Web Letters | The Nation

Web Letter

I, too, once respected Wallace Shawn.

I'll be brief. Muslims can live throughout Christiandom and in Israel, which was established by the UN in 1948 as a Jewish State. Another letter has some statistics on the percentages of Muslims in some European countries. Israel is 20 percdent Muslim. However, all Arab lands in the Middle East must remain totally Jew-free. The tiny nation of Israel in a sea of Muslim backwardness is a constant thorn. Equal numbers of Jews, who had lived in Muslim countries for thousands of years, were expelled in 1948 and the following years. They were settled in Israel.

Go to Israel. Look around. You will see a multicultural country with Jews of all colors. This is not the European colony that it is portrayed as. Many, many Israeli Jews come from the Middle East and North Africa. There are brown Jews from India and black Jews from Ethiopia.

susan adler

Basking Ridge, NJ

Sep 9 2009 - 2:56pm

Web Letter

A letter to the citizens of Gaza from a concerned neighbor.

Dear neighbor,

My name is David and I live in Israel, thirty minutes (or one minute rocket time) from you, in a beautiful house by the woods. I hope someday to have you over for a cup of tea. We have a lovely view from the balcony. On a clear day we can see our jets bombing your neighborhood.

I think it's time we had a heart to heart. It's time you knew the truth. After all, what are neighbors for? You might have wondered why both you and your parents were born in a refugee camp. Why is it that even though we live only thirty minutes apart, I live in prosperity and you live in poverty and filth? Why you live in despair and hatred while we live in hope and love?

Here is the truth, dear neighbor:

There really was a Holocaust. I realize you've been taught otherwise. I know, that ever since you were a small child you've been told that the Holocaust is something the Jews fabricated to justify taking your land. Well, dear citizen of Gaza, it really happened. Not very long ago. It happened, and guess what? It's never going to happen again. The time in history when Jews were led to slaughter, persecuted, raped and pillaged is over and will never recur. Never. Now we have our own country. Now we have the bombs. We will never forget what was done to our people and you better not either.

We don't hate you. We don't hate anyone. Jews are a peaceful people. We do not want your land. We don't want oil. We don't want to rape your women or murder your children. We never tried to force our religion on anyone. Our eternal capital, Jerusalem, is open to all faiths to love and to worship. We treat your Arab brothers who live among us as equals. Our hand has been extended to peace with our neighbors since day one. We have proven this time and time again through numerous negotiations and extensive compromise.

We ask only for one thing. Leave us in peace. That's right. We have no other demands. Just leave us in peace. It's as simple as that. If you don't, we will fight back ferociously and mercilessly. We will destroy your homes and your cities. We will make your miserable lives even more miserable. If you don't want this to happen any more, leave us in peace.

Our soldiers are not motivated by hate but by determination. We embrace life and will do anything to preserve it. However we will kill and die to protect our land and our way of life. That's what they should be teaching in your schools instead of useless lies.

A terrorist is a terrorist. Sorry to be the one to break the news, but it's about time somebody told you that a terrorist is nothing more than a coward. Not a hero. Not a Shahid. There is nothing heroic in blowing yourself up among a crowd of woman and children. Anybody can do it. Anybody can hide inside a school or a mosque and blindly fire rockets into cities, hoping to kill as many babies as possible. There is nothing courageous or admirable in these acts of cruelty. To take pride in an act of terror is pitiful and pathetic. I know you've been raised to believe the contrary, but it is a lie. I have seen how your children are taught to commit suicide. How your suicide bombers are glorified. This is tragically sad. A real hero faces his enemy and doesn't hide in schools and hospitals. A real hero protects his people and will die for them but not among them.

Israel exists and it belongs to the Jewish People. I've seen your school books. I know that Israel has been omitted from your maps. Contrary to what you've been told, the State of Israel really does exist. Look outside your window. We are here and we are not going anywhere. Dear Palestinian neighbor, it's time to deal with the facts. We love our beautiful little country. We will protect it with our lives. You are not getting it. This was explained to you in 1948. You got your country and we got ours. Your arrogant and stupid leaders promised you that you will get the whole thing. Thousands have lives have been lost for nothing. It's never going to happen! While you have been foolishly drooling over our land instead of nurturing your own, we have built one of the most beautiful and successful countries on earth. We have done it not to spite our greedy neighbors but rather in spite of them. We've planted forests and watered the desert. We've drained wetlands and planted fields. We built universities, opera houses, superhighways, hospitals, skyscrapers and stadiums. We have millions of refugees, but no refugee camps.

You could do the same. Focus on what you have and not on what you will never have. It takes love, hard work and determination. We can help. We have experts and scientists helping developing nations across the globe. Accept the facts, lay down your weapons and join us in making this great region of the planet even greater.

Remember, we're neighbors.

David Rosenblatt

Sarigim, Israel

Jan 9 2009 - 11:23am

Web Letter

It is only appropriate that "irrationality" figures so prominently In Wallace Shawn's op-ed as his second paragraph is so laden with it as to border on psychosis.

Then again, despite having read the damn thing over and again, perhaps I misconstrue. Perhaps the author is indulging in some form of postmodern irony too deep for my limited understanding, but I doubt it. The man claims that even the formation of Israel to be an anti-Semitic plot, as well as the slavish devotion our government showers on Israel. It seems like a gentile can't win for losing.

His first claim is the most outrageous: the "world and the United States" was so anti-Semitic during WWII as to "let [the Jews] be exterminated if need be." This ugly slander has been repeated ad nauseam in the last few decades but has no historic basis. The overwhelming majority of Jews saved from the Nazis were saved by gentiles. There is no argument about it. Switzerland, that most maligned nation of late, took in more in Jewish refugees per capita than any other nation. Sweden, also much maligned of late as pro-Nazi, saved as many as one million Jews. Denmark saved nearly all her Jews by spiriting them away to Sweden. FDR, now unfairly maligned as an anti-Semite, ensured that the entire quota for German and Austrian immigration was reserved for Jews. And when the truth of the Nazis extermination was revealed gathered the Big Three, who did all they could at the time--which was to publicly threaten the Nazis with retribution if they did not cease. There were public protests throughout the United States and the rest of the world against Germany's treatment of the Jews. These went on throughout the 1930s and into the war.

The actual killings were being done far beyond the reach of the Allied armies--and it should be noted that Jews were not the only people being slaughtered by the Germans, some 25 million others died in the European theater as well. The list of gentile attempts, successful and not, to save Jews goes on far beyond the accepted length of a letter. Perhaps Shawn might read Saving the Jews: FDR and the Holocaust, by Robert Rosen. And if Shawn wishes to castigate some group for "abandoning" the Jews, he might look to the Zionists, a group that more than any other purportedly on the side of the allies "abandoned" Jews. Every rescue attempt not planning on sending Jews to Palestine was opposed by official Zionism. Even the Kindertransport, the 1938 rescue of 10,000 Jewish children sent to England, was opposed by Zionists, most prominently David Ben-Gurion, who most famously stated that rather than send all 10,000 to England, he'd "gladly" lose 5,000 of the children to the Nazis, if he could just send the remainder to Palestine. This was the spirit of Zionism in the 1930s--the lives of ordinary Jews were of little regard in the face of building Israel. This also can be seen with the Zionist collaboration with the Third Reich from 1933 to 1939 (which continued with some elements during the war itself) beginning first with the successful attempt to sabotage the Jewish-American-led world boycott against Germany with the so-called "Transfer Agreement," as was so well detailed in David Black's book of the same name.

One group marked for extermination was truly abandoned by all. It was not the Jews but the Roma and the Senti, otherwise known as the Gypsies, who were slaughtered wholesale without one word raised in their defense. Search as you might, you will not find one rescue of gypsies, attempted or otherwise. Nearly 75 percent of the population was murdered. They were then, and they remain today, the most despised and abandoned people of Europe. Little or no postwar reparations were afforded the gypsies. And they have been nearly erased from today's recounting of the Holocaust, as has nearly all others except for the Six Million, a number that when I was growing up was counted as 12 million plus. One can only suppose that all the non-Jewish victims of the Holocaust have long since been resurrected.

Even as late as the early 1990s, when Germany paid Romania 200 million DM to take her Gypsies and once again trainloads of the unwilling were shipped east out of Germany to be met by mobs of neo-Nazis bent on their final extermination, not even then was one word raised in their defense, not from the US, not from Israel, not from any Jewish organization--only Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International protested. The events made the NY Times, but without a whole lot of fuss.

Grif Fariello

San Francisco, CA

Jan 8 2009 - 7:38pm

Web Letter

As I was reading this article, all I could think was that with the horrors and suffering the Jews faced from the Nazis, they would be more understanding, not feel that they are more justified to kill anyone who throws a stone at them. You would think they would understand the pain and the torment that their people felt and went through and that they would not want to cause that same pain to another human being, no matter how hard it may be. You would think they would want to find a peaceful way to come to terms of differences, due to the suffering that they faced in the Holocaust. You would imagine that their main driving force would be to find peace, regardless of the circumstances.

This also made me think of how differently American blacks have reacted in the face of an even worse history than the Jews faced in Nazi Germany. African-Americans were enslaved by the white man here in the United States for 400 years; they were beaten, killed, raped and lynched, and subjected to many more horrible injustices. But the African-American didn't and still to this day doesn't, while still facing racism in America, strike back with deadly blows. Blacks in America don't go around lynching whitey, when he should have just as much a right to do so as the Jews think they have the right to inflict pain on another. But the blacks here in America have proved to be a peaceful, loving and spiritual group, looking to be a part of the same evil that had condemned them for so long.

Then when you see Israel, a much more powerful group of people than the Palestinians (thanks to an unfair allegiance with the US government and American fighter jets), they just seem to be a bunch of bullies. To me the Israelis seem to be that guy that got beat up in the past and they are so pissed off, but they can't beat up the one who hurt them so they go and find a weaker group and they beat up on them. This is a peaceful people? Are these peaceful actions? You put the people of Gaza into basically a concentration camp (ironic, isn't it), then you cut off their food supplies, their electricity and water, and then you bomb the hell out of them with weapons of mass destruction. And then you turn around and say there is no crime against humanity in these actions?!

And of course, the biggest bullies in the world, the United States government/military is going to go along with this. Why, I don't know--all I could come up with is that our government seems to be racist against the Arabs and Muslim people of the world.

It's sad. Doesn't seem like we are ever going to achieve peace on this planet. Not as long as it isn't in our "national interest."


enemyartistkristofer.blogspot.com<br />North Hollywood, CA

Jan 6 2009 - 10:29pm

Web Letter

Thank you, Mr. Shawn, for an interesting and reasoned article. A rarity these days.

You say that "the Jews, as a people, have found few friends who are honest and true." Very likely so. But in the United States it appears that the Israeli PAC system has such influence on the US political system as to be indistinguishable from the casting vote.

Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama each had to appear before AIPAC to swear fealty, each falling over themselves to abase themselves lower than the other. Without the PAC's support, their chances of electoral success were nil.

But a usually clear-sighted and honest observer, Noam Chomsky, has pointed out that it is the United States that has absolutely ensured that there be no settlement for Israel's disputes in the Middle East by its repeated interventions in the peace process. Israel's disputes must remain the open wound in the body of the Ummah that allows the US to control the region, and in particular its "stupendous source of world control," namely, oil.

After which the increasing irrationality you describe has occurred.

The question remains, is tiny Israel controlling the rampaging behemoth that is the US, or is the US controlling Israel?

As with most such dialectical questions the answer seems to be "both."

Both are in the grip of such psychological delusions that they are like two psychopaths in a lunatic asylum who believe that they are friends, as each seeks advantage from the other, and over the other. While the small countries of the region and all countries of the rest of the world wonder why the attendants do not return to answer the alarm bell that has been ringing for decades.

Given that the US continues to act as a murderous lunatic, with 10,000 nuclear weapons, and Israel acts as a murderous lunatic, with 200 nuclear weapons, it would seem most imperative to remove The Button from each patient before they lose their marbles completely. While, laughably, the two patients each claim to be most concerned about a third patient who has no nuclear weapons. In their paranoid fantasies of murderer's guilt each sees their own murderous intent in this third patient. There is no one to explain "psychological projection" to them and no guarantee that they are in any way sane enough to understand it.

Carl Jung explained that any sufficiently large group has the collective intelligence of a stupid malevolent beast. Whose actions we have seen on our TV screens for years.

The same Carl Jung and his supporters worked hard to ensure that his thought would take root in Anglo-Saxon soil. After the mass possession of the German people and the demonic Nazi years, perhaps he knew that the Anglo-Saxon world and the Nazis' bête noire, the Jews, would be the next to succumb to Absolute Evil. Radical Evil. Enantiodrama.

Is this now very visible enantiodrama the source of his vision of the future? Or lack thereof--"The last fifty years of humanity," from the year of his vision, and his death, in 1962, to 2012." (At best.) We might just scrape around the corner with not too big a catastrophe"--Marie Louise von Franz in the documentary Matter of Heart.

Meanwhile, millions appear to be waking from unawareness to cry "stop." But can mass psychoses be stopped by the will of millions of individuals? Perhaps hoping and working for it and withdrawing our own irrational projections; our shadow, is all that ever has and all that ever will stop it.

P. Smith

London, England

Jan 5 2009 - 4:32pm

Web Letter

For Mr. Shawn’s article, a dense and opaque screed, dripping with misinformation, wild speculation and conjecture, to have found itself published in a legendary American journal, is…. well, I don’t know what it is. But it left me flabbergasted. His depiction of the trials and tribulations of Jews in history is not only comical, it’s clownish.

I am not Jewish, I have no Jewish friends and don’t even know any Jews, although I must confess that as an undergraduate and graduate student, I was surrounded by students and faculty who were--heavily and militantly so. Regardless of their politics, I have always retained the utmost respect for their intelligence and academics. There simply are no better teachers and thinkers, bar none.

As an American with no ax to grind, let me say this about the current situation in the Middle East. It is clear that the Palestinian conflict is but one of many issues endemic to the region. If Israel were to disappear tomorrow, the Middle East--specifically the Levant--would still be in turmoil over another issue. That’s because the Israel/Palestinian conflict is but a façade or a side-show of a much larger event, to wit, the disintegration of Islamic civilization. I wish I could get into all this here, but I won’t.

The fact is, Israel is at the forefront of the fight against worldwide and world-historical jihadist terrorism. Yes, it is defending its homeland, but it’s doing much more than just that. That’s why any US president will unabashedly and unequivocally back Israel, no matter what. He will have no choice.

Mr Shawn should perhaps seriously think about what he said and even more seriously think about writing a retraction to his embarrassing, incontinent and poorly written diatribe.

Alo Kievalar

Tucson, AZ

Jan 4 2009 - 4:03pm

Web Letter

Well, you have certainly done it now. Aside from the fact that you misconstrue the invasion of Gaza with the occupation of the West Bank, you have brought into question your own credibility as a journalist with your hate-filled words for "the Jews."

You see, Israeli sovereignty in the Gaza Strip ended in 2005 when all Israeli forces were removed from the strip of land. I guess in your view it is irrelevant that the Hamas and Fatah governments are two entirely different bodies within the Palestinian structure.

As any nation-state with sovereignty over its borders, Israel is responding to a series of attacks by a group with the desire for self-determination. According to Ernst Gellner, the Palestinian people in Gaza constitute a nation, and therefore a state by virtue of their "imagining themselves a people." How would you expect the United States to respond were it Canada or Mexico lobbing rockets across the border? Hamas wants to be taken seriously as the government of a Palestinian state. If that is the case, they should be treated like a state.

When one state violates the security of another's citizens said state risks retaliation which according to the United Nations is a legitimate self-defense of its people.

Wallace Shawn seems to forget the truth of this situation. Hamas had received several warnings of retaliation directly from Israel. They were told what would happen if they continued to commit acts of war against the Israeli populace, no matter how ineffectual they may be. You would scream for blood if it happened here, but because you call yourself a "liberal" you have this inconceivable disease forcing you to support the underdog no matter how murderous his intentions are. Let's not forget that while Hamas is the "elected" government in Gaza, shortly after the election ended they liquidated all opposition and instituted the harshest, most draconian Shari'a law yet seen in the Islamic world.

It's time you get your facts straight and get off this Jew-baiting, Jew-hating kick you seem to be on.

And on another note, I once upon a time respected this publication. However, since reading all the vitriol and hate and irrational work from the likes of Richard Falk and our dear friend Wallace Shawn here, among others, you have lost my readership for good.

Michael Schwartz

Pittsburgh, PA

Jan 4 2009 - 1:24pm

Web Letter

Wallace Shawn writes that the world "felt it owed the Jews something--but then showed its lack of true regard for the tormented group by 'giving' them a piece of land populated and surrounded by another people--an act of European imperialism." Shawn has to be reminded that the Jews became a people some 3,000 years ago in that piece of land. There has been a Jewish presence in Palestine for many centuries. And if the Jews had not fought against an European imperialist power, just like the Americans fought against that same power, Israel would not have been established. In the Israeli War of Independence, more than 6,000 Israelis fell. That represents a whole 1 percent of the total Jewish population at that time. This is as if the US had lost 2.5 million soldiers in the Vietnam War.

As a result of the sacrifice of the Jewish people in Palestine, Israel was founded.

And the Israeli policy has nothing to do with the suffering of the Jews over the centuries. It has everything to do with the present situation in the state of Israel. Shawn should keep in mind that Hamas has declared war on Israel and is doctrinally committed to its destruction. It does not fight to end the occupation, it fights to end Israel's existence.

That is why, after Israel left the Gaza strip, to the last inch, three years ago, Hamas did not stop its war of terror and fired thousands of rockets, designed to kill, at Israeli towns and villages in the Israeli south. I wonder if Shawn is aware that in some areas the residents have only fifteen seconds to reach shelter from the time the alarm sounds. Can he imagine how a mother, who has children at school, feels during those alarms?

No state can be expected to tolerate the launching of rockets at its citizens. Israel is no exception. That is why it reacted. And it did all it can to minimize civilian casualties in Gaza. But the Hamas has located its rocket-manufacturing workshops in houses occupied by families, it stores arms and ammunition in private homes, it hides Grad rockets in mosques, it fires its rockets from densely populated areas.

Israeli intelligence learned that a family's house in Gaza was being used to manufacture rockets. The Israeli military gave the residents thirty minutes to leave. Instead, the owner called Hamas, which sent mothers carrying babies to the house. Hamas knew that Israel would never fire at a home with civilians in it. They also knew that if Israeli authorities did not learn there were civilians in the house and fired on it, Hamas would win a public relations victory by displaying the dead. Even Hamas leader Nizar Rayyan was warned to leave before Israel bombed his house, which contained arms and ammunition. He refused and died. Can Shawn imagine any army warning the enemy before striking?

Israel will continue to defends its citizens if Shawn likes it or not. And if he thinks that this is irrational, he is in need of urgent help.

Jacob Amir

Jerusalem, Israel

Jan 3 2009 - 1:39pm

Web Letter

The West, committed as it is to a reverence for muticultural integrity, a reversal from centuries of cultural imperialism, is reluctant to challenge the notion that some cultures have as their fundamental credo a privileged right to overtake all other cultures. Such a concept is incompatible with this Western multicultural belief. So Belgium is now 40 percent Muslim, Germany 15 percent, France 12 percent. This Islamic mindset has openly avowed to overwhelm Western, i.e., Judeo-Christian, society. Yet, ironically, the West is accusing Israel of cultural conceit, because Israel desires Israel for the Jews.

Israeli Jews treat Arabs as second class citizens. The reality is that this is generally true. But Muslim countries treat non-Muslims as non-citizens--that is, not as second-class but as no class at all. Think of the old caste system in India: the Brahmins vs. the Untouchables. And while the majority of Muslims are not violent proponents of this dichotomy, they are, at least in principle, believers in it. Yes: so too are Christians, Jews and Hindus. But no other religious group is engaged in a world-wide campaign to enact this concept.

Are Christians, Jews and Hindus prepared to die for their faith? Many are. But we are talking, to be blunt, about a religion that is outspoken in its declaration of the preferred virtue of dying in God’s name. Is this a cultural distinction that the West (and Russia as well) can afford to ignore? Once Israel is vanquished, will the Muslim world live in peace with the rest of us or will it see that victory as evidence of God's providence and continue to threaten, attack and vanquish Western culture as well?

Neil Lator

Teaneck, NJ

Jan 2 2009 - 2:11am

Web Letter

Thanks to Wallace Shawn. I was trying to put the same general ideas into 150 words for the NY Times (I've sent about thirty-eight letters to the editor to them but not a single one published--not gud enuf ritin stile, I suppose). I hope this complements your thinking.

The US and Israeli governments have something in common: they both pursue policies that put their own people in danger. It seems that they do this not by accident or incompetence but on purpose.

The two governments cannot be so stupid that they cannot figure out that injustice and oppression make people angry, maybe even hateful; that taking people's land isn't a way to make peace; that arbitrarily humiliating and arresting people does not make them your friends; that starving them and cutting off their supplies might make them bitter.

Successive US governments have stood by and even encouraged every stupid action and overreaction by the Israeli government. US taxpayers, meanwhile, have supported these policies with billions of dollars a year.

Have successive US and Israeli governments agreed on an agenda that is more important than the safety of their own people? Is the safety of the Israeli people being used as a wedge to keep us confused and unable to unite on a path to peace?

The US and Israel already have an agreement that seems to maintain strife in the world. Since at least the late 1970s, whenever Congress has cut off US military aid to brutal regimes, Israel has stepped in and supplied weapons and equipment. This happpened in Nicaragua under Somoza, and in Guatemala, Haiti and Colombia. This arrangement hints that the US and Israeli governments work together on issues that are more important to them than establishing justice for the Israeli and Palestinian people.

(Too many words for the Times, I guess. Thanks for reading this. Thanks again to Mr. Shawn for his eloquence and insights.)

Bill Distler

Bellingham, WA

Dec 31 2008 - 5:53am

Before commenting, please read our Community Guidelines.