“Cairo to Damascus”
To the Editor:
Comparing the review of John Roy Carlson’s book Cairo to Damascus, presented in the January 1952 COMMENTARY by George Z. Goldberg, with reviews in the New York Times and New York Herald Tribune, it seems to me that your reviewer bends over backwards to show that the Arabs are not so crude as Carlson makes them out to be.
The book, furthermore, which is called “inconsequential” by Goldberg, seems to be quite timely and revealing, especially in view of the recent riots in Egypt which show the fanatical savagery of the Arab mobs. (The New York Times of January 9, 1952 gives the following account of one such recent riot where “a crowd of Egyptians was said to have butchered a young Moslem last Friday mistakenly thinking him a Copt. They dragged his body through the streets with a hookpin in his mouth occasionally stopping to set it alight with gasoline. They sacked a Coptic church, made a bonfire of its contents and tossed the body of the luckless Moslem on top of the pyre.”
The writer of this letter does not harbor ill feelings against all Arabs. As a matter of fact he meets regularly with a Lebanese Arab residing in the community and is friendly with some Christian Syrian Arabs. He merely wishes to show that books such as Carlson’s reveal the primitive level of a large number of the Arab masses who must receive Western aid and education in order to help themselves and to stabilize conditions in a vital area of the world—the Near East.
Rabbi M. Herschel Levine
To the Editor:
The fact that George Z. Goldberg is a pseudonym is peculiar. The reason could be his book review of Cairo to Damascus by John Roy Carlson. No respectable magazine prints articles under a pseudonym.
I challenge the fact that Mr. Carlson’s book is “one-sided reporting.” Your book reviewer is undoubtedly a pusillanimous American Jew suffering from the self-hatred and guilt complex. It is fashionable for the tissue-paper liberals to shout their pseudo-humanitarian tongues for the Palestine Arab refugees and blame the ferment in the Middle East on the support the Western European countries, especially England and the United States, gave to Israel. The economic conditions existed in the Middle East before Israel. Israel is willing to pay for resettlement of the Arab refugees, but the Arabs don’t want to settle the problem. The Gentile world with the anti-Semitic Jews are using Israel as a scapegoat for the Middle East.
Mr. Carlson is not reporting about a “fringe.” They are “lunatics.” I will not dispute this fact. The King of Egypt, the Mufti of Jerusalem with Cominform help, Nahas Pasha, and the “Lion of Morocco,” Abd el Krim, are the leaders of this group. They are also the fanatics. This is the group Mr. Carlson met. They are the ones calling the cards. The “Friends of the Middle East” are playing cards with the fellow-travelers when they support reactionary regimes that get their money from the Communists.
Melvin Nahum Cohen
Middle Atlantic Region
Intercollegiate Zionist Federation
To the Editor:
I am not sure that Rabbi Levine and I differ very much. Neither of us seems to believe that all Arabs are bad and both of us think that mob violence is reprehensible and that the Arab masses are backward. Rabbi Levine says as much in his letter and I made the same points in my review. We differ, however, in our estimate of John Roy Carlson’s Cairo to Damascus, which I called “inconsequential” and which Rabbi Levine says is “quite timely and revealing.” As I wrote in the review, I too think the book is timely; but, for the reasons that I gave there and that need not be repeated here, I don’t think Mr. Carlson accomplishes his aim to “bring both the Arabs and the Jews into truer focus.” Readers of both the review and the book will be able to judge for themselves whether I am right. Incidentally, I wonder if Rabbi Levine sees any similarity between the tone of the last paragraph of his letter and the tone of the remarks usually concluded by, “Now, I’m really not prejudiced. You know, some of my best friends are. . . .”
Mr. Cohen’s observations are somewhat confusing. It is difficult to tell at times whether he is criticizing me, or my review, or just giving vent to a lot of peeves whose relevance to the book and the review is not immediately apparent. Mr. Cohen is able to draw some far-reaching conclusions about personality and behavior from a single book review. These observations, as well as his comments about the responsibility for the plight of the Arab refugees, I shall ignore. Mr. Cohen raises one relevant point. He thinks Mr. Carlson is indeed reporting about “lunatics” but not about a “fringe.” The fact is, he has not reported about the leaders, political as well as cultural and educational, in the Arab world, and he has reported about a fringe. On this point again, the reader will have to make up his own mind as to whether or not I have accurately described Cairo to Damascus. As for my use of a pseudonym, I wonder if Mr. Cohen knows that “John Roy Carlson” is a pseudonym and that Mr. Carlson, in gathering material for the book Mr. Cohen defends, used other names as well. He had his good reasons for using a pseudonym, and mine are similar ones. But the name on a piece of writing may be irrelevant; thus Mr. Cohen is far more extreme under his own name than I under a pseudonym.
Finally, Mr. Cohen seems to think that a Jew who sees the Arabs as anything but all bad and all wrong must be pusillanimous, self-hating, and driven by guilt feelings. I venture to predict that one day there will be peace between Israel and her Arab neighbors and an abatement of mutual recriminations. Then simpleminded folk like Mr. Cohen will find themselves high and dry with only their passion to embrace, for then even Israel will be taking a more balanced and realistic view of the Arabs.
George Z. Goldberg
New York City