WOULD IT be possible to indicate the background of the reviewer when his opinions are more controversial than the author of the reviewed book? Edward Said, who reviewed Tough Jews: Political Fantasies and the Moral Dilemma of History by Paul Breines (Book World, Sept. 23), is well-known as a spokesman for the Palestinian Liberation Organization and presents the official line of this organization. Certainly these facts should have been included in the description of the reviewer, instead of a simple reference to him as a teacher of English at Columbia University and the author of two books. The modified reference would have alerted the reader to the obvious bias in the review. NELSON MARANS Silver Spring
At first glance I thought the editor of The Washington Post was playing a joke on us. A book review on the image of the American Jew by Edward W. Said, a member of the PLO Executive Council, has to be a joke, right? Didn't anyone at The Post's editorial board raise the question that this might be offensive, along the lines of asking Lester Maddox or "Bull" Connor to write a review of the image of blacks in America.
In addition to the inappropriate choice of reviewer, The Post was deceitful by identifying Said merely as a Columbia University English teacher without listing him as a PLO Council member and frequent spokesman for Palestinian causes. The readers of the book section deserve an explanation for this example of bad journalism and even worse editorial judgment. JAY GARFINKEL Silver Spring (The writer is director of the Council of Jewish Settlements -- U.S. Information Office.)
In some respects I am grateful that Edward Said betrays his bias in his review of Tough Jews by Paul Breines when he speaks of how "the dreadful right-wing Israeli government contemplates even more settlement, mass deportation and perhaps even genocide against the defenseless population of the Occupied Territories." His fantasy could have been written by Saddam Hussein.
One would expect, or at least hope for, an acknowledgement by Said, who claims to write from the perspective of history, of the violence committed by Arabs who, from the dawn of the Muslim era, conquered vast areas of the world with an exceeding lack of mercy toward their victims.
Space does not permit a long exposition of Arab history. It is enough to point out that genocide was practiced by the Palestinians in Hebron in 1929 and in riots that swept through Palestine in the 1930s. Would Said have us forget the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, an arch terrorist who escaped from the Allies during World War II to spew out propaganda alongside Hitler in Germany and after the war continued in Egypt? Abu Nidal, Abu Abbas and their ilk understand terrorism and genocide very well.
If Said and Paul Breines and others lament the new image of the Jew as a tough fighter it is their problem. For two millennia the world, by and large, attempted to mold the Jew into a cringing, servile caricature who would accept all the persecution meted out to him. Even before the Holocaust years we saw the emergence of a Jew who will stand proudly for his rights as a human being and fight for them, if necessary. Unfortunately, the message was driven home to them by their tormentors that saintliness does not necessarily pay.
Breines has shut out from his writing the countless peace-loving Jews who deeply regret the necessity for the new image of the Jew, but who would resent all the negative implications in his book. Of Edward Said I would say that Book World gained no great honor in selecting him as the revewer. MARTIN S. HALPERN Silver Spring (The writer is rabbi of the Shaare Tefila Congregation.)
It was certainly interesting to choose Edward W. Said, a member of the Palestine National Council, to review Tough Jews, by Paul Breines. For the most part, he attempted an honest evaluation. However, his charge that the current Israeli government is contemplating genocide against the Palestinians cannot be excused by his use of the word "perhaps." Does he have evidence to support this egregious claim? If not, his statement is irresponsible, in addition to being inflammatory. CAROL M. LEVY Arlington Edward W. Said responds:
No, Nelson Marans, I'm neither an official, nor a spokesman, nor a member of the PLO. I am an independent member of the Palestine National Council, the Palestinian Parliament in exile. What I write, think and speak, however, represents my own viewpoint, which does not include uncritical support for everything the PLO does. I do earn my living as a professor of literature, and I am the author of considerably more than two books. What an odd way to disagree with ideas, this trying clumsily to defame the person, and not really to argue with what he says!
Jay Garfinkel is quite funny. He's the director of a group whose whole reason for existence is to steal land from Palestinians on the West Bank and Gaza, and then to establish illegal settlements there. And he says I'm disqualified from writing on the subject, as if only thuggish zealots are allowed to speak. The irony of course is that by his very language and abusive sentiments he quite openly identifies with the racists he mentions so effortlessly. But to repeat: Isn't there something grotesque and repressive about the tough "notion" that the only people who can speak about the conflict in Palestine are right-wing Israelis and their unconditional supporters, especially since now the whole world has witnessed the brutalities of Israeli soldiers beating up and killing hundreds of Palestinian civilians? With nothing to say in defense of this appalling policy of violence then, the Garfinkels of this world try to silence any thought or discourse at all with insults, threats, etc. It won't work, I'm happy to say.
As for Martin S. Halpern's ravings, they are simply no match for reality. The Palestinians were there before the Zionist immigrants arrived in Palestine; there were the hundred of thousands of Palestinians driven out by largely European Jews in 1948; there has been an unending expropriation of lands; the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza continues; and all this he forgets, along with the fact that Shamir was a declared terrorist pursued by the authorities of the time. As for war criminal Gen. Sharon and the other right-wing leaders of Israel who exemplify the "tough Jew" image so devastatingly portrayed by Paul Breines, these are handsomely endorsed by the gentle rabbi, as if reading the very script Breines does so much to expose and discredit. No one, least of all Breines, shuts out the sufferings of the Jews. It's the suffering imposed by tough Israelis on Palestinians that have to be taken account of now.
Carol M. Levy's point is delicate. According to the 1983 McBride Commission Report, Israel in Lebanon, a group of prominent international jurists agreed that what Israel was responsible for might be considered ethnocide or genocide, which are constituted by "the adoption of kinds of measures, short of killing, to destroy the national culture, political autonomy and national will in the context of the Palestininan struggle for national liberation and self determination." There has been plenty of Israeli killing of Palestinians because they are Palestinians.
Perpetual military occupation, massive denial of rights (including the right even to use the word "Palestine"), open threats of wholesale deportation or "transfer" from Israeli cabinet ministers: these are plainly not designed to make it possible for Palestinians to live, even as Jay Garfinkel and his people plan for more expropriations and demolitions of Palestinian houses. In such a context, my word "perhaps" is actually very cautious, I'm sorry to say. Book World welcomes letters from its readers. Letters should be signed and must include the writer's address and daytime telephone number. because of space limitations, those selected for publication are subject to abridgment. Address letters to Book World, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C. 20071.