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Christians Need Not Apply

On July 4 the government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced the appointment of Meir Sheetrit as Israels Minister of the Interior. The Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth reported that shortly after taking office the minister complained about the quasi-Jews, Africans and illegal Palestinians living in Israel. Its time, he is reported to have said, to bring only Jews to Israel.... Entrance to the country should not be automatic. One consequence of this policy has been increased cancellation and denial of visas to clergy serving the Christian communities in Israel and the Palestinian territories. Once eligible for multiple entrance visas, Catholic priests of various rites are now granted only one-time entrance and must reapply each time they seek to re-enter, with a wait of many months for news of rejection or approval. This regulation has greatly impaired the pastoral work of the church, whose clergy are largely Palestinian or Jordanian. The latest restrictions follow frequent denial of church worker visas for religious and lay people from abroad and a stiffening of residency requirements that have forced the repatriation of elderly monks and nuns. The 1993 Fundamental Agreement between the Holy See and Israel guaranteed the church the right to train, appoint and deploy its own personnel. Israel, however, holds that the treaty is not legally binding, so the churchs avenues of redress are sorely limited. An outcry from the Christian world against the current practice offers some promise of relief. In addition, Pope Benedict should also refuse to visit Israel until the treaty becomes binding and the admission of clergy and church workers is normalized. No visas, no visit!


The C.I.A. and Torture

Waterboarding, mock executions and restraint positions are just a few of the methods U.S. interrogators have used on detainees suspected of involvement with terrorists. Testifying for Physicians for Human Rights before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on Sept. 27, Allen S. Keller, M.D., said that while such techniques leave no bodily scars, they can nevertheless cause severe physical and psychological harm. In waterboarding, a prisoner is strapped to an inclined board with a cloth over his or her face. Water is then poured over the cloth to create the sensation of drowning. Dr. Keller, who is director of the torture survivors program at Bellevue Hospital in New York City, described the experience of one of his patients subjected to this: long afterward, whenever it rained he would panic and gasp for breath.

Dr. Keller gave the example of another patient who had a gun pointed at his head while being interrogated. The gun was suddenly pulled away and fired into the air. He told me, Until now I still hear the sound of the gun in my brain. Similarly, restraining prisoners for long periods has led to several deaths of detainees in U.S. custody in Iraq and Afghanistan, Dr. Keller said. He also raised the issue of medical ethics, disputing the C.I.A.s claim that its enhanced interrogations program is safe because medically supervised. Health professionals who monitor interrogations, he observed, cease to be healers and instead become calibrators of harm. He urged the Senate committee to conduct a full investigation of the C.I.A.s enhanced interrogation techniques. Justice demands it.

Writing, or Typing?

Much ink has been spilled over the past few months commemorating the 50th anniversary of Jack Kerouacs iconic novel On the Road. Among the many accolades are a few sheepish confessions by critics that they panned the book upon its release in 1957. One is reminded of Truman Capotes eviscerating take on Kerouac: Thats not writing, thats typing. A few years later, Joseph Heller endured a similar broadside aimed at his new novel, Catch-22, which The New Yorker said doesnt even seem to be written; instead, it gives the impression of having been shouted onto paper.

The editors of America also did not approve of Kerouac (they ignored Catch-22 altogether), sniffing that he can yell louder than a small army of bleating Britishers and that if this book is a forerunner of a new literary generation, we may well begin to get ready for a shoal of mindless books. It wasnt the first time the editors showed their distaste for new works later ballyhooed as The Great American Novel. F. Scott Fitzgeralds earlier books, unfortunately, ran into a large number of printings, the editors wrote in May 1925. The Great Gatsby will probably meet with like success, despite the fact that it is an inferior novel...feeble in theme, in portraiture, and even in expression. Fitzgerald had some fine company, however, for a quarter-century later J. D. Salingers The Catcher in the Rye was dismissed in these pages as a story that becomes frightfully boring before one is halfway throughperhaps the best thing to be said about The Catcher in the Rye is that Mr. Salinger would do well to remain in the field of the short story.

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