Dear Sir or Madame:
I wish to respond to Jeff Sussman’s letter to the Reader, 21 June 2002, concerning Joel Sprayreger’s published comments about Studs Terkel in a letter to the Reader, 31 May 2002. Mr. Sussman, no doubt, is now sitting in his comfortable air-conditioned office in a downtown high-rise, far from the heat, sweat, and bitter fighting in Israel-Palestine with absolutely no intention of ever endangering himself by going there.
Similarly, Mr. Terkel is now resting comfortably in his spacious air-conditioned condominium, and looking out the window dreaming of his socialist messianic kingdom, which, to his consternation, has not yet arrived. But, Mr. Terkel believes, if only the Jews and the Israelis in particular would act like saints, then the messianic kingdom would be here. Alas, Mr. Terkel, there are few saints among Jews, Christians, Muslims, and just about everyone else. You, sir, are the victim of your own naive thinking, which stems from your World War II experiences, which you astonishingly labeled “The Good War” when millions of Jews and non-Jews were dying. Then the good guys, the Allies (many of whom did not care a hoot about the destruction of European Jewry, and some of whom welcomed or even participated in the Holocaust), were fighting the Axis powers.
The second source of your erroneous thinking stems from your oral history projects. If only, you think, people would only talk heart-to-heart to each other, then all the world’s problems would be solved. Sorry about that, but it’s all wrong. Conflicts arise between groups when both sides want the same thing. Group relations just are not individual ones. The present sorry conflict in the Middle East pits Jewish refugees from Christian persecution and Muslim oppression against often poverty-stricken Arabs who, with some justification, regard the Jews as usurpers of their land. Both ethnoreligious groups have historical and religious claims to the same piece of land, and both groups often engage in emotional, even hysterical, propaganda. For the moment the Israelis have the upper hand, but that may change. After all it took the Muslims 250 years to drive the Crusaders from the Holy Land, but they finally did so.
Finally let me say that the whole American left is just pathetic. The SDS had a good thing going when they, like Albert Gore Sr. and Jr., opposed the war in Vietnam. But the students in the SDS thought that they could win over middle-class America by not taking a bath, engaging in unlimited sex, smoking pot, and using other drugs, and denouncing Israel as a racist imperialist state. And Joel Sprayreger is correct when he notes that Mr. Terkel has never publicly, to my knowledge, contributed to a Jewish cause. Messrs. Terkel and Sussman, it is you who ought to study history and not Joel Sprayreger.
David G. Singer
PhD in history