Readers weigh in on the future of Israel, comedy on the presidential campaign trail, and violent regime change in Haiti.

Published July 22, 2004 6:53PM (EDT)

[Read "Can Israel Be Saved?" by Gary Kamiya.]

Gary Kamiya's excellent interview with Richard Ben Cramer is a relief to this American Jewish supporter of Israel. In the late 1970s I spent time in Israel and the territories on a journalism program, loving the basic vibrancy of the nation but wary of the blindness to the land grab on the West Bank and the connected brutality. It was colonialism of the worst type.

The Palestinians had one option, which was basically rooted in a maze of economic and legal restrictions -- work as cheap labor, which went against all the original (even if impossible) original Zionist ideals.

What's so troubling to me is that the many American Jews who feel the same way as Cramer does about Israel have let their own voices be marginalized, both by elements in the left who demonize Israel and the mainstream (not just the right-wing) Jews who prefer Israel as an icon they can idolize, refusing to look at it as a living organism with warts that are far from benign.

If you read the Israeli papers today, you'll hear daily reports about steadily rising domestic violence, poverty and road rage. The chickens, kosher and halal, come home to roost. Cramer's book received criminally shortsighted reviews, and I'm glad to see that Salon gave it the coverage it deserves.

-- Jonathan Field

Gary Kamiya rolls out the old canard that the Jewish-American community has been "monolithic" in its support for Israel. Not true, but nothing new there. However, he adds a new wrinkle to this cliché when he writes that Jewish-American "support for Israel ... stands in embarrassing contrast to the range of acceptable views in Israel." What exactly does Mr. Kamiya think "support for Israel" entails, and why would it be embarrassing? Does he really think that denigration and outright attack against the state of Israel are among the "range of acceptable views" in Israeli discourse?

I'm afraid that Mr. Kamiya has confused "support for Israel" with "support for the Sharon administration," and he does a disservice to his readers in the process. Israel is a robust democracy, and fierce criticism of the government and its policies is indeed part of the daily discourse there. But the existence of this "range of views" does not mean that Israelis are actually debating whether they are "pro-Israeli" or not.

The existential legitimacy of the state of Israel is generally the premise, not the object, of serious political discussions in Israel. Yes, most Jewish Americans support Israel in the sense that they want to see Israel secure and at peace, and yes, Israelis often criticize the policies of the Sharon government. These two facts are not in any dissonance, and to suggest otherwise is to misunderstand both the Jewish-American community and Israel.

-- David Wolitz

Gary Kamiya's article on Richard Cramer takes me back to my attitudes about Israel before Sharon. My support for Israel for years might have been described as knee-jerk. It took Sharon to disenchant me. I have lost faith in this small nation which had so much spirit. Cramer spells out my disillusionment, the reasons for it. He makes me understand that all Jews do not approve of Sharon's belligerent conduct and he gives me hope that Israel will eventually see that such leadership is corrosive. Salon's incorporation of this article reminds me of why I enjoy this Internet magazine so much!

-- Se Sanders

[Read "Laughing All the Way to the White House," by Lawrence Epstein.]

I find myself astonished at Salon's mushy theorizing about voters. Is there any evidence at all that people vote based on the team chemistry of the presidential and vice presidential nominees, much less that their chemistry must work like a well-oiled comedy duo?

Am I so out of touch in thinking that voters rely on more concrete or obvious factors -- if not actual policy positions, then at least on a general feeling about a candidate's point of view rather than these pseudo-pop-psychology meanderings?

-- Anandashankar Mazumdar

When John Edwards announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination, he did so on "The Daily Show." That simple act showed me he's sharp, witty and on the ball. He immediately jumped to the top of my list.

I know running for president is a difficult and serious business, but Kerry and Edwards need to allow for some clever banter if at all possible. Remember how much more appealing Dole became after the election?

-- Leisa McCord

[Read "The Other Regime Change," by Max Blumenthal.]

I had the unfortunate experience of being in the north of Haiti, including Gonaives, St. Michel and St. Marc, during the first week of the slow-moving coup.

Mr. Blumenthal's excellent article chronicles what is well-known in the Haitian countryside, that the Bush administration and the IRI orchestrated the fall of Haitian democracy through violence and intimidation. The article could be strengthened only by adding that the insurgents used brute terror and murder to create the crisis.

We experienced U.S.-sponsored terrorism of a most personal nature and were stunned to find that even the most progressive media failed to understand the situation with any clarity.

-- William Hunter

By Salon Staff

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