FOA WHOM THE BELL TOLLS
In Sylvana Foa's May 14 Letter From Israel ["Jenin and the Twinkie Defense"], she dismisses as "Yasir Arafat's bullshit" the allegation that Israel may have buried hundreds of civilian victims of the Jenin raid in mass graves. Foa's complete rebuttal to that charge is "Give me a break. Anyone who believed that does not know Israelis."
In the next paragraph, Foa notes that a full accounting of the dead in Jenin will be a long time coming "because the Jenin authorities reportedly saved a few rubble-covered bodies" to unearth for any fact-finding mission that shows up. No further information is given about this charge.
Foa rejects one allegation while presenting the other as highly credible. She provides no basis for this distinction other than the statement that hiding bodies is something that Israelis wouldn't do, whereas it apparently is the sort of thing that Palestinians would do. The Voice ought to be judging allegations on the basis of evidence, not prejudice.
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MEANS OF PRODUCTION
In "Jenin and the Twinkie Defense," Sylvana Foa complains that the world media misunderstood Israel's recent operations in the refugee camp, writing: "[W]e went into Jenin to shut down the terrorist production line that turned out at least 25 of the more than 100 suicide bombers who have killed scores of Israelis in the last year." The "production line" Ms. Foa speaks of has been perpetuated by her government's dedication to illegal settlements and its refusal to release Palestine from a 30-year choke hold.
What Foa doesn't grasp is that suicide bombers are the result of the occupation, not vice versa. The reason Israel is having such a problem with its image is because it has decided to completely disregard world opinion, which clearly demands an end to racist imperialism.
LETTER FROM PALESTINE
I am shocked that The Village Voice allows Sylvana Foa to continue to make false statements about what goes on inside the West Bank towns, cities, and refugee camps in an obvious attempt at a smear campaign. I would say she is one of the "great Jewish masters of spin" she called for in her May 14 Letter From Israel.
It's appalling to read the same tired defenses for Israel's actions every week. Why do you not have a column called Letter From Palestine? The Voice should allow both sides to to be presented.
Sylvana Foa replies: I was, of course, wrong about the death toll. The total now, which seems final, is 42 Palestinians and 23 Israeliseight Palestinians fewer than I estimated. Re the allegations of "massacre," check the Human Rights Watch Web site. It is a great place to find facts, not just propaganda from the Palestinians or the Israelis. I know both sides well, and would not believe a word either says.
WEB OF LIES
I am a regular reader of The Village Voice, and have appreciated its unique perspective on issues of relevance to myself as a New Yorker. However, I was most dismayed by a column by Nat Hentoff in your May 14 issue titled "Who's an Anti-Semite?: Hating Not Just Israel, but Jews" which brought up old, mostly spurious charges against a good friend and fellow student, Nadeen Al-Jijakli, accusing her of supporting anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic causes. Ignoring the mindlessness of this charge (anti-Semitism? If she's Arab, she is a Semite), I am calling on the Voice to do some more responsible work.
Nadeen has, time and again, apologized for the unfortunate mistake, and has never and will never support racism or bigotry. It is against her values and against the causes she has worked so tirelessly for. This is nothing but a consistent smear campaign by certain groups on campus that have felt threatened by a growing alliance of pro-Palestinian groups that have called on our government to end its own unfair actions and gross injustices, and have called, similarly, for a peaceful solution to the conflict in the Middle East that is fair and balanced. That Hentoff should swallow such a campaign, and repeat it wholesale, is, to say the least, disappointing.
The Islamic Center of NYU, which has over 200 members, has consistently stood for principles of fairness, equality, tolerance, and justiceand this has been recognized by the NYU administration. Last year, we were named Religious Club of the Year. This year, I won a President's Service Award for Leadership.
What are the true facts? Why is it that when an apology is delivered, with sincerity, it is not accepted, even a year after the date of the incident in question? It seems to me that some people have an agenda, and cannot help but constantly bring up old issues to prevent any progress with the real issues of the moment.
Haroon Moghul, President
Islamic Center of NYU
Nat Hentoff replies: Nadeen Al-Jijakli is quoted in my column and in the April 19 New York Sun as saying that, if she had known who David Duke is, she would not have posted his material. However, it is not the author but the author's message itself in her e-mail that counts: "The primary reason we are suffering from terrorism in the United States today is because our government policy is completely subordinated to a foreign power: Israel and the efforts of world-wide Jewish Supremacism." She has indeed apologized for sending another "accidental" e-mail urging a presidential vote for Ralph Nader because "he DOES NOT have a Jew running for vice president." But even if she was going through many e-mails swiftly, the capital letters in that one would likely have leapt out, and that message is attuned to David Duke's message.
Thank you for your coverage of gay priests in the midst of the hysteria over pedophilia ["Scapegoating Gay Catholics," Patrick Giles, May 14]. Being a gay priest myself and having been prevented from returning to active ministry because I am openly gay, I feel that it is important to keep hitting the Church hard with the facts. We have tried diplomacy. We have even tried presenting them with scientific fact. Yet the Church refuses to listen. And who suffers? Not only those priests who happen to be homosexual, not only gay and lesbian Catholics. All Catholics suffer as a result.
Because of the hierarchy's discriminatory policies, I am not a welcome member of the active clergy. I have had to let go of that possibility. I believe that the Church, in my instance and in many others, has acted not under the auspices of the Holy Spirit, but out of a sense of self-preservationthe maintenance of the current power structure and way of life. I would hate to see my brother priests who are gay suffer the same fate.
Again, I hope that we can all work together to see that this injustice, this evil present in the Church, will be addressed and the thousands of good, holy men and women who serve the church and who are gay and lesbian may be able to continue to do their good work.
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Tim Townsend's "Cardinal Knowledge" [May 14] is a mess of contradictions and hysteria, much of it rooted in fundamental gaps in Townsend's understanding of Catholicism and the Church. First, priests are not "guy[s] who represent God on Earth." The role of the priest is much more complicated than that. Among the priest's roles described in Lumen Gentium, the dogmatic constitution of the Church, are the ministry of sacraments, the teaching and interpretation of divine revelation, and the administration of Church communities. The priest fulfills all of these duties in organic unity with the entire priestly people of the Church, and Townsend's frequent characterization of the Church as a conclave of bishops independent of the laity is in itself false. As Catholics, we are the Church, and we are all in this together, sharing responsibility for both justice and forgiveness.
Townsend also reveals fundamental gaps in his understanding of the law. He suggests that what the Church does "within its own walls and strictures" with a priest accused of past abuse "is beside the point and, frankly, unimportant." But the example he offers, and the one most troubling to the bishops and many laity, is of a priest whose alleged crime took place long before the statute of limitations had run out. Thus, calling the police makes no sense, and what the Church does internally is the only thing that is not beside the point.
I have long stopped expecting calmness or deliberation from underinformed journalists reporting on the Church, especially in The Village Voice. Though I am not an apologist, it would be refreshing to find a modicum of accuracy and fairness in reporting.
K. Emerson Beyer
LIFT EVERY VOICE
I was featured as one of the women on welfare talking about marriage in the package of articles titled "Altared States" [Chisun Lee & Sharon Lerner, May 7]. The accounts by different women in response to Bush's marriage proposal covered an important issue. This violation of human rights must be stopped.
It is important for papers like the Voice to not only explore the issues, but also to let people know that there are ways to fight for one's rights around the issues. There are organizations fighting against the policies Lee and Lerner wrote about that many of us are involved in, yet these were not mentioned. People who are curious about what they have read should have access to these organizations.
Reporters could encourage such activism by presenting stories of people not only as individual victims but as part of active collective struggles. I, for one, don't stand alone. As a member of Community Voices Heard I am active in fighting against the Bush plan and other harmful proposals going through Congress.
I encourage people to join us in the struggle. If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything.
Community Voices Heard
Jonathan Ames writes in "Ode to the OED" [VLS, May 7] that "the 20-volume set goes for $995 and the one-volume 'compact edition,' which shrinks the print to the size of pinheads and comes with a hemispheric magnifying lens, costs $390." It is a small point, but unless there is more than one compact edition of the compleat OED, it comes in two volumes. The copy I have prints four pages to one, comes with the magnifying glass, and was bought used and in good condition for $90. Given the relative cheapness of the OED, it is not clear to me why anyone would pay $550 to use the online version. Not only is the cost prohibitive, but the benefits Ames speaks of in having access to postings are contrary to what seems to me to be the OED's best use.
While other dictionaries have repeatedly jettisoned useful, though uncommon, words and replaced them with useless vulgarities, the OED had remained, along with a few older dictionaries, a fundamental resource for those who do not long to speak the language of the slum. For this reason, it is disappointing to hear that the OED is apparently turning against its own purpose of documenting words of some endurance and the origin of those words, and has turned with the rest to documenting every faddish term.
It is not only that some of the new additions are vulgar, but that they were in usefulness nearly dead from the womb. Most of those cited by Mr. Ames I have neither used in print, nor heard in conversation. They may have some use for a metafictional novelist who wants a certain eclectic color to make his writing bizarre, but the rest of us will never need the spelling or the definition of "mindf**k."
Johnny Maldoro's May 7 Dirty Pornos column titled "Gorn With the Wind" was truly disgusting. Is it supposed to be progressive to fantasize about porn in which a woman is "screaming, crying, and begging; he, slapping and spitting on her face, ripping open her shirt, and putting what appears to be a dry finger into her ass" and in which "the attacker drags his victim by her neck up the grand staircase and into her parents' bedroom"?
Why is it that violent and degrading images of women are considered sexy? Could it be the result of misogynistic attitudes in society, which even supposedly progressive newspapers like the Voice apparently condone?
But to do otherwise would be censorship, you say? Well, how about a review of videos in which men get kicked in the testicles repeatedly? How about porn videos featuring men being choked and otherwise brutalized? What, it might actually be considered offensive?
The Voice Choices cover in the May 14 issue was erroneously credited. It should have been credited to Photofest.
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