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.
Raleigh, North Carolina
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.
Richard Goldstein's article ["On Being Called a Commie," August 6] caused me to recall being called a "commie" by my classmates because I once argued, in 1981, with my high school American History teacher that Communism was not a "terrible thing." Being the grandson of Ring Lardner Jr., who was a member of the Hollywood 10 and victim of McCarthyism, I learned at an early age that Communism was not a term that should be thrown around as an insult, but rather one to be used as a descriptor of political views. Now, so many years after the fall of the Soviet Union and with the knowledge that the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) was a ridiculous exercise, it's incredible that anyone would still be using this sort of tactic. However, as with the HUAC, one must consider the source.
David Ringgold Lardner
HITCHCOCK AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY
In "On Being Called a Commie," Richard Goldstein references an "Alfred Hitchcock story" in which a woman kills her husband with a frozen leg of lamb and then feeds the cooked evidence to the policemen investigating the crime. The story is called "Lamb to the Slaughter" and was written by Roald Dahl. Hitchcock, however, dramatized it on his TV show, Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
BLACK LIKE ME
I loved James Hannaham's article "The Rise of the Black Nerd" [August 6]. Finally, after 45 years on the earth, I feel understood and accepted. But it is not exactly the new social class it is depicted as in the article. Historically black colleges have been producing black nerds since the late 1860s. I know. I graduated from Howard University in 1982 with a lot of other black nerds.
REINVENTION OF THE NERD
Re "The Rise of the Black Nerd": I suppose there's no one definition of the word "nerd." Still, I was surprised to see Bayard Rustin's name on the list of famous black nerds in history. Rustin was a star football player and track star in high school. He faced down mobs of segregationists in the South, rabid Cold Warriors on the streets of New York, and prison guards in a host of jails that he willingly went to in his pursuit of justice. Doesn't sound like a nerd to me.
John D'Emilio, Professor of History
University of Illinois at Chicago
BADGE OF DISHONOR
In Nat Hentoff's column "No Peace, No Justice" [July 30] he defends the press coverage that puts Charles Schwarz's guilt in "reasonable doubt." But the main point is that there were two cops in the bathroom. One (Justin Volpe) is in jail for his monstrous act, and his accomplice claimed that he either stood by the door (Thomas Wiese) or that he did not even escort Louima to the bathroom (Charles Schwarz's original testimony). Rather than simply presenting coverage that indicates reasonable doubt in the Schwarz case, Hentoff should be questioning the bravery of men who sodomized a helpless citizen in their custody and hide behind the press's unflinching loyalty to those who "protect and serve."
GUILT BY ASSOCIATION
Re Nat Hentoff's July 30 column: I'm amazed that so much concern has been generated for Schwarz and so little for Louima. Every cop within earshot of the bathroom where the abuse took place is guilty for not stopping it. Why doesn't a journalist of Hentoff's reputation share that perspective? Volpe's testimony that Schwarz wasn't there has received a lot of attention, but is he worthy of our trust? As Wayne Barrett noted in his column [July 30], "the Wiese account . . . came after Schwarz and Volpe were already arrested." It seems very possible that Wiese lied to clear Schwarz.
A black man has been abused, and we have a history of not delivering justice in such cases. It would be nice to see us try.
Nat Hentoff replies: I have written several times that the entire precinct should be investigated because many other cops must have heard what was going on. Wiese gave his account to investigators very early on, while the situation was fluid, but they ignored what he said because they had already fixed on Schwarz.
Re Cynthia Cotts's article "Laundering the 'Truth'" [July 30]: The library for which I work in Richmond, California, has just ordered the book Forbidden Truth. We had to wait several months until it was available here (uncensored, we thought). I suggested that the librarian who purchased it staple a copy of Cotts's article inside the back cover of the book so readers will know the truth. David Corn [The Nation's Washington editor] should be fired for this act of censorship.
El Sobrante, California
INNOCENTS AT HOME AND ABROAD
Regarding the disheartening article "Sweep of Faith" [July 30] by Chisun Lee, I would just add that the FBI and INS agents who are routinely violating codes of decency and basic inalienable rights are getting their cues from above. Rogue agents in the FBI and INS have a safe haven in the mass hysteria generated by John Ashcroft and he knows that this is the only way to get Americans to give up civil rights.
Rather than cruelly detaining foreigners on minor immigration infractions, he should simply welcome any relevant information that people can provide. To date, none of the security measures in place, or use of any of the proposed plans (the Terrorist Information Protection System, use of fingerprinting, corneal photographing, time restrictions on travel by foreign visitors) would have averted 9-11. If he and our government truly wished to stop terror in its tracks, they would stop harassing innocents at home and stop making enemies abroad.
ONE LEG TO STAND ON
I agree with Colin Moynihan's claim that Angel Ortiz has been denied proper recognition for his work with Keith Haring ["Keith Haring's Silent Partner," July 30]. I remember the buzz around Lower Manhattan reflecting the sadness at Haring's death, and on several occasions heard mentioned the name Angel Ortiz as friend and collaborator. The law is clear on such matters, and it is evident to me that Ortiz was in a partnership agreement with Haring regarding specific works of art. I hope a judge comes to the same conclusion.
Boca Raton, Florida
Re Tony Green's article "No Jagged Edges" [August 6]: This is one of a handful of music reviews that I've read in the Voice that I actually agree with wholeheartedly. I've said for years that Omar's For Pleasure would be the album I'd most like to have if I were stuck on a desert island. Omar truly picked up the "Soul baton" that was dropped when Teddy Pendergrass and Al Green had to abandon the genre to struggle with the crosses they had to bear.
Soul music is far from neo, people. It's been alive and well across the pond.
In the article "Happy Loving Couples" [July 30] by Joe Gross, the band Hella was incorrectly cited as being from San Diego. They are, in fact, from Sacramento, California.
In the article "Screaming is Free" [July 30], Nick Catucci refers to the band the Locust as "a futuraustic screamo band from Seattle." They are based in San Diego, California.
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