Iwish to protest Cynthia Ozick's treatment of Rachel Corrie("Martyr," December 11). Corrie is a shining example of humanidealism--an inspiration to all of us who fight for human rightsand dignity around the world and especially in Israel. During manydemonstrations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories against theAnnexation Wall, house demolitions, and the other curses ofoccupation, we Israeli peace activists have come to know andrespect International Solidarity Movement activists. More power tothem!
Former member, the Knesset
Founder, Gush Shalom
As an actor and a playwright who tries to stage the world'scomplexity, I suspect I would hate Corrie's fashionable dogma. Thegushing reviews and hype have nurtured my resentment. But Ozickonly attacks Corrie's willful ignorance and false witness with herown. Ozick excuses her failure to see the play by assuring us sheknows the difference between script and performance. Good, so whydidn't she go to a show? Instead she combed the script, based onCorrie's journal entries, for evidence of Corrie'ssmall-mindedness. But, while most readers and audience memberspresumably receive it in its proper context, Ozick cites a dreamyline about wanting to travel to South America as proof that Corrielacks "all historical understanding." When Corrie recounts learningher first Arabic phrases--including "Bush is a tool"--Ozick chalksthis up to indoctrination, not to honest observation of adisturbingly polarized society. Congratulations, Ms. Ozick, forcountering Corrie's 23-year-old rant with one of your own, thenpassing it off as wise and studied criticism.
San Francisco, California
cynthia ozick responds:
If I were writing a satirical fiction looking to lampoon apolitically egregious far-left character (as I sometimes havedone), and if this ludicrously delusional person were to submit, toa sober journal of ideas, a reality-distorting letter derived fromCloud-Cuckoo-Land, it would turn out to be, word for word,identical to Uri Avnery's wondrously farcical epistolary effusion.All those passionately politicized capital letters! Every knownfact stood on its head! Human shields taken for human rights! Allhistory and context excised! And this from a former member of theIsraeli parliament! (Not to mention that crazed old Canaanitemovement, which roundly reviled all things Jewish.) Any novelistwould be proud to have invented such an improbable Uri Avnery. Idevoutly wish I had; but tant pis, he's scooped me and gone andinvented himself. As for Dan Hoyle, who "tries to stage the world'scomplexity, " he will soon be obliged to face the complicatinghappenstance that Corrie's writings are scheduled to be publishedin book form, in which case her words will have to stand entirelyon their own, without theatrical embellishment, as they surelydeserve. Or, perhaps, in the simplicity of his devotion tocomplexity, Hoyle distrusts plain words read in the absence ofmesmerizing stage effects and lines rendered "dreamy." Yet thesalient shocking point of My Name is Rachel Corrie, whetherencountered dreamily on stage or more directly in print, is that itopenly declares Corrie to be a victim of a bloodthirsty, purposefulmurder. And that is a politically tendentious and criminalizinglie.
War on Error
Iimmensely enjoyed reading Cass R. Sunstein's review and found it tobe both thoughtful and enlightening ("The Case for Fear," December11). However, his agreement with Robert Goodin's contention that,to some degree, politicians are terrorists is based on a severelyflawed analogy. Goodin posits that, if Jones, a member of a"liberation front," plants a bomb somewhere and warns publicauthorities that he will detonate it unless certain demands are met,then Jones is a terrorist. If Smith, a member of the same terroristorganization, is the one who issues the warning (though he does notplant the bomb), he, too, is a terrorist. So far, so good. ButGoodin then suggests that if Williams, someone not part of thegroup but who supports them, learns of this and warns authoritiesin the hopes that they will avert detonation by acceding to thedemands, he is equally a terrorist. On the basis of this last claim,Sunstein agrees with Goodin's argument that politicians areterrorists by fueling public fear. But, for this analogy to work,he makes the unwarranted assumption that a) politicians supportterrorists' causes and b) politicians hope we will accede to theirdemands. Without these two assumptions, the analogy flounders. Itis surprising that Sunstein, a distinguished law professor atChicago, fails to see this critical distinction.
Ithaca, New York
cass r. sunstein replies:
Kevin Yeh is entirely right to say that assumptions a) and b) may beunwarranted. But Goodin is not arguing that these assumptions areright. He is offering them by stipulation, on behalf of hisargument that a politician who agrees with terrorists and offerswarnings in the hope that the government will capitulate to themis, to that extent, acting as a terrorist. But Williams is athought experiment, not a real person, and I did not mean to acceptGoodin's claims about when politicians should be counted asterrorists. As I suggested, politicians who exploit terrorism fortheir own ends are fearmongerers; they are not terrorists.Politicians who abhor violence, and who offer warnings in order topromote their political goals, should not be confused with thosewho engage in violence in order to promote those goals.Nonetheless, it is important to see, and to say, that those whofrighten citizens to achieve or to maintain power are underminingthe democratic process.