To the editor:

I read with great interest Michael Miner’s account of the “gas attack” controversy [Hot Type, August 23]. These are difficult days indeed for reasoned dialogue over the Middle East, and the story of the reaction to Shen’s film review (where “nerve gas” was attributed to the Israeli Defense Forces) is a microcosm of the passions and reactions that blare from the headlines. Even to present an account of this controversy (begun last spring) was a risk in bringing more attacks on the Reader from those whose decisions are formed by an extracted paragraph or phrase, and I write to applaud your courage in printing it.

More importantly, I found hope at the end of the article that a dialogue had at least begun. If Mr. Levendel and Mr. Longley, whatever their interpretations of the gas used, can begin to talk, can begin to admit doubts and to see the suffering on all sides caused by this fratricidal conflict, then perhaps we can move beyond the past and hate-filled despair to something better. Mr. Levendel took the first step in going to see the film for himself. But I keep thinking of Ionesco’s play Rhinoceros, where otherwise reasonable people suddenly sprout horns and begin crashing through walls, and all it takes is a trip word to bring on the rage. A dangerous time for writers, but how else can we combat the dynamite-clad “holy martyrs” or real bullets coated with “rubber” than by words? If we can remember not so long ago when there seemed no peaceful end to apartheid, when either revolution or lock-down homelands were the only options on the table, then maybe an alternative to Armageddon can be found in the Holy Lands as well.

Guy Nickson