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Letters week of Feb. 12, 2009

February 12, 2009
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Reviewer Should Not Use Finkelstein as His Guide

Robert Leiter's review of two Holocaust documents -- a diary by Petr Ginz and poetry by Selma Meerbaum-Eisinger ("Sometimes It's Best to Let Ghosts Lie Still," Jan. 22), lacked any hint of humanity, compassion, or sense of morality and social justice. His haughty dismissal of the works, without any specific criticisms, left me with a chill.

I offer some examples of his poor choice of words:

"Though I don't see any flashes of genius here, that does not mean that, if permitted to live, Selma Meerbaum-Eisinger might not have matured into a splendid poet."

I have never heard of Nazi murder described as a denial of "permission to live." Only the almighty can make such a denial. Nazis ought not to be given such moral authority. Nazis, and other humans, are associated with the actions of killing and murder.

As for Meerbaum-Eisinger's artistic potential, the point is moot, and irrelevant to justifying her life or even the publication of her work.

Leiter adds: "That these works were allowed to see the light of day is unfortunate; if only the publishers had used more discretion."

Again, the fact that these writings survived at all is justification enough for their publication. Any attempts to suppress these personal accounts of the war, using a subjective literary acid test, is viewed with suspicion. Why not let the readers decide on the merits of the works themselves?

Leiter's allusion to Norman Finkelstein's "holocaust industry" betrays the reviewer's hidden agenda.

Former professor Finkelstein was fired from his position at De Paul University, after being publicly discredited for his shoddy scholarship. He promptly began giving interviews on Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV network and elsewhere, claiming that the Holocaust was exaggerated, and that survivors were not entitled to monetary compensation. He also made the audacious statement that there is no anti-Semitism today.

If Finkelstein is Leiter's literary and political beacon, then this reader is outraged.
Roddy Frankel, M.D., Ph.D.
Chicago

Gaza: A Hollywood Epic With Unfortunate Finale

In the 1993 movie "Groundhog Day," a man repeats one single day for seemingly an eternity. Events in Gaza are playing themselves out in a somewhat painful similarity.

Now, as the world rushes to throw more good money after bad to "rebuild Gaza," how will this movie end?

One ending (extremely hopeful, but incredibly naive): Reacting to world pressure before any funds are dispersed, all Arabs (including Hamas and Hezbollah) realize that there is no military solution.

They recognize Israel's right to exist, lay down their arms and vow to work with Israel in peace to bring prosperity to their people. Gaza becomes a flourishing Mediterranean Riviera. Palestine buys Sinai from Egypt and starts selling Jeep tours to Europeans. Jews and Arabs dance the night away in Gaza discos. Hallelujah music, the movie ends, and Hollywood plans a sequel.

Another ending (cynically hopeless, but unbelievably realistic): Reacting to world pressure, Israel resumes the "no-peace process," and the Palestinians get better rockets with the world's money.

The "cycle of violence" proceeds on schedule. Palestinians attack, Israelis counterattack, and the death toll mounts. As usual, the United Nations condemns Israel. Finally, the rockets reach Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, so Israel wipes out Gaza.

Nuclear Iran avenges the Palestinians by dropping the bomb on Israel, which then executes its "Masada Plan," unleashing its nuclear-equipped submarines and planes on Iran. No Palestine, no Israel, no Iran, no music.

The End.
Gadi Naaman
Newtown

Members of RJC Need to Do Lots of Repentance

Steve Heitner's letter ("Republican Coalition Is Not Nazism Reborn," Jan. 29) is an example of the sort of GOP prevarication that presumably it was intended to refute.

I don't know what critique of the Republican Jewish Coalition his letter was responding to, but neither the one letter he cites ("Defense of RJC: Long on Rhetoric, Short on Truth," Jan. 15) nor its predecessor ("Correct Terminology's a Must in This Case," Dec. 4) made any mention of the Holocaust.

The fact that he is driven to invoke this red herring is proof of the difficulty of attempting to defend the RJC's conduct.

As to Mr. Heitner's claim of "ardent" Protestant fundamentalist support for Israel, many years ago the former president of the National Association of Evangelicals threatened to withhold such backing if the American Jewish community persisted in its opposition to the Christian right's anti-gay, anti-abortion domestic agenda.

Mr. Heitner's off-kilter remarks come across as those of a very clever lawyer on behalf of a very guilty client.

American Jews deserve so much better, especially from the members of the RJC, who can start by doing some serious teshuvah -- repentance.
Roy Davidson
Columbia, Md.

Letter-Writer Uses Straw Man to Bolster Argument

Like master, like servant: Just as it was standard practice at George Bush's White House to refuse to respond to actual arguments, preferring instead to refute its own straw man misrepresentation of those arguments, so, too, Steve Heitner's letter that invoked the Holocaust ("Republican Coalition Is Not Nazism Reborn," Jan. 29) -- a subject completely absent from the letter to which he was ostensibly replying.

Contra Heitner, no recent Exponent letter critiquing the Republican Jewish Coalition has ever alleged, in his words, that the RJC has been acting as the "Jewish enforcer in Nazi extermination camps."

This is the straw man -- or, perhaps, as a psychologist might suggest, a matter of "projection" on Heitner's part.

Heitner owes readers an apology for this shameless trivialization of the Holocaust -- and his crass attempt to exploit it for partisan political gain.

Perhaps worst of all, in thus so doing, he has implicitly aided and abetted the likes of the Holocaust-denying Bishop Richard Williamson.
Shmuel Betancourt
York

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