Rob [in response to ‘Harvard’s President on Anti-Semitism,’ October 1]: ‘I believe that a lot of people does not trust Jews, becouse while they complain that they have been hystorically harrased, they discriminate others like there is no tommorow. Even you in your everyday writings – you sponsor mostly Jewish writers. Let’s be fair and start treating people equally. I think it is great that the President of Harvard is Jew. Maybe he should go back to live in Isreal – to understand the situation better and see how Palestinians are treated like dogs and murdered without any warnings. Then maybe he will give scholarships to Arabs, becouse they are people too. This is what Europe dislikes. Isreal is one horrible country that treats Arabs like the Nazi. What we won’t allow here in US is Jewish pressure to push our sons and daughters to a war against Iraq (which is mostly Isreal-i enemy).

‘Is it great to see Arabs and US soldiers (mostly Christians) die, for the Jewish sake? You might think so. I thought of you as a great writer. Many non jewish people are reading you too. You can do better than this. Religion is not worth the paper it is written on (including Christian or Muslim too).’

☞ Gosh – where to start? I guess by explaining why I post this message at all. It is because it sounds sincere to me, even though terribly wrong-headed; and because the more that people feel heard, the less they may seethe with frustration. And also because it’s important to know what others think, and to respond.

(As to posting the message unedited, I’m not sure I made the right choice. Normally, I clean up grammar and spelling. But it seemed to me in this case that the jarring point of view came through, also, in the jarring writing, and I would not tamper with it. No disrespect meant.)

Where do I agree with Rob? In believing that people should be treated fairly and equally . . . in feeling awful for innocent Palestinians who have suffered or even been killed . . . in thinking that religion, taken to extremes, can be horrendously negative instead of the positive force it is meant to be.

Where do I disagree? Well, in every other respect. I recognize that Rob is ‘venting’ here. But venting against Jews – or any other group – is very dangerous business. I think we should all lean over backwards to avoid it, and to temper our remarks with sympathy and respect. There is, for example, no question in my mind that Palestinians have been suffering terribly, and that we need desperately to find some way to resolve this. (The Bush administration’s notion of just butting out and letting the two sides handle it themselves proved disastrous. The Clinton administration came so close to helping to broker an agreement – but Yasir Arafat could not take yes for an answer . . . or even put forth a counter-proposal.) But where is Rob’s acknowledgement of the thousands of Israelis recently murdered and maimed by Palestinians? Of the wars launched against Israel and the long-stated goal of its destruction? Or the millennia of persecution? Or the systematic murder of 6 million Jews less than 60 years ago? Does he not see how an event like that, and subsequent attacks, could lead a people to complain? Perhaps even – when a peace plan is rejected and the mass murder of civilians resumes – to strike back?

All this seems so obvious to me and, I would expect, to most of this column’s readers (who, Rob is surely right, come from all faiths). But there are hundreds of millions of people who feel as he does – hundreds of thousands of them if not millions in the U.S. – so I don’t think it makes sense just to ignore it or fail to respond.

Harvard does, of course, give scholarships to Arab students. And as to my sponsoring mostly Jewish writers, I don’t know the religion, ethnicity or nationality of many of those who write in – including Rob himself.

Comparing Israelis to Nazis, meanwhile, is both wildly offensive and completely absurd. It is some of the Arab militants who have called for Israeli extermination, not Israelis who have called for, let alone embarked upon, the extermination of millions of Palestinians.

President Summers’ great speech wasn’t anti-Palestinian, it was anti-anti-Semitism. What decent, fair-minded person could be against that?

Peace, Rob – peace!


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