Arts and letters

Arts and letters

I don’t ordinarily read the sports news, but my husband pointed me to the letters about the Dubai tennis flap in Sunday’s New York Times. (We’ve got a story about it in the issue appearing tomorrow.) There were seven letters under the headline “The Show Shouldn’t Have Gone On,” every one of them in support of Israeli tennis player Shahar Pe’er, who was denied a visa to Dubai so she could play in the tennis tournament there.

Subsequently, the Dubai authorities were prevailed upon (by who knows what means) to grant a visa to a male Israeli player, Andy Ram.

Most of the letters to the Times, written before the news of Ram’s visa, urged that the tournament be boycotted – and indeed, if Ram had not been granted a visa, we might well have joined them, although we’re not fans of boycotts. Not that Pe’er didn’t deserve to compete – but Israel deserves to be seen on playing fields, not just battlefields. It’s good for the world to note how well Israelis handle rackets, not just guns.

Meanwhile, speaking of letters, a truly disturbing letter ran in last week’s Woodstock Times. There have been a spate of them lately, using anti-Israel rhetoric that is dangerously close to being anti-Semitic. I have been in touch with that newspaper’s editor to see what can be done about the distorted view of Israel many of his readers seem to have, and I shared with him a touching letter from Israel and Abe Foxman’s op-ed that will appear tomorrow. Meanwhile, here’s the offending letter:


Even for a country as vulgar, as odious as Israel, it’s been quite the stretch.

First there was their slaughterfest in Gaza, where, using American-supplied weapons, and in direct violation of signed agreements providing those weapons, they engaged in a three-week massacre of trapped Palestinian men, women, and children. Gunning down surrendering families, firing at civilians waving white flags, targeting ambulances and Christian hospitals (is that even a crime in Israel?), bombing universities, bombing flour mills and food processing plants and cemeteries – oh what a time it was!

Then came the winners in last week’s elections, a coalition of slime standing next to which Jorge Haider would look like Marilyn Munster on prom night. Most of the racists I have had the misfortune to encounter have had the good sense, not to mention decency, to lower their voices before saying something bigoted. Not in Israel. In Israel, you shout it. In Israel, where all elections invariably boil down to a battle between a former terrorist and someone worse, bigotry is your platform. Avigdor Lieberman wants Arab Israelis to take a loyalty oath to the state, which I actually think is a fine idea – as long as we can get Elliot Abrams, Dennis Ross, and Rahm Emanuel (not to mention 100 U.S. senators and The New York Times editorial board) to do the same thing.

And now there’s the news that Israel plans to steal even more Palestinian land to build even more Jewish settlements. (Take that, Obama!) Consider this for a moment: We fight wars for Israel (and would fight another if they had their way); we bankroll Israel, we embarrass ourselves regularly by providing UN Security Council vetoes that conceal Israel’s abhorrent behavior, and in return they spy on us, they lie to us, they murder our citizens, and the only thing we have ever asked is that they stop building settlements. Their response? Go to hell. But keep the checks coming. (The power that dare not speak its name?)

Much of the blame for this sorry state of affairs rests squarely on the shoulders of U.S. Jews, whose silence over Israel’s conduct, with far too few exceptions, has been nothing short of disgraceful, and absolutely raises the issue of dual loyalty. It’s time they faced the music. It’s Rick’s Cafe, and the singing has started. With whom will America’s Jews sing? Major Strasser? Or Victor Laszlo? It has to be one or the other, it can’t be both. Talking out of both sides of your mouth is one thing. Singing is quite another.

CJ Mellor