Why I can no longer be a fan of Paul Jenkins

March 13, 2005

By Avi Green

Last year, I was quite unhappy to find Paul Jenkins, someone whom I thought knew how to ply his trade in the comics writing, dealing with a political issue he does not have the personal experience to handle, in the soon to be cancelled Spectacular Spider-Man's "Countdown" storyline from issues 5-10.

The following is an e-mail discussion I had with him back in June to August of 2004. Disappointing as it was, I really can't say I'm surprised that he would maintain his biases the way he did.

Dear Mr. Jenkins (June 26, 2004),

I am writing to ask why, in Spectacular Spider-Man's Countdown story arc, you depicted the "Palestinian Authority" in a whitewashed manner, any reasonable criticism of their threatening to go to war with Israel over Doctor Octopus's abduction of the Hayyan Zarour character notwithstanding, whereas this fictional incident in the pages of a comic book is nothing compared to the PLO's even more serious crimes in real life. Some points:

While it may seem as if you're critiquing them in the Spidey story at one point for threatening to go to war, the fact that you still depict them in favorable terms undermines that. Plus, I feel that, considering that they've committed even worse atrocities over the years, such as the murder of a couple of athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, and the hijacking of an Israeli airplane to Entebbe in Africa in 1976, the massacre of the Lebanese Christians in Damour the same year, and also the hijacking of the Italian cruise liner, the Achille Lauro, in October 1985, in which a wheelchair bound passenger, Leon Klinghoffer, was murdered in cold blood, any criticism of the PLO for something that only takes place in a fictional comic book story, rings hollow at best.

For these reasons, I felt that I had to write to you to ask, why, when you wrote this story in Spectacular Spider-Man, did you whitewash much of these incidents in history involving the PLO? If you could please explain why you portrayed them favorably, I would be very grateful. Thank you for any answers you can provide, and I hope you'll find the article links I worked into this letter interesting too.

Avi,

First of all, why must the fictional Palestinian Foreign Minister a member of the PLO as far as you're concerned?  I think you're going to have to move beyond this kind of prejudice if any of my response is going to make sense.  You see, an ethnic group cannot be held responsible for the actions of a few.  If it were so then I should never write about Germans in a positive light because after all, they were responsible for killing 6 1/2 million Jews during the Holocaust.  What about Japanese?  Bosnians?  Which ethnic group is acceptable to you?

You know, I am from Great Britain and we have not been all that nice ourselves.  During the Crusades countless Arabs were slaughtered for their beliefs.  We occupied a huge part of the world during the days of the British Empire.  We treated Pakistanis, Iraqis, Indians and many North Africans like dirt. Should I commit suicide as repayment for the actions of my forefathers?

How about the Israelis? Entirely blameless? I don't think so. They've annexed huge portions of Palestinian land and depending on the prevailing political sentiment they construct or pull back from settlements all the time. They fire rocket launchers into populated areas on occasion, just ask any of the innocent people on the receiving end.

Anyway, my point is not to apportion blame and neither should yours be. My point is to acknowledge that the only way to peace is to move forwrds together not to take one step forward and two steps back, which seems to be the MO of both sets of leadership.  You point me towards your websites as if I have no idea about the '72 Munich atrocity or the events of the Achille Lauro.  Hell, I watched them on television, just as i watched the events at the World trade center.  They were terrible events but not the fault of some Palestinian child or mother or someone's brother in-law. They were the actions of cowardly terrorists.

But let me give you a few paraphrased words from none other than Tom Brokaw as he spoke at the opening of the WW2 memorial recently.  What made our grandfathers the Greatest Generation was not just what they did in wartime but far more importantly what they did in peacetime. Check your history: Adolf Hitler came to power as a direct result of the punsihments handed to the German nation after the Treaty of Versailles.  Germany was punished so heavily during the 1920's that when Hitler came along and blame the Jews for the poverty and economic hardships, people listened to him despite knowng better.  After World War Two, the Allies knew that the best way to prevent another episode was to allow the Germans and Japanese to rebuild their economy without penalty.  We now embrace Russia as if the Cold War never happened.  Twenty years ago, we saw them as the Evil Empire and now they are our friends. It's going to happen one day between Israel and Palestine, whether you agree now or not. 

The only barrier to a peaceful solution is the kind of attitude indicated in your letter. I hope my opinion helps you to understand why I have nothing bad to say about any ethnic group, be they Israelis, Palestinians, Nigerians or Australians.

Paul J. (June 26, 2004)

Dear Mr. Jenkins, (July 25, 2004)

Sorry if this reply is coming a little late, but let me see if I can respond to some of your points in your letter below.
 
Unfortunately, your historical knowledge appears very slanted, and deficient in some areas. I don't mean to be insulting, but consider: you write about the sufferings of the Arabs at the hands of Crusaders. In fact, the Crusaders were massacring Jews in Europe, especially the Rhineland, long before they got to the Middle East. Then, when they conquered Jerusalem, where I live, they slaughtered both Jews and Muslims. Also, Jews as well as Muslims fought them, for instance, the Jews in Haifa defended the town against two major Crusader assaults (circa 1099), then succumbed to the third assault. Historians believe that the Crusaders massacred most of the Jews in Israel at the time. Bear in mind that Jews were still a substantial part of Israel's population up to the Crusader invasion (check out Moshe Gil and Joshua Prawer).

As for the British. They have been an enemy of the Jewish people since 1920. In that year, Britain accepted the mandate of fostering the Jewish national home in the Land of Israel (San Remo conference). Yet the same year, British officials in Jerusalem (Col. Waters-Taylor, E. Richmond, Ronald Storrs, etc) instigated an Arab pogrom against Jews in Jerusalem. Throughout the years of the mandate, which was 1920 till 1948, the British thwarted/violated the letter and spirit of the mandate. In 1939, Britain issued the "White Paper on Palestine," which prevented Jewish refugees from finding refuge in the Jewish national home during the Holocaust.

As for the Arabs, the social system that they imposed on the Middle East made Jews and Christians inferior subjects of their empires. They were "Dhimmis", who had to pay special taxes to the Arab/Muslim state, and were far inferior in rights to Muslims. It was in the pre-Crusade period that the bulk of Jewish emigration to Europe took place. During the Holocaust, most of the Arab nationalists were pro-Nazi, such as Sadat and Nasser. The worst Arab Nazi collaborator was Haj Amin el-Husseini, who actually took part in the Holocaust, preventing thousands of Jewish children from being released from the Nazi fascist domain by the satellite states of Germany in eastern Europe.

As far as what I wrote, I did not say that all the Arabs called Palestinians were terrorists. But I do say that the "Palestinian Authority" is terrorist. So it's not correct on your part to charge me with generalizing about Palestinian Arabs.

I like your work that's not political, but I suggest that you need to do a lot more study of Jewish and Arab history, Crusader persecution of Jews, Arab oppresion of Jews, British betrayal of the Jewish national home, etc. I would recommend for example, this page from http://www.netanyahu.org this article from The Scribe, and also this one by Prof. David Cesarani. Here are sites on Crusader Conquest, Treatment of Dhimmis, and Pact of Umar.

If you have time for books, I suggest Moshe Gil on Israel in the Early Middle Ages, and Joshua Prawer on Crusaders and Jews in Israel. I also suggest for Britain, the Jews and Zionism, Pierre van Paassen, Forgotten Ally; William Ziff, The Rape of Palestine; Albert Londres, Le Juif Errant Est Arrive, plus, Shmuel Katz, Jabo; Martin Gilbert, Exile and Return; Richard Meinertzhagen, Middle East Diary. On Allied refusal to rescue Jews from Hitler, see Arthur Morse, While Six Million Died; David S. Wyman, Abandonment of the Jews. On Arab-Nazi collaboration, see Joseph Schechtman, The Mufti and the Fuehrer; L. Hirszowicz, The Third Reich and the Arab East; Bernard Lewis, Semites and Anti-Semites; and lastly Anwar Sadat, Revolt on the Nile.

yours truly, Avi Green

Avi,

I really *do* know my history, thanks. I mentioned the Crusades as an example pointed towards atrocities committed by the English. Perhaps I should have included their actions against the Jews, as you mention, for the sake of completion. And if so, I should also have brought up the fact that the Crusaders managed to massacre Christians as well, since all they were actually trying to do was challenge the so-called Eastern Empire. Even so, my point was that any society has a series of black marks in their history books, including England, Ivory Coast, Greenland and yes, even Israel.  i do not seek to hold the actions of a group of people against all citizens of that nation but it seems you do. I don't need a lesson in ideology or history from you because at that point you are simply pontificating. It is extremely presumptuous of you to present yourself as my teacher, especially when your original message to be received a longer answer than it deserved.  Instead of pointing me towards various articles and books on the subject i would suggest rethinking your strategy: consider the teachings of Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, Moses and Gandhi, all of whom have something to say about acceptance and understanding of others. That is all.

PJ (August 5, 2004)

Dear Paul, (August 6, 2004)
 
What really irked me was that you seemed to consider all sorts of nations guilty of something or other, all but the Arabs in general, and the Palestinian Arabs in particular. I feel that you have accepted the pro-Arab line of the BBC and UK government. Which always scolds/accuses Israel of crimes in a one-sided fashion. Now it's interesting that you talk about tolerance, and then recommend studying the teachings of Jesus and Muhammad, among others. It's probably very educational to read the New Testament and the Koran. If you read the NT, you might find a quote attributed to Jesus: "I come not to bring peace but the sword." If you read the Koran, you might find the command: "Fight the unbelievers...until they're brought low and pay tribute." [Koran, Sura 9, verse 29 (some editions of Koran have a slightly different verse number for this declaration)] Doesn't sound very tolerant to me. Does it sound that way to you?
 
regards,
Avi Green

I've seen people who throw away their arguments before, but this--!

My reply at the end pretty much speaks for itself to what Jenkins himself had to say. But in any case, this very much sums up the problems I have with quite a lot of Brits. They tend to be quite self-righteous, and have a problem of going out of their way to present themselves as experts, and use Room 101 tactics not unlike what our friend from the UK here, Mr. Jenkins, tried to employ as well.

Is it any wonder that so many people even Stateside have a problem with the Blighty these days?

Like I've noted already, Spectacular Spider-Man, the 2003 volume, is out the door already, and Jenkins himself certainly is. In fact, as this writing, it's already dealt with the rest of the wretched storyline begun by J. Michael Strazcynzki over in Amazing, that being Sins Past, and I have to ask -- would they please, for heaven's sake, put that dumb crap to bed already? It could certainly help a bit.

And I should certainly hope that Mark Waid'll be coming aboard soon too! He was said to be taking over on a Spider-Man book, whether Amazing or a new series, and with him on board, I should hope that things'll be looking better for our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man again.

It's about time.

Civil rights for Muslim women in Kuwait?

The Wall Street Journal reports that in Kuwait, Muslim women are now stepping forward to campaign for their civil rights, including voting, freedom of choice as to whether or not they want to wear a veil, and equal justice in cases where women are victims of crime.

This of course is something that's been gradually going on ever since the raid on Afganistan and Iraq, and may also be continuing with the expulsion of Syria from Lebanon. And with any luck, in time, we will slowly begin to see the downfall of autocracy in Islamist countries, and democracy will be able to breath in the middle east at last.

And hopefully, this will also mean the downfall of the PLO as the terrorist organization they really are in time as well.

Copyright 2005 Avi Green. All rights reserved.

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