Mouths Water. Earth Smiles.

Orient, N.Y.

As founders of the Eastern Long Island chapter of Slow Food, we were pleased to read Eric Schlosser’s “Slow Food for Thought” [Sept. 22]. We are fortunate to live in an area where sustainable and fair agriculture and mariculture are thriving. Our farms and vineyards are small, family owned and operated; the workers are well paid, and their labor is valued. Local eggs, cheese, mushrooms, ducks, chickens, bison and venison are readily available. Oyster farmers, baymen, lobstermen and fishermen sell their seafood to an eager market. Wendell Berry’s maxim “Eating is an agricultural act” is our mantra. We were devotees of slow food before we ever heard of it. We believe eating well is the cheapest luxury.

If, in fact, Patrick Holden’s prediction that industrial agriculture is consigned to the dustbin of history because of the cost of fossil fuels comes true, the fairness issue will have a better chance of being resolved. We can slay the beast by starvation rather than by a head-on confrontation.


Laytonville, Calif.

With the looming collapse of civilization, thanks to corporate greed draining all that is animal, vegetable and mineral–bringing on peak oil and global warming–there is a grassroots movement afoot relearning how to feed ourselves and use plants to heal the earth when the trucks stop delivering to Safeway and the gas pumps are empty. It is just as easy to grow an heirloom tomato as a hybrid.


Israel @ 60

Unlike the mail we customarily receive on our coverage of Israel/Palestine issues (“anti-Semites!” “mouthpiece of Hamas!” “terrorists!”), most comments on Eric Alterman’s “Israel at 60” [Sept. 22] were of a different sort (“Zionist propaganda that would make Elie Wiesel proud,” “who owns The Nation? AIPAC!). Herewith a sample.

Brooklyn, N.Y.

Congratulations on Eric Alterman’s “Israel at 60″: it was well reported (I learned something), lucidly argued and full of empathy and political realism. It was also a refreshing departure from the naïve, reflexive Israel-bashing that characterizes so much of the left press–including, frankly, The Nation. Alterman did a great job; I hope this signals a change of direction for the magazine.


Newton, Mass.

In “Israel at 60,” Eric Alterman–ordinarily so astute at unmasking the hidden conservatism of the mainstream media–fails to ask his respondents tough questions. Initially, the piece appears to be innocent enumeration: I paid a nostalgic visit to Israel, and here are the many, sometimes contradictory, things I was told. And, true to his agenda, Alterman does transmit varied voices, ranging from A.B. Yehoshua, who echoes Nicholas Kristof’s recent call for “tough love” for Israel, to Benny Morris advocating preventive war with Iran. He even juxtaposes some of those voices in debate with one another.

But Alterman fails to ask his Israeli respondents the tough questions he would have demanded from any other journalist. Where, in this deceptively evenhanded account, are the Benny Morrises of Israel asked why Israel has long spurned the Saudi peace initiative? And the Hamas offer of a ten-year truce? And the grassroots bilateral Geneva Accords?

Alterman, quoting Moshe Halbertal, refers to the Israeli “withdrawal” from Gaza. Why not pose the question, What does “withdrawal” amount to when Israel controls Gazans’ freedom of movement and access to food, medicine and the electric power to drive the water pumps? Certainly the Geneva Conventions would no more agree that Israel has withdrawn from Gaza than common sense would agree that prison guards are not in charge of a prison because they patrol from the perimeter and do not have picnics in the prison yard.

Come on, Eric Alterman, Nation readers expect more critical insight and less hiding behind “just the facts, ma’am.” You drank the Kool-Aid. Let’s get back to critical and insightful journalism.


Alterman Replies

New York City

Thanks to Susie Linfield for her kind letter, the large sentiments of which I share. Naturally, I have many differences of perspective with Eve Spangler’s letter. I won’t take up any of those arguments here except to correct her on one point. Benny Morris did not “advocate” preventive war. He spoke predictively, albeit provocatively, as an analyst, not an advocate.


‘War Is Personal’

Gwynedd, Pa.

Mike Harmon’s ordeal is one of the most moving descriptions I have come across about the mental scars war inflicts [Eugene Richards, “War Is Personal,” Sept. 22]. Unfortunately, there seems to be no cure for PTSD, more accurately called “shell shock” in World War I. A veteran of World War II (“the good war”), I continue, at 89, having similar nightmares–doors leading nowhere, lost in some no man’s land unable to speak. The greater nightmare, however, is not only the lot of veterans–the ongoing nightmare belongs to the entire nation.


The Brawn or the Brain?

Madison, Conn.

I read Bernard Avishai’s “An Unlikely King” [Sept. 22] with interest, but I was surprised that he considers King Hussein to have been acting out of “uncharacteristic spite” in choosing his “soldier” son, Abdullah, to succeed him rather than his “intellectual” son. Why spite? Isn’t it possible that the king thought his eldest son would be the better choice to succeed him? And why does the writer seem to imply that the words “intellectual” and “soldier” are mutually exclusive?


Avishai Replies

Wilmot, N.H.

The incidents leading to the decision are documented in Shlaim’s book and were well known at the time. Hussein chose his son Abdullah without consulting his other son Hassan–the crown prince, who had served him dutifully for thirty-four years–because he sensed that Hassan had begun to comport himself as the sovereign in Hussein’s absence (he was being treated for cancer in America). Hussein openly resented this; some say he also believed the army would be more loyal to a soldier. In any case, Hassan had been largely responsible for Jordan’s scientific institutions and intellectual capital, and much of its diplomacy with US writers and journalists. He deserved better treatment, if not the crown. As to whether soldiers can be intellectuals, I meant no categorical judgment. I was speaking of these two men.



“Emily Flake” is the correct spelling of the artist on page 27 of the October 6 issue.