Dear Chicago Reader,

I was fascinated by Michael Miner’s recounting of the controversy over Ted Shen’s commentary on Gaza Strip, a documentary that includes very troubling footage about a possible gassing of Palestinian children by the Israel Defense Forces [Hot Type, August 23].

I have devoted a good part of my life over the last two years to raising an alternative Jewish voice about a path to peace in the Middle East (this involves publicly criticizing Israel, which means that I regularly endure being called a “traitor” and “self-hating Jew”). And I never stop being amazed at the mental gymnastics that so many people, particularly American Jews, perform when it comes to Israel.

I don’t know if Israel used nerve gas or some other kind of gas on Palestinians. I sure would like to find out. And I would think that anyone who uncritically supports Israel (particularly American Jews) and is an even mildly compassionate human would also very much want to find out. After all, you wouldn’t want to end up supporting people who do the same things as Saddam Hussein now, would you?

So let’s see: maybe the Israeli military used some kind of gas on Palestinians (chemical warfare). And maybe the Chicago Reader should apologize (in addition to having already corrected its on-line movie review) for printing what may be a technically incorrect statement.

Which of these two “maybes” is the more important to resolve? Which of these two “maybes” should consume the time and interest and concerns of people like Isaac Levendel and Ora Hoshen? Hey, looks like the “honor” of the State of Israel is more important than the potential commission of war crimes by a Prime Minister of Israel (Ehud Barak or Ariel Sharon, take your pick). So ask the folks at to launch an E-mail attack on the Chicago Reader. Do not, I repeat, do not ask to push for an investigation into the possible use of chemical weapons in the Gaza Strip.

After spending two years speaking out as a Jew and to other Jews about Israel’s brutal treatment of millions of Palestinians, I have come to the conclusion that it is time to recognize and formalize a new extreme sport: Extreme Obfuscation. Here is how the game works. It is a competitive sport. One person picks a terrible situation that is occurring or has occurred. His or her job is to convince the judges that something terrible has indeed happened. The opponent’s role is to evade judgment through critiques of technical aspects of that person’s argument.

I predict that, if he chooses to participate, Isaac Levendel would be a serious contender for the gold. I also predict that if the path of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians continues its descent to total hell, Mr. Levendel and Ms. Hoshen will one day feel shame for their silence in the face of atrocities committed in their names as Jews.

Steven Feuerstein

N. Maplewood