Letters

Readers respond to an interview with controversial Israeli historian Tom Segev and an article about a bestselling memoirist whose family says her book is full of lies.


Letters to the Editor
December 15, 2001 1:00AM (UTC)

Read "Beyond Tribalism"

Tom Segev is wrong on a few counts: 1) Oslo was a gift from heaven for Arafat and his PLO, which were then in exile; it gave them the foothold in the heart of "Palestine" of which they always dreamed. 2) It is very clear from what Arafat and other leaders of the Palestinian Authority have said to Palestinian and Arab audiences that what they have in mind is the destruction of Israel. Even Faisal Husseini, the "Prince of Peace" to so many Israelis, said so in an interview with an Egyptian newspaper before he died. He described Oslo as a "Trojan Horse": "Our ultimate goal is still the liberation of all of historical Palestine from the (Jordan) River to the (Mediterranean) Sea, even if this conflict will last for another thousand years or for many generations."

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-- Bob Grossbaum

Something alluded to but not really fleshed out:

Had Jewish settlements never been allowed in the West Bank and Gaza, Oslo quite possibly would have worked. Nearly everyone considers Jerusalem the grand sticking point. But the author of "Beyond Tribalism" himself acknowledges that East Jerusalem is already, de facto, Arab land. And in terms of Jerusalem, that's pretty much all the Palestinian Authority is demanding -- formal recognition of what already exists.

The first step for Israel is clear: Acknowledge reality. The second is equally clear: Vacate those settlements in the occupied West Bank and Gaza. All of them! It's simply not Israeli land -- as the U.N. has repeatedly pointed out. Allowing the settlements in the first place was a clear act of expansionism bound to engender further conflict. Turn them over to those Palestinian refugees who have been displaced for a half-century.

We're talking basic human nature, fairness and equity here. As my old editor often said: This is not rocket science!

Here's where I most disagree with the author: These common-sense solutions are not that difficult with appropriate, committed, nonextremist leadership in place. What better way to deal with Arafat and Fatah than to call their bluff? Give them what they profess to want -- the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.

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Should Fatah, Hamas and Hezbollah continue their terrorist acts, then Israel would have the moral high ground to go in and wipe them out as the U.S. is doing today in Afghanistan.

Israel has long lost the moral high ground, primarily because of the settlements, and secondarily, because it has acted so haughtily as an occupying power over impoverished, nationalistic masses -- in other words, much like Britain during the Mandate. And also much like Britain in colonial America.

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Lest we forget: The settlement situation, as so many other impediments to peace, was largely created by Likud in general and Ariel Sharon in particular -- who, remember, was Israel's housing minister for much of the late '80s and early '90s (after he got fired as defense minister for allowing the massacres at the Sabra and Chatilla refugee camps -- something that had it happened in Bosnia or Kosovo, would have him on trial in The Hague right now on war crimes charges).

-- Rod Proctor

Wow!! Finally.

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I have been sick to my stomach, seeing the right wing and the left wing of the U.S., Israel and Palestine blame each other. Bin Laden, Ass-croft, Arafat and others blaming each other. The reasons for our current situation is much deeper than saying terrorists exist for no reason. As a black American I can remember growing up wanting to design a virus that would attack and kill people with white skin. I was so angry at people telling me that what happened to me was because of free choice, when I knew many of my opportunities were limited simply because I was black. It was like being kicked in the face and then kicked in the face again because I didn't get up fast enough.

I mean it was like Hilter telling the Jews they are where they are, because it's their fault.

Only when I got older did I realize how sick such a thought is, but oppression breeds that kind of hate. I realized that I was becoming like the people I hated. It's only about power and for me and other people of color in the world, time will only change our condition and that means another 1,000 years before we get our fair share. There is no way people like Bush can see how bad things are for suffering people and thus he will never ever understand why terrorists exist and thus he will never be able to solve the problem. Might is not right, it only puts things down for a while.

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In my mind, Tom Segev is so right. It's a slow process and one that we all need to accept. Thank God for sanity in a world gone mad.

-- Bartel Broussard

Really good interview. It's nice Salon is including such needed balance into U.S.-based journalism. Segev's colleague Amira Hass wrote a really good book on Gaza, "Drinking the Sea at Gaza," which goes into detail on the life, politics and history of the place. It's a really good and hard read.

There are some things I wished Segev explored a little more in the interview. For example, it's pretty clear the Zionists knew that what they were doing would cause great turmoil and reaction from the Palestinians, whose land was essentially being stolen away from them. The Zionists had no intention of working with the Palestinians, but were intent on excluding them from the land the Zionists occupied. (Yes, there were exceptions at the margins, but only at the margins.) This type of settler colonialism is the worst kind of colonialism because it is essentially a form of ethnic cleansing, transfer, what have you.

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Another thing Segev did not discuss is the other obvious reason England supported the Zionists, another implicit crusade. Although Zionists were Jews, they were English/European Jews projecting power into the Middle East. What a neat solution for Europe: send the Jews packing, but still represent European colonial interests and values. Have you ever wondered why England was so reluctant to have the state of Israel come into being? Given Segev's scholarship on the mostly good feelings England had for Zionism, why this stance? Well, a Jewish state meant a Palestinian state, harder to control.

-- Rob Lipton

Read "Family Feud"

I reviewed "Blackbird" for Salon. Some time after that, I got a telephone call from Langtry. He was all exercised and mad, and said Lauck had gotten this and that detail wrong. But he also admitted that his mother, the "Deb" of the memoir, was a controlling and scary woman. We talked for a long time and I told him to go to Salon with his story. Lauck probably exaggerated or misremembered the 11-block furniture hike, but it was clear to me from talking to her stepbrother that "Deb" had no use for Jenny or her brother. Langtry admitted to me as much. His complaints were all about little facts.

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-- Brigitte Frase

Last year I went back to a place where I was a lonely 7-year-old. Everything seemed a lot smaller. There was a piece of woods out back where I spent a lot of time after school. Before going back to visit as an adult I would have sworn on a stack of bibles that it was over a mile deep. I was so sure of the size of it, that I probably could take a polygraph without one twitch to a needle. Now as an adult I can say that it was probably only about a hundred yards from front to back. Childhood memories are so much more vivid than the world we revisit. Is that what is meant by, "You can't go home again"?

-- Gorden Russell

As a stepmother I have to admit that I was very disturbed by the portrayal of "Deb" in "Blackbird," especially when compared to the biological mother who died young and clearly had her fair share of issues. But it is important to remember that as a memoir of an 8-year old girl it has the element of truth it would have had for her at the time. I strongly believe that she has done a good job representing a child's memories, with all of the distortions, lack of linearity and black-and-white thinking of an 8-year old girl. It would be interesting to know if as an adult she sees the complexities in the situation differently. I'd hate for her to be locked into that 8-year-old's mentality forever, but then again kids who go through traumatic experiences (and losing both parents within the space of years could easily be counted as trauma) do have developmental challenges and often become very oriented around themselves, their needs and their perception of the world, because the people they trusted most to pin down their reality have left them.

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-- Madeline Vann


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