Commentary Magazine


Oddities

To the Editor:

May I comment on two matters in connection with the correspondence on Norman Podhoretz’s “Learning from Isaiah” [Letters from Readers, September]?

First, the quip attributed to “an anti-Semitic wag”: “How odd of God to choose the Jews.” As Mr. Podhoretz writes, although often attributed to Hilaire Belloc it may instead have been composed by “another Englishman, William Norman Ewer.” Others, however, have ascribed it with equal plausibility to H.N. Brailsford. Whether the line is really anti-Semitic may be questioned, as it seems to fall into the same bantering category as other English jibes at Scots, Welsh, Irish, and so forth. Nor is the “follow-up” reported by Daniel Bell (and corrected by Mr. Podhoretz) the only such riposte. My own favorite is: “O, no it’s not/He knows what’s what.”

Second, on whether there was a “Palestine” at the time of Jesus. This term, used by Herodotus to designate the part of Syria once inhabited by the Philistines, does not appear in the New Testament It was officially applied to Judea for the first time by the Romans in the 2nd century, after the suppression of the Bar Kokhba revolt. Determining to rid the area of any Jewish associations, they renamed it Palestina.

Baruch Levi
Princeton, New Jersey

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Correction

Due to a printer’s error, the name of the Latvian insurer Drošiba was misspelled in Gabriel Schoenfeld’s article, “Holocaust Reparations—A Growing Scandal,” which appeared in the September COMMENTARY.

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