By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Sylvana Foa's Letter From Israel column [August 6]which questions the validity of Palestinian identity, calls Iraqis "nasty," and asserts that references in the Bible carry present-day political legitimacyis typical of unconditional supporters of Israel who hold Jewish rights and freedoms above the rights or freedoms of any other people. Also typical is Foa's assertion that anti-Semitism is what motivates Palestinian attacks on Israelis.
Historically, anti-Semitism is a European phenomenon. Arab attacks against Israeli civilians, however reprehensible, are carried out in response to Israel's aggressive and discriminatory policy of occupationnot because the victims are Jews. Portraying the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a religious and racial one is highly irresponsible, as such portrayals ignore the political reality of the situation and distract from the main problem: Israel's ongoing and illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which I would remind Foa are not Israel's territories to give, but the Palestinians' to be returned.
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs
Clearly the premise of Foa's article is that if someone belongs to a particular religion then he is entitled to land that belonged to people who practiced that same religion in the past. Imagine for a moment that a group of followers of the Egyptian religion had survived outside of Egypt. Would the modern day Isis worshipers have any claim to Cairo and its immediate suburbs? Being Jewish is first and foremost a religious proposition.
One can point out genetic relationships, but then again these are very difficult to prove. It is very probable that modern-day Palestinians may be more genetically related to the ancient inhabitants of Judea than the 11th-century converts to Judaism, the Ashkenazi.
My point is that these historical arguments do nothing for the people who are living now. Why should a Palestinian care if the Jews were exiled in 70 A.D.? No one alive today bears any responsibility for acts committed over 2000 years ago, nor should anyone alive be compensated for those acts, or others denied their legal rights (in the form of confiscated property) to pay for them. It is time to focus on the future and not be captives of history.
THIS LAND IS YOUR LAND
Sylvana Foa's history of the land now called Israel is very well-written and historically accurate. However, one point that she makes is dangerous: She argues that because Jews were in Israel several thousand years before Arabs, they deserve the land. By this line of reasoning, the United States should give New Mexico and other parts of the American Southwest back to Mexico, and also large parts of the country back to the Native Americans. Similar arguments could be made for almost any territory in the world. While morally defensible, these arguments are extremely impractical and divisive.
Sylvana Foa replies: My column addressed oft-repeated Arab claims and explained that Jewish claims are even more evident. In 1947, the UN offered the Arabs a state in 50 percent of Palestine. They said "hell no" and spent the next 55 years trying to drive the Jews into the sea. They started three wars and lost them all, giving Israel control of the whole shebang. Israel is willing to give the Arabs a share if they agree to respect Israel's right to exist. Stop whining.
In the article "The Climes They Are A-Changin'" [August 6], Mike Romoth neglects to mention that 95 percent of global warming is caused by natural sourcesa point not disputed even by climatologists who believe the globe is in fact getting warmer.
For the sake of affecting one-twentieth or less of a degree of this warming, Romoth and the rest of the journalistic fraternity pushing this issue as a political one wish to turn over people's economic lives to leftish government administrators, tort lawyers, and other Mandarin-class sorts lusting "selflessly" after power. Romoth seems to think courts of law are a good medium for establishing scientific truth, a view which would give rise to much merriment among the scientists and engineers of my acquaintance.
As a skeptic, I can only note that the cultural critique of American consumption habits predated the "scientific" discovery of the harm that such consumption supposedly does to the planet. The old Left rationale for political control of economic life was obviously no longer persuasive, so the new Left seized on the environmental rationale for telling people not to buy so many things that self-consciously enlightened folk regard as vulgar. This rationale will, I have no doubt, prove about as "scientific" as Marxism turned out to be.
Mike Romoth replies: Can it really be true that virtually all of the other industrialized nations have been duped by the zany antics of a few, penniless, anti-fun enviro-grumps? As for the factoid stating that 95 percent of global warming is caused by natural sources, is the burning of the remaining Amazon forest considered a natural source? There is a big difference between natural trends in the climate and undeniable human impacts that have been accumulating now for centuries.