewish people existed, resorts to invoking of all things JEWISH PRAYER as the proof of his position, along with Jewish food and the Jewish tribal ban on intermarriage. As Halkin says it charmingly,
...Besides attending practically identical synagogue services on Saturday morning (and even all week long) and then making the same blessings and singing more or less the same hymns around the Sabbath table, a nineteenth-century Polish and Moroccan Jew also ate a very similar long-simmering stew--called cholent in Poland and dafina in Morocco--whose method of preparation was dictated by the same ritual laws. And though few Frenchmen were so attached to being French that they would have forbidden a son or daughter to marry an otherwise eligible and attractive foreigner, Jews everywhere broke off all relations with children who married non-Jews. To say that Jewish national identity was rooted in religion is not to say that it was merely religious....Anyhow, sure, both men represent with vigor the two diametrically opposing sides of Zionist political philosophy.
But when they have to stoop so low to make their cases, they lose me.
Regarding this battle between the author and the reviewer, I feel like someone shouted out, "Cat fight, ssssss." And now that the crowd has gathered to witness the clawing scholars go at it, I'm going home. It's not my preferred form of entertainment... today anyway.