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The Unlikely Blessings of Living on Borrowed Time in a Leased Land 419

outside the logic of possession, both to undermine the fantasy of the

autonomy of the human subject and to highlight the constitutive

displacement of the self. In

Parting Ways

, Butler further draws on

Edward Said’s reflection on the diasporic character of both Jewish

and Palestinian history, “a condition of having been scattered, having

lived among those to whom one does not clearly belong” (Butler,

2012: 214) to call for an ethic of “cohabitation” that simultaneously

transcends exclusive Jewish claims to citizenship and territory and

embraces the heterogeneity of what is now Palestine/Israel. If Jews

use a Zionist perspective to define themselves in terms of land

possession, Butler argues, they then lose sight of an age-old “Jewish

perspective, that is non-Zionist, even anti-Zionist” which defines

Jewishness not in terms of either land entitlement or dispersal but in

terms of relationality to alterity, then dispersal or dispossession can

be thought of as “a condition of possibility for thinking justice,” as

well as “an ethical modality . . . that must be ‘brought home’ to

Israel/Palestine in order to ground a polity where . . . sovereignty

itself will be dispersed” (6).

Chabon obviously agrees with Butler that it is time for Jews to

reject the Jewish claim to exceptionalism, when he entitles an op-ed

he wrote for the

New York Times

“Chosen, but Not Special” (2010).

Whereas in his op-ed, Chabon is blunt but earnest in his call for Jews

to shed the myth of Jewish exceptionalism, in his counterfactual

novel, he offers both an oblique, though no less forceful, critique of

the fantasy of Jewish exceptionalism, and a rethinking of the

dispossession as an ethical condition. In the case of Landsman, we

can say that Landsman has been “dispossessed” in both senses of the

word as it is defined by Butler

deprived of land and livelihood and

dispossessed of his agency. Meanwhile, he also confronts the “aporia”

of dispossession: the private form of dispossession is supplementary,

rather than corrective, to the collective form of dispossession. In

other words, for a stateless man already dispossessed by those

powers that both define and deprive him, the very retreat into the

margin of society is neither a solution to, nor an escape from, the