"Night of Stone" and "Is the honeymoon over?"

Readers respond to Charles Taylor's review of a history of totalitarian terror in Russia and Suzy Hansen's interview with an expert who says American Jews' support of Israel is waning

Published May 10, 2001 7:29PM (EDT)

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Charles Taylor hasn't studied enough history to be writing book reviews on the subject. He includes a throwaway line in his review: "(and certainly no retreat to the comforting myth that "true" communism has never really been attempted)." He doesn't bother to explain why there's no retreat to it, nor why he considers it a myth. The statement isn't supported at all in the article, either. It's a gimmick: When everything else said is reasonable, throw in your own unsupported bias and hope the reader just keeps following.

If he actually had studied history he'd know that Marx and Engels called for communism to begin only after an economy and society had progressed to the point where they could support it, both physically and mentally. None of the places that have "tried communism" have been at that point. They've always been backward countries struggling with the existence of more advanced nations. They always become thinly veiled dictatorships with a veneer of communistic labels.

This isn't intended to imply that communism would work, simply that it hasn't been tried and no country on earth is in a position to try it. Rather than sprinkling the reviews with ideological pablum, Mr. Taylor could better spend his time on a little research.

-- Stefan Krzywicki

Thank you for bringing "Night of Stone" to my attention. I'm happy to see that historians have begun to identify the essence of communism, and its essential similarity to religion. Communism is religion where "the state" replaces "God"; both deny reason in favor of faith in a "higher power."

I thank you for your positive review.

-- Edward Roberts

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I am the author of what may have been the first serious study of what American Jews really think about the Arab-Israeli conflict, published in the December 1998 issue of Middle East Quarterly.

There is a strong correllation between what an American Jew thinks about the Arab-Israeli conflict and how much he or she knows about what is actually happening there. Those who have firsthand knowledge are generally much more distrustful of the Palestinians and supportive of Israel and its efforts to achieve peace than are those who get their "information" from the American media. Those who depend on the likes of the New York Times and CNN are less likely to have accurate information, and more likely to favor greater concessions to the Palestinians. It is the "Peace Now" camp that is out of touch; unfortunately, they get a great deal of support from the media.

Steven Rosenthal's book also misses an important element in the growing disenchantment between American Jews and Israel: American supporters of the Labor Party, who had insisted that Jews had an obligation to support a Labor-governed Israel, actively campaigned against support by American Jews for the policies of a Likud-led Israel. When Labor returned to power, it shouldn't be much of a surprise that pro-Likud American Jews failed to return to their previous unquestioning support of the Israeli government.

One last point, the 33 percent support Rosenthal mentions for dividing Jerusalem is essentially unchanged since before the Oslo process began in 1993; it is not a result of anything that has happened since then.

-- Yale Zussman

I read with interest your interview about the relation between American Jews and Israel. I found it to be both fair and enlightening.

I was surprised, however, by the view that Israel was a moral state to any extent. As a moderate Lebanese expatriate, I mainly see a country that builds housing designated "Jews only" on Arab land, while the original residents are forced to live in ghettos or refugee camps. "White only" housing, as a comparison, would not exactly be considered "moral" in the USA.

I suppose it is true that some view Israel as supermoral, but this myth is based on a disregard of many people's lives.

-- Charles Baroud

Assuming that American Jews should feel allegience to Israel is like assuming that JFK would be loyal to the Vatican (as many anti-Catholics said during his 1960 campaign). Ellis Island, Louis Brandeis and Lenny Bruce mean more to me as a Jew than does Israel. It's the 21st century -- Jews no longer have to live in the desert and risk being killed.

The ugly killings committed by both sides make it hard to cheer on anybody. I'll take a deli in Fairfax, Los Angeles, over Tel Aviv.

-- John Gorenfeld

By Salon Staff

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