The Middle East
Kurt Andersen’s column “Truly Inconvenient Truths” hits the nail right on the head [“The Imperial City,” July 31–August 7]. Though it is inconvenient to admit, Hamas and Hezbollah are both movements fighting a real-estate war with Israel. They are children of Israeli occupation; both developed as indigenous resistance movements to combat Israel’s occupation of their respective lands, and, as such, they can be dealt with only by addressing the very reason for their existence—continued Israeli occupation. Only when all sides come to the table, and all grievances are addressed equally, will there be a possibility for a lasting peace in the region. As a recent visitor to Beirut, I cry for the city that struggled so hard to forget the scars of war. At some point, Israel must realize that the violence it perpetrates will lead only to more violence against it.
—Joanna C. Mikolajewski, Manhattan
Andersen lays out a sympathetic—to all stakeholders—analysis of the intractable and interminable differences currently exploding in Israel and Lebanon. However, to imply that Israel was created out of land taken from the Arabs is simply bad history. If the land was anyone’s, it was Turkey’s, at least until the Ottoman Empire was swept away at the conclusion of World War I. Arabs and Jews had lived there for millennia but never had a claim to the real estate by virtue of creating a nation with boundaries, a government, and all the perquisites of statehood. After World War I, Britain held the mandate and kept it until the United Nations created Israel and Jordan. During the first half of the twentieth century, and with the help of wealthy Jews (Baron Rothschild comes to mind) and Jewish organizations in Europe, the U.K., and America, much Arab land was purchased and became a part of Eretz Israel. These Jewish interests created cities, an economic infrastructure, a nascent government, and a military that became the nation of Israel and that was recognized by a majority of member states in the U.N.
—Matthew M. Katz, Roosevelt Island
Your columnist bemoans “this time of staggering new complexity” but settles for lampooning, not analyzing, the claim by some that Israel’s two-front war might be part of a new global conflict, a world war. He writes that “the kill ratio in Lebanon and Israel last week was running ten-to-one in Israel’s favor—and much higher than that if you count only civilians.” No doubt the “kill ratio” against Germany and Japan in World War II ran in the Allies’ favor. But such a tally would tell us nothing about who was the aggressor or about the moral necessity of the war.
—Eric Rozenman, Washington, D.C.
With Andersen’s acceptance of the idea that Israel is a “mistake” and the cause of “a century of warfare and terrorism,” his essay emerges as a moral travesty. The problem isn’t that intelligent debate on this topic is impossible to find; it’s that the logical conclusion of that debate is so hard to accept. When there are millions of people who are perfectly willing to kill us, the coming pain is so great, and the responsibility so enormous, that it’s much easier just to retreat to a fantasy that we’re just not splitting the difference between the two sides fairly. It’s a false and dangerous perspective, but Andersen and others will probably carry on, convinced that their evenhandedness will keep them safe and the truth will remain on their side.
—Russell Reich, Manhattan
I present my sister’s surefire plan for Middle East peace: Create a U.N. mandate giving the whole place to Disney. From the people who brought you Adventureland and Tomorrowland, you could now have “Holyland.” No one would want to fight—they’d be having too much fun and making too much money. Sigh. But seriously, Andersen left out the most inconvenient truth: Israel cannot make peace by itself. None of the enemies who are clamoring for cease-fires has any intention of permanently stopping hostilities against Israel, nor do they have the ability to enforce a treaty. This is not about kidnapped soldiers. There is nothing fueling this conflict except generations of indoctrinated hatred for the Jews, and complicity among those who find it expedient to allow terrorists to operate within their borders. To paraphrase Golda Meir, there will be no peace until such time as the Arabs care more about creating a good life for their own people than about hating the Jews.
—Dalia Lavon, Great Neck, N.Y.
Urban Baby, Urban Breeders
Two months after giving birth to our twins, Ingrid and Baker, we feel Amy Sohn’s pain [“Breeding: A Glass of Wine and a Pacifier, Please,” July 31–August 7]. For us, it’s not so much denial that our lives really have changed from urban hipsterdom to suburban parenthood than it’s lamenting the loss of our previous life. When we do have to take our kids out, we try to remain as scenester-cool as possible, although this is a losing proposition. Thank God they have willing grandparents who have allowed us to continue, albeit in limited once-weekly increments, our city lifestyle. We even made it out to Tanoreen, ranked No. 1 in “The 101 Best Cheap Eats” issue, a couple of nights ago to see what all the fuss was about [“The Ultimate Underground Gourmet,” by Rob Patronite and Robin Raisfeld, July 31–August 7]. For us, there’s still time to be hipster scum and responsible parents.
—Francis Celis, Green Brook, N.J.