March 10, 2005
Letters to the Editor
Burden of Truth
I hate to rain on Deborah Lipstadt's Parade ("History on Trial," Feb. 25), but I feel, as an academic, I must make two points.
First, while it may be that, as Lipstadt charged, David Irving distorted historical evidence and was "carrying out Hitler's legacy," it seems to me that she had the burden of demonstrating the truth of this accusation in her book, "Denying the Holocaust."
A man's reputation was at stake, and the reader would expect that she would elaborate on it beyond a few paragraphs. Had she done so, and proven her case in her book, the prolonged London court case might have been avoided.
Second, a man's abominable political views are in themselves no evidence that his craft or profession is being used fraudulently or wrongly. The key question that needs to be asked, but has not been, is this: Is it possible for a Nazi sympathizer or any other political extremist to be a good historian? I feel that it is, for any individual keen on his craft should be able to keep his personal viewpoints out of his professional activity.
I believe the writing of Irving that I know and have consulted in my work is not fraudulent. I believe this, because Irving's earlier writing that I have used (on Nazi German war resources and on the American bombing campaign against them) shows not a shred of any linkage to Nazi sympathies or any kind of political agenda.
In that writing, Irving was a contrarian, taking pleasure in proving others wrong and always doing a thorough investigation of primary sources. That work, very undogmatic, remains valuable and important.
I am very distressed by Irving's current political sympathies, but refuse to reject his earlier scholarly work on that basis.
Barry H. Steiner
Professor of Political Science
California State University, Long Beach
Struck a Chord
The Singles column by Reeva Hunter Mandelbaum, "That Feeling" (March 4), really struck a chord with me. How many friends have I heard complaining that they have had the "whirlwind" month and then the "whirlwind" blues, I can't even count.
How did I meet my husband? We had a coffee date that was fabulous. When I found out he was still feeling connected to his not-yet but kind-of ex-girlfriend, I told him straight out that he should call me when he was completely done and open to a relationship. On the first date!
He did actually call me, surprise, surprise, six months later, and it took another four months before we had anything close to "stirring" or "primal." We spent the time becoming friends and really getting to know each other.
OK, so it was hard not to get that instant electricity that a physical closeness brings. But relationships are even harder when you don't develop respect and friendship.
We are not observant, but we did observe each other before we jumped into our whirlwind. And, I am glad we did.
Know who you are and what you want, and make sure it is there before you jump. Fourteen years and a wonderful 12-year-old son make that need to have a whirlwind month meaningless.
Name Withheld by Request
Reading about the plight of the Jewish settlers in the Gaza Strip, I could not help but feel sympathy for the situation in which they now find themselves: ordered by their own government to leave their homes so the Palestinians can reclaim the land that they lost during the many wars that they themselves initiated and waged against the Israelis ("Unilateral Withdrawal," Feb. 18).
I realize the practicality of the dictate. The cost to defend 8,000 people scattered amid millions of its enemies is too high, and, besides, world politics – right or wrong – seems to demand the move.
But I could not but wonder what ever became of the dictate that I was taught so many years ago that says: "In war, to the victor go the spoils."
Is that rule no longer operative?
Be'zras Hashem (by grace of the Almighty), I perform and have performed thousands of regular and special-care brises on patients ranging in age from newborn to 66 years young ("Death Spotlights Old Circumcision Rite," Feb. 18).
Thus, rather than condemning for lack of safety those that hold that metzizah must be done b'peh [by mouth] consider that they, too, have grounds for the ruling.
Needless to say, that if the mohel has any infections, metzizah should not be done b'peh.
I must, however, say that I personally queried the great sage Horav Moishe Feinstein if doing metzizah with a tube is considered a primary or a secondary choice. He replied that it is a primary choice.
It should also be briefly mentioned that the authentic traditional bris, without clamps or hemostats that crush the skin, is the fastest and most humane technique.
Rabbi Jacob Shechet
Newborn, Adult and Special Bris
I am writing you in regard to the article, "Hashem, Allah and Jesus in Jerusalem" (Feb. 25). The title implying three gods: Hashem, Allah and Jesus, offended not only Muslims, but I believe any true monotheist.
I hope that your editorial integrity and interest to pursue the truth will make a correction to such blasphemy.
Director of Religious Affairs
Islamic Center of Southern California