Unfit to Print?  -  Part Two

James Adler

For every Letter to the Editor that "gets in," many don't.  And often it is the most direct and outspoken and truthful that seems to be rejected.  Here is a selection from this year. Happy reading!

Saturday, December 9:

To the Editor of the Post:

Will you allow reason rather than hysteria on Iran?

You do no service to your friend the United States by trying to argue us into another war, and with a country four times larger than Iraq-- where we are already badly failing.

And would such a war help Israel? No, it would set off popular explosions throughout the Middle East, where moderate neighboring governments could topple, and a reprise of the Lebanon war could have radical Egyptian and Jordanian armies invading to your south and east.  And since these countries could become both vociferously anti-Israeli and anti-American,  your arguments also do America no good turn from this angle either, any more than would asking us to start yet another and even larger failed war.

Also consider that in the long term, irrespective of Iran, there is also no reason to think that the Arab countries (several of them?) won't want an "Arab" atomic bomb-- with or without Iran having it.

And Iran having one at some time in the future, sooner or later, anyway.

Where will we be, in any of these cases, without region-wide negotiations?

The way to security is negotiations with the Arab League, which is the counterweight to Iran, *before* it also becomes extremist and wants the atomic bomb -- again, where would we be, then? -- and on the basis of peace and  security and recognition in return for withdrawal to the approximate --  only approximate -- 1967 borders.

Such a regional deal could also well reduce (and gradually even eliminate) extremism in general.

This is an attractive option.  And beyond attractive, what is a good alternative?  Other than screaming for the United States to go to war and general hysteria?

Aug. 20th To the Jerusalem Post.  A letter-writer, as often, blames the Palestinian conflict, and early crimes against the Jews, on Jerusalem's notorious and eventually pro-Nazi the Grand Mufti, Haj Muhammed Amin al-Husseini

To the Editor of the Jerusalem Post:

Even though an extremist like Ahmadinejad also asks it, it has always been a basic question-- that because "an atrocity was committed in Germany, or Europe for that matter, why should the Palestinians answer for this?" ("Iran joins PR war on '60 minutes,'" On-Line Edition, August 17).

The so-called answer, The Grand Mufti al-Husseini, who was nothing more than a self-promoted private individual in some religious organizations and not any part of any government during an era of European colonial rule, cannot actually be any answer at all.

There is no causal relationship between al-Husseini and the tremendous political earthquakes within Europe, and any attempt to plead for one is a pathetic attempt to have a tail wag the dog.  Though actually al-Husseini's influence on European events was even much less than a tail on the dog, and even less than a single hair on the tail-- it was actually no influence whatsoever, whatever al-Husseini's --  or any foreign individual's -- private opinions were.  There was no causal relationship here, and everybody knows there was none.  Everyone knows that the tremendous evil political tsunami radiating out of Europe -- Berlin, in particular -- happened strictly on its own.

The fundamental question here is, Would there have been the European Holocaust of the Jews whether or not one trivial and insignificant little "gnat" (on the map of world history), al-Husseini, ever existed?  Of course there would have been the European Holocaust.  Would six million Jews have been systematically murdered by Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany if microscopic little al-Husseini had had never existed?  Of course six million Jews would have been systematically murdered by Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany if microscopic little al-Husseini had never existed, and the incomparably evil European vortex would have spun around on its evil axis in exactly the same way.

So what does trifling little al-Husseini this have to do with it? Isn't this nothing more than a paltry excuse for the innocent Palestinian people having been forced to pay for the crimes against the Jews emanating from *another* country and *another* people on *another* continent?

October 14th. Letter to Ha'aretz

Re: Alan Dershowitz: "Anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism"/ To the Editor of Ha'aretz:

Evan Goldstein notes that Tony Judy has a "right to be wrong," because, even though one may disagree with Judt,  "anti-Zionism is not necessarily anti-Semitism."  Such a distinction is well-supported both by common sense and also by authoritative and implacable enemies of both anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, such as Alan Dershowitz.

In a brief letter in The Boston Globe on March 18, 2006,  Dershowitz, made this distinction clear.

In the context of the resignation of Harvard President Lawrence Summers, Dershowitz notes that "anti-Semitism played no role in the Summers decision, but that anti-Israel sentiments were among the precipitating factors."

He continues:  "There is an enormous difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.  Both, in my view, are wrong, but they should not be conflated."

So that Dershowitz's fundamental distinction isn't merely between criticism of Israeli policies and anti-Semitism, but the even more basic distinction that Dershowitz is insisting on between fundamental anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. Link to his letter.

Many of us may need to learn from Alan Dershowitz on the basic matter of the enormous difference between these two points of view.

Sept. 20th

To the Editor of the Globe:

Jeff Jacoby is right about the threat of Islamic fundamentalist intolerance and violence, and the importance of free speech.  He is also right that Muslims need to speak out in the name of Islam--also in order to give this message the best credibility.

However, though Jacoby decries "staggering double standards," his own double standards unfortunately weaken any effect he could otherwise have as a messenger.

For example, though claiming both to support freedom of speech, and to want to hear important Muslim figures criticize terrorism, only recently Jacoby attacked the invitation to the Muslim reformist former President of Iran, Mohammed Khatami, to speak at Harvard.  He did speak, and in the name of Islam spoke on behalf of peace and against violence and terrorism. But Jacoby didn't want to hear -- or to let others hear -- this prominent Muslim speak out for peace and against violence.

Moreover, though an editorial appeared (significantly, on 9/11) in the major Israeli paper Ha'aretz that criticized Israel's "apartheid in the territories," Jacoby has long supported the Israeli occupation of Palestine's mainly Islamic population, and their land.  He does not speak out against it, nor speak out when Israel's hard-line conservatives (like former Israeli Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan) have said such infamous things -- also appalling to Israeli liberals -- as that Palestinians will have to "scurry around like drugged roaches in a bottle."  Or, last year, when Israeli conservatives threatened so much of a disturbance over the pullout of Israel's illegal settlements from Gaza that Israeli then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his cabinet frequently voiced a fear that they would launch a civil war.  Some conservatives also carried out a ritual death curse (the "Pulsa Dinura") against Sharon, which implied it would be ethical to assassinate him.  But Jacoby does not speak out against any of this.

Jacoby's own substantial double standards unfortunately make him a not very credible messenger, which is a tragedy because Islamic fundamentalism does need credible critics.

Sept. 17

To the Editor of the Globe:

Five years after 9/11 a Globe headline explains, for America, "the path not taken." "Lessons of Suez: Fifty years ago, two western powers [and Israel] conspired to invade an Arab country -- in defiance of international law and world opinion. Guess which side the United States was on."

The two western colonial powers, Britain and France, along with Israel, invaded Egypt. The American World War II commanding General and Republican President Dwight D.. Eisenhower put America on Egypt's side.

Can anyone doubt what would have happened if the United States had "stayed the course" of justice and fairness and even-handedness?  We would have remained popular, as we used to be back then, in the Arab and Muslim worlds.  Far-off  Israel would not have had the financial and diplomatic support to launch and sustain the occupation and settlements on the West Bank, saving it from the same colonialist instincts that made it side with colonial aggression against its Arab neighbors in 1956, and causing the Arabs to suspect it  more than they already had -- rightly or wrongly -- of being a colonial power.  Also without Israel having been able to put 450,000 of its settlers onto the Palestinian West Bank, and decades of unwillingness to withdraw them, Israel could have long easily withdrawn to its 1967 borders, and, with America thoroughly trusted by the Arabs as an honest Middle East broker, may have been able to work out a Middle East peace.

Further, even if  there were still a conflict in the far-off Middle East on the other side of the world, the United States, having accrued many decades of warm relations with the Muslim and Arab worlds, and not having been involved in any side of any conflict, bad American - Arab (and Iranian) relations would be inconceivable-- and, most out of the question of all,

Five years after 9/11 we need to remember this most important "lesson of Suez"-- "what if," if only the United States had "stayed the course" of that period and presidency-- for justice, fairness, even-handedness, and non-interference in Middle East conflicts.  "What if," if only we had remained steadfast in the wisdom of our great World war II  General and Republican President, Dwight David Eisenhower.

Nonetheless, still, even so, after decades of our deviation from Dwight Eisenhower's and America's legacy, we may still hope it is not too late for the United States to move beyond the Bush Administration and neoconservatism, to set things right again--and "to stay the course."

May 8.

To the Editor of the Washington Post:

Charles Krauthammer doesn't claim that it is-- but his thesis that, for Jews, Israel "puts all eggs in one basket," is not new.

The great literary and social critic George Steiner noted (in "No Passion Spent," Yale Univ. Press, 1996, pp. 325-326, appearing first in his paper "Our homeland the text," 1985) that "Judaism has drawn its uncanny vitality from dispersal, from the adaptive demands made on it by mobility. Ironically, the threat of that 'final solution' might prove to be the greatest yet if the Jews were now to be compacted in Israel."

This compaction of Jews into a small area endangered us even more than when we are in Diaspora:  It took the unique fluke of Hitler's gangsters taking over the powerful German war machine to cause the Holocaust, and even then, it was our Jewish geographical dispersion that saved 2/3 of the world's Jews, such as us in America and scattered through the Middle East, and kept Hitler from getting all the European Jews.

If instead, that we Jews had had a Jewish state in Central Europe, and 95% of us had lived in it, Hitler's Holocaust would have taken over this small area and been even much more brutally effective than it already was. Since when does compaction of us into a small state furnish more security? - actually, just the opposite. In the same way it was the Israelis themselves who claimed the imminence of another Holocaust in 1967, and if they are right, then the Zionist movement has increased rather than decreased the risk of the elimination of another huge slice of the world's Jews.

One of the tragedies of Zionism is that an understandable anti-Israelism, due to these policies, and a phenomenon similar to anti-Americanism, and in the same Third World countries, has grown and sometimes blurred into anti-Semitism and so itself dramatically reversed the post-World War II decline and loss of "social acceptability" of anti-Semitism.

This was the opposite of the original aim of the Zionist movement. But the high-handed way Zionism took over most of the old British Mandate in Palestine has increased rather than decreased anti-Semitism, just as what happened in pre-Mandela South Africa created a hitherto nonexistent anti-Afrikanerism - against its language, people, literature, and culture.

This anti-Afrikanerism has profoundly subsided with the subsiding of South Africa's partitioning system, and the same post-World War II-type decline of anti-Semitism would presumably resume its natural wholesome course with the dismantling of apartheid and military occupation of various parts of the old British Mandate in a direction of justice for all and a lasting peace.

March 2, 2006

To the Editor of Haaretz:

If anywhere in the world it had been a non-Jewish state, such as an Afrikaner one, that had recently originated in the recent movement to and takeover of a region of the Third World, such as in Palestine, including the displacement of its people and refusal of their return, history would have proceeded exactly as it already has, with the same western criticism, regional hostility, and Palestinian resistance, including even the same terrorism against the non-Jews who had done it. So it is difficult to see the logic of the view that much of this could have stemmed from anti-Semitism.

It would even seem the opposite, where criticism throughout the West has been attenuated because of Israel's Jewishness, as can be seen in comparison of the West's boycott of South Africa with the American "special relationship" with Israel.

If non-Jews, such as Afrikaners, had recently done this to historical Palestine, in the same way world criticisms and actions against these non-Jews would be unlimited.

Hence the indigenous terrorism against Israel cannot be against Jews, but against people perceived (rightly or wrongly) to be foreigners who just happen to be Jews, and which would happen against them just as much against them if they were Afrikaners.

But there is still some difference.  Jews left behind in Europe a huge hostile cultural legacy of myth-based slander and hatred against them. There would have been no such slanderous reservoir from which Zionism's victims could borrow, if it had instead been non-Jews, such as Afrikaners or Americans, who had taken over Palestine, rather than the Jews, who did. This slanderous legacy offered to the takeover's victims, who would have been hostile anyway against any people who had taken it over, whether, say, Afrikaners or Jews,  material to borrow and to use against that people who actually did take over, the Jews.

The -- almost unbearably painful -- truth is that if we Jews for centuries had been absurdly accused of being thieves, and then went out onto the center-stage of the world and for the one and only time actually did steal, steal another people's whole country, in the middle of the world, thereby illusorily seeming to confirm all that hateful legacy of lies, how could worldwide anti-Semitism ever have been expected to diminish, but instead to have done the opposite and have metastasized around the  globe?

How to end anti-Semitism? If  only if we could give up our demographic obsession with ethnic- and religious- and displacement- based social engineering, there could then resume what had already  begun to make so much world headway after World War II, the natural and wholesome decline of the "social respectability" of hostility to Jews, something which had already by then been heading towards its foreseeable disappearance.

Feb. 7, 2006

To the Editor of the Times:

To understand Muslim rage at the Mohammed cartoons, consider America's hot button issue, not religion but race, and the rage of the understandable African American community over the acquittal of Rodney King's attackers in 1992.  Now suppose the New York Times had (impossibly, of course) published an editorial cartoon of Rodney King drenched with pictorial racist stereotypes and the "N" word affixed to him. Or after the 1989 "Central Park rape," a cartoon drenched with vicious racist stereotypical exaggerations of a "predatory young black male."

Or, instead another venerated figure besides the Prophet Mohammed that hits closer to home: suppose the Times had deliberately lampooned or mocked Martin Luther King, Jr. in a cartoon as a Black Sambo or from Amos 'n Andy, or as in a thoroughly racist way-- say, as some "vicious black thug."

Not only is race our hot button, rather than religion, but in another sense King is high in the pantheon of American's own civic religion.

This would sting virulently. And it is no insult to the dignity and restraint of the black community to suggest that street protests and demonstrations could have turned into something like what happened after that acquittal of Rodney King's attackers, just as now after the cartoons of Mohammed with a bomb in his turban.

What in heaven's name is the difference?

Part One of "Unfit to Print?" appears in the December 4th edition of HSC.

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Harvard Square Commentary, December 11, 2006