letters to the editor 88.
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Sir, - Anshel Pfeffer's excellent analysis of Avrum Burg's timing and motivation coincides with both the weekly Torah reading and with Book Week ("Is Burg, through anti-Zionist book, eyeing the EU's new Jerusalem?" June 11).
This past Shabbat's Torah portion, Shalah, contains the passage where the people, upon hearing a slanderous report of the Promised Land from the scouts, princes of their tribes, look for someone to lead them back to Egypt. Mr. Burg apparently sees himself in this role, substituting France for Egypt.
Book Week, during which publishers display new works and present their authors, put me in mind of a classic cartoon that first appeared in The New Yorker magazine in the late 1920s. Titled "Unlooked-for event of the literary season," it is captioned "The Messrs. Houghton and Mifflin tender a tea to one of their authors." Depicted is a room empty but for the author of Mein Kampf, who holds a tea cup.
Sir, - Avram Burg has proclaimed: "I am a citizen of the world first, afterwards a Jew and then an Israeli."
Albert Einstein said, "If my theories are proven wrong, the French will say I am a German, and the Germans will say I am a Jew. If my theories are proven right, then the French will say I am a European, and the Germans will say I am a citizen of the world."
In becoming a French citizen and gaining "his new Euro passport," Burg has taken Einstein's wry observation and turned it into a formula to gain favor with Europe. Sad to say, this qualifies as a sort of postmodern "secular conversion."
MIRIAM L. GAVARIN
...written in an 'ashram'
Sir, - I cannot fathom why this book is causing such waves. All of its "revolutionary ideas" have been tossed around for years in discussion groups. My humble take on it all is that the author is drunk with his new-found freedom in France. It is his own (rather belated) personal developmental journey that he seems to be describing.
A parallel can be taken from our children who, after three to four long fighting years in the army, find themselves in an ashram in India... suddenly everything that previously dominated their lives and identities is trashed, and there is total embrace of the new "religion." The good/bad split is well documented in psychological literature.
Burg is reevaluating previous assumptions he abided by for so long. He should look for the reasons in himself and not only dump on Israel, Zionism and Jewishness. He comes over as supercilious and reprimanding.
It will take him a bit of time to integrate this new information with his old belief system, but perhaps he will emerge a broader and more balanced human being. Then he will be surprised to find that one can enjoy good coffee, croissants and intellectual discourse in a Tel Aviv cafe too.
The best revenge on Hitler is to lead a happy and fruitful life - but, first and foremost, one must survive. The rest is commentary.
JUDY ABELES ELIASOV
Sir, - Reading the news report about the foreign press slamming Islamic Jihad for using a jeep with press markings in its failed kidnap attempt, I was surprised to see Conny Mus quoted ("Reporters rip gunmen for posing as press in Kissufim attack," June 11). Mr. Mus discredited himself last year when he used the Post to chastise Israelis for criticizing the award given to the BBC's chief Israel critic and fault-finder, Orla Guerin.
His response to this latest incident - attempting to establish moral equivalency by claiming that Israel has acted similarly ("It's not a new thing," he said, explaining that in the past Israeli undercover units drove around in vehicles marked with press insignia...") - is just one more indication of the extent to which the foreign press will go to find fault with Israel, regardless of circumstance.
E. JOAN O'CALLAGHAN
Sir, - Re "The price of British Jewish criticism of Israel" (June 11): Shmuley Boteach criticizes Sir Isaiah Berlin for his unwillingness to meet with prime minister Yitzhak Shamir, having decided a priori that such a meeting would be "simply wasting conversation," but the rabbi doesn't really explain why Isaiah Berlin felt that way. It is related to Isaiah Berlin's perception of freedom.
In a lecture at Princeton University in 1952 he defined it as the "ability to choose as you wish to choose, because you wish so to choose, uncoerced, unbullied, not swallowed up in some vast system." Back then, "the greatest living British thinker" was alluding to the communist system; but his definition of freedom may be applied to the people who have been living for 40 years under Israel's West Bank system of occupation.
How, then, does Israel define freedom for the Palestinians? That is the question being asked by British academics boycotting Israel, and not only by them.
Does anyone have the answer?
Sir, - Daniel Pipes's work in exposing the many tactics Islamists employ to silence their critics is exceedingly important, as is his "Islamists in the courtroom" (June 6). However, it is important to correct the implication concerning Khalid bin Mahfouz's UK suit against me: that I apologized and paid a fine for facts in my book Funding Evil.
First, the fine was not 30,000, as Mr. Pipes wrote, but more than 87,000 and, with interest, it has since more than doubled, to over $180,000. More importantly, I neither paid a fine nor apologized, and do not intend to do either.
I did not even acknowledge the British court or its jurisdiction, since I wrote and published the book in the US. But I commend Mr. Pipes for choosing Bin Mahfouz's lawsuit against me as an example, since Bin Mahfouz has sued more than 30 other writers and publishers, including many US citizens and publications, all of whom apologized and paid fines. That important detail strengthens Mr. Pipes's argument.
Finally, in his conciseness, Mr. Pipes neglected to mention that I have sued Bin Mahfouz in US Federal Court to protect my First Amendment rights. Winning this case could discourage further Islamists' lawsuits against the press.
We're with you in spirit
Sir, - To all of Israel, my thoughts and prayers are with you. I know that God loves you, and He will keep you safe.
Be assured that we American Christians are with you in Spirit.