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Letters Week of Nov. 2, 2006
Who Gets the Blame If the War Continues?
Opposition to the war in Iraq is getting extremely narrow in its focus (Cover story: "Parties Joust Over Merits of an Issue," Oct. 12).
One major theme is that everything is President Bush's fault, and a minor theme is that everything is the Israeli lobby's and Israel's fault.
During the Vietnam war, the prevailing theme of discussion was feeling guilty about "American Imperialism."
My question is: As political leaders change and if the war continues, are we heading for a situation where the only two choices most people could make are: Either cheer the war -- and any other war with Muslims -- or blame everything on the Jews?
A Survivor's Escape: Not a Matter of 'Finagling'
In your generally excellent article about the infamous Dora concentration camp, you write that I "finagled" my way into an office job, and thereby managed to survive (City & Suburb: "Subterranean Nightmare Comes Alive in Black-and-White Photos," Oct. 19).
"Finagling" is a hurtful and unfortunate choice of words, as it implies dishonesty. But even more importantly, it is completely inaccurate.
Yes, I was lucky -- extremely, undeservedly and "randomly" lucky. In my comments to the audience viewing Al Gilens' photo exhibition, I pointed out the sometimes maddening randomness of who was to live and who was to die during the years of World War II.
In my case, there was no room for "finagling."
Gruesome Blood Libels Never Seem to Die
A report by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency points out that Jews living in Spain are shocked by the continuing fiesta in the church of La Guardia in honor of the alleged ritual murder of a child by Jews in the 15th century (Nation & World: "The Story of a Child, and of the Lingering Tale of Blood Libel," Oct. 19).
The story is actually even more shocking than indicated in this piece.
The Spanish judges were unable to fix the date of the crime or to discover the body of a child or even that any child had been reported missing.
Despite the absence of any evidence, whatsoever, that any crime had even been committed, the twin myths of ritual sacrifice and the blood libel were sufficient to condemn the Jews and capture the imagination of Spain.
The great Spanish playwright Lope de Vega was caught up in the fantasy, writing a play more than 100 years later attacking the imagined Jewish crime.
The stories of ritual murder are not limited to Spain, and have persisted into our time.
For example, in response to a protest initiated by Simon Wiesenthal, Pope John XXIII tried in 1961 to suppress annual pilgrimages in Austria to honor Andreas of Rinn, another child whose murder was falsely alleged against the Jews.
The Lessons of the Past Echo in the Present
Journalist Mark Bowden reacted to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's skepticism about the Holocaust (What They Are Saying: "Don't Be Fooled: Evil Lurks in the Heart of [Civilized] Man," Oct. 12).
Ahmadinejad needs to understand what makes the Holocaust against Jews different from other mass murders.
The Nazis were able -- without pangs of conscience -- to arrive a at a "final solution" because they subscribed to the doctrine that reduced Jews to a subhuman entity or "vermin."
This has no parallel in the history of mankind. While others were murdered in concentration camps, it was for Jews that these destruction centers were created. Jews were exterminated in slaughterhouse conditions by an efficient, technically well-developed system exactly as animals would be processed with a view to economy and dispatch.
Just as animal parts are diverted to various industries, so were the parts of Jewish bodies. At no other time and in no other place in history have the dead been used for commercial profit.
It is this inhuman barbarism that separates this Holocaust from other mass murders. All the victims of the Nazis had, as Ahmadinejad said, "their own dignities," but the Iranian needs to understand that denial of the uniqueness of the Holocaust does not alter the historic reality.
A lesson of the Holocaust is that to avoid a recurrence of pagan brutality, decent people must rise up to prevent its emergence. This is the lesson that Ahmadinejad must learn.
Mideast Politics Makes Strange Bedfellows
Activists want to prod the United States to return to supporting moderate Arabs in search of peace. That is a peace the Arabs have never desired. The destruction of Israel is their stated goal (A Matter of Opinion: "A New Way to Define 'Support,' " Oct. 19).
In view of the danger of Hamas attacking Israel with the weapons smuggled into Gaza, it makes no sense to attempt to revive talks of peace.
The logic for this new approach is primarily political.
President Bush of the Republican Party has been a staunch supporter of Israel. Jewish Democrats may vote for Republicans, despite their fiscal irresponsibility and neglect of social issues, but based on their strong support for Israel.
Political motives often lead to strange alliances.
Please Don't Use 'Bar/Bat Mitzvah' as a Verb!
Is it too much to ask of a leading Jewish publication that Hebrew be used correctly?
The Mazel Tov supplement includes an article with a lead paragraph referring to when parents were "Bar/Bat Mitzvahed."
It's not a verb! Bar or Bat Mitzvah refers to a person becoming a son or daughter of the mitzvot. It's correct in most of the other articles, so why can't it be correct everywhere?
It's important for Jews to use our language correctly, especially in the Diaspora.