The Red Menace
I remember it as if it were yesterday. I had a drink with Lee Radziwill, back then married to Stas Radziwill, the Polish nobleman, and she brought along a rather good-looking fellow whom I recognized immediately. It was 1965 and Warren Beatty did not have that extreme pulled look he does nowadays. He was quite polite for an actor, and even knew to keep his little finger down when he drank. Although we didn’t come near to exchanging blows—Lee being a perfect lady asked us to cool it, although she did shade toward him—looking back I rather regret not giving him a knuckle sandwich for his defense of Communism.
Unlike radical-chic Warren baby, I had seen Communism from up close. In the winter of 1944, red guerrillas tried to take over Athens by force of Stalin arms. My family lived in Kolonaki, the Athenian equivalant of, say, 5th Ave. between 60th and 69th Sts. The only thing that stood between the Commies and us was a small police station, the British embassy guarded by a company of British red berets (paratroopers) and my father’s APC (armored personnel carrier), which he had taken off an Italian one year before, when the Duce’s troops had thrown in the towel.
To cut a long story short, the Commies never made it. Kolonaki, inhabited by 40 of the richest families of Greece, survived. Almost every cop died defending us. My old man—who, incidentally, died in his bed 10 years ago as I write this—fought single-handedly and extremely bravely in front of our house, running out of ammo just as the red berets came to our rescue. (One young Brit was shot through the head and died in our kitchen). I shall never forget the stench of the bodies around our house.
Having failed to get the rich, the Commies did the next best thing. They murdered most of my father’s factory workers—to be employed by a capitalist was a capital offense—killed every priest and schoolteacher they got their hands on and basically tried to do a Pol Pot on Athenian society. They later kidnapped thousands of children and took them into Bulgaria to raise them as good Reds. Everyone I know lost loved ones, but that should not get in the way of radical-chic scum like Oliver Stone, Bianca Jagger and even old Warren.
I thought of old Warren the other day, when the BBC devoted an entire evening to visiting the graves of 50 million people exterminated by the Russian gulag, in a powerful three-hour documentary. Oh! to be able to hold a Jane Fonda type by the neck and force them to watch: monasteries being converted into torture chambers, starved slaves being dropped through holes in the ice on Siberian rivers, the killing rooms of the Lubyanka, the mindlessly sadistic guards still refusing to apologize, justifying the cruelty as “a tradition since Peter the Great.”
Even decades after Robert Conquest’s The Great Terror—the definitive book on Soviet crimes along with Le Livre Noir du Communisme—Red crimes against humanity have the capacity to shock beyond belief. Stalin not only out-murdered Hitler, he retains his Western apologists to this day. Many of the architects of this monumental evil are still alive, yet nothing has been done to prosecute them. While Gen. Pinochet, the man who saved Chile from a Cuban fate, is illegally held by the British socialists, monsters who tortured and murdered millions are allowed to die in their beds. While every effort is being made in the West to track down the last Nazi prison guard—including some innocents—their Soviet equivalent is still boasting and reminiscing about Stalin’s good old days.
In his Black Book of Communism, Stephane Courtois, the editor, writes: “The child of a Ukrainian kulak deliberately starved to death by the Stalinist regime is worth no less than a Jewish child in the Warsaw ghetto starved to death by the Nazi regime.” The Ukrainian kulaks, by the way, were those who died by the millions, only to have Walter Duranty of The New York Times state time and again that no famine ever took place. His picture is still proudly exhibited in the building’s Pulitzer Hall. What grates, needless to say, is the fact that the Lillian Hellmans of this world were never made to pay for supporting such evil. In my not-so-humble opinion, we can no longer insist on the distinction between Communism and Nazism that sets Hitler’s state apart as a singularly horrendous regime to which nothing can compare. Those very features of Nazism we find repellent were endemic to Communism from the start. But try to tell this truth to the academy, to Hollywood or to the media. Because Nazism was experienced from up close by Europeans, it made it difficult for left-liberal intellectuals to compare it to something that took place far away. But it’s the truth and nothing but the truth that Communism and Nazism were and are morally indistinguishable.
So, the next time someone says something about the Nazis—as everyone always seems to do—you, dear readers, say something about the Commies, and watch the indignation your remark will arouse. Never mind, you will be striking a note in defense of the tens of millions who died horrendous deaths in the hands of monsters still among us. Lillian Hellman and your ilk, I hope you are rotting in hell, and that goes for my old buddy Warren, too.
Toby Young ARRIVISTE
My Dating Hell
I’ve just returned from London, having accompanied my girlfriend back to Britain, and I’m feeling a little depressed. Alas, after two years in New York she’s decided to go home. Not that we were together all that time. It was one of those on-again, off-again relationships. It isn’t completely over. She’s living in my flat in Shepherd’s Bush and we’re going to see where things stand at Christmas, but the sad truth is we’re probably not going to spend the rest of our lives together. With enormous reluctance I’m going to have to start dating again.
Dating. What an appalling prospect. You won’t be surprised to learn that dating isn’t my strong suit. Part of the problem is that, being a foreigner, I’m not entirely sure what a “date” is. If two men and two women go out to dinner, is that just a group of friends getting together, or a “double date”? If you ask a woman out for a drink does that count as a date, or is it what’s
referred to as a “non-date date?”
As a general rule of thumb, if the woman calls me up and cancels a few minutes beforehand, then what we were about to do together would have constituted a “date.” I’ve heard the most ridiculous array of excuses in my time. On one occasion a woman told me she couldn’t leave her apartment because her newly acquired kitten had “abandonment issues.”
If you live in New York, an additional problem is that so many people are writing books about dating you can never be sure that the person you’re with hasn’t agreed to go out with you purely for the purposes of conducting research. (Unfortunately,
by the time you find out about this it’s too late to ask them to expense it.)
Take the case of my friend Cathy. About three years ago she was invited out for a drink by someone called Lawrence Larose. Six months later he and another writer published a book called The Code: Time-Tested Secrets For Getting What You Want From Women Without Marrying Them! One piece of advice offered to young swordsmen, Cathy discovered, was to ask women out on a “non-date drinks date” to assess whether it was worth inviting them out on a proper date.
Needless to say, Cathy never heard from him again.
Even when I’ve managed to get past these initial obstacles, I’ve always found the experience of being on a date extremely uncomfortable. The trouble is, being a Brit, I’m very easily embarrassed.
When I first moved here the thing that shocked me the most about New Yorkers was their method of hailing cabs. I couldn’t believe that they would blithely stand in the middle of the road, their hands extended in a Nazi salute, and wait for a cab to pull over. We Brits are far too self-conscious to draw attention to ourselves like that. Typically, we skulk in doorways until we see a taxi for hire; then, when it’s no more than a few feet away, tiptoe out to the edge of the curb, make sure no one is looking, and shoot the driver a meaningful glance. It’s a little like placing a bid at Sotheby’s. Even though British taxi drivers are as skilled as auctioneers when it comes to spotting fares, they often miss that faint tilt of the head that constitutes a hail. Now you know why we always carry umbrellas.
For us Brits, the trouble with dating is that the very idea of going out with someone solely with a view to assessing their, ahem, sexual compatability, is exquisitely embarrassing. On the few occasions when I’ve been out on dates, I’ve always marveled at how unself-conscious American women are about sizing me up. They’ve invariably had a checklist of questions that they shamelessly run through over the course of the evening. What do I do for a living? What part of town is my apartment in? What kind of car do I drive? Why am I single? It’s less like a romantic encounter than an extremely tough job interview. By the time the check arrives I’m usually surprised they haven’t asked for a urine sample.
Not that the sight of me squirming away as I hem and haw my way through this interrogation is particularly attractive to them, either. My worst experience so far was at an expensive New York restaurant when my dining companion politely excused herself to go to the bathroom halfway through the meal and never came back.
In Britain, we go about these things much less straightforwardly. If we take a fancy to someone, we’re much more likely to ask them to join us, along with a dozen other people, on a trip to the pub. That way we can each pretend it’s a purely social outing and be spared the awkwardness of a one-on-one encounter. There’s something about being sexually scrutinized by another person, particularly if they’re sitting opposite you, that we find deeply embarrassing. If it’s going to happen, much better that it should take place indirectly, in a large group.
The trouble is, this doesn’t work in New York. Trying to communicate to a New Yorker that you’re interested in them by inviting them to join you and 10 friends on a trip to the Bronx Zoo is a bit like attempting to hail a yellow cab by subtly raising
your eyebrows. After four years here, I’ve just about managed to overcome my self-consciousness about hailing cabs. It looks as though I’ll have to master my embarrassment about going out on dates.
Arab-Americans vs. Jews
Years ago a New York political consultant told me, “No one really cares about the Mideast except Jews and anti-Semites.” The cynicism seems borne out by Hillary Rodham Clinton’s sudden discovery that moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is an urgent matter. In Washington, while the electoral map is different, the outcomes are much the same. Even without the finesse and muscle of the renowned pro-Israel lobbies, the disproportion of impassioned sentiment would carry the day. Israel can count on many thousands of this country’s most articulate citizens, whose commitment to the Jewish state’s well-being is central to their lives. Opposing them are aging ranks of State Dept. “Arabists”—often WASP intellectuals with a romantic streak and long-standing ties to the Arab world but without substantive roots in American political life. Alongside them are those connected to the oil business. Their arguments, stressing naked economic self-interest, usually came across as void of idealism and sure losers in political terms.
But recent squabbles over the appointment to government posts of two politically connected Arab-Americans suggest a shake-up is under way. Joseph Zogby is a young lawyer who had been working on contract for the State Dept.’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, following two years on the West Bank with an organization he had founded, the Palestine Peace Project. His West Bank efforts earned him the Robert F. Kennedy award from his alma mater, University of Virginia Law School. But because Zogby had written two articles critical of the Israeli occupation, the Zionist Organization of America mounted a campaign for his dismissal. The New York Post editorial page chimed in, saying Zogby wasn’t fit to be hired as a
Weeks later a new battle flared when House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt tried to name Salam Al-Marayati, a prominent Arab-American from Los Angeles, to the National Commission on Terrorism, a congressional panel. Again the ZOA and other pro-Israel groups mounted the ramparts, charging Al-Marayati with being soft on terrorism, and anti-American because he had not categorically denounced Hamas and Hezbollah. In both instances, American Jews who worked with the men described them as moderate and principled, committed to peace between Israel and the Arabs.
But both plainly had the kind of empathy with Palestinian Arabs that is commonplace among American Jews where Israel is concerned or is the reflexive stance for many Irish-Americans on issues between Ireland and Great Britain. They may have supported the peace process, but were not neutrals and didn’t pretend to be.
The Jewish lobbies prevailed, at least in part. Zogby was not dismissed, but after his contract expired he moved to a Justice Dept. job with nothing to do with the Mideast. Despite protests from American Muslims, Gephardt dropped Al-Marayati’s
Nevertheless, the stirrings of an Arab-American lobby, one based not on ties to the Gulf oil states or Arabist nostalgia for the old Middle East, but on the political activism of Arab-Americans, may be visible here for the first time. According to the Arab-American Institute’s Jenny Salan, Arab-Americans now number three million (though considerably less by official census data). More telling than its size is their community’s recent demographic growth: Immigration alone has increased the Arab population in the United States by 45 percent since 1990, and America’s non-Arab Muslim population is expanding rapidly as well. And like other “hyphenated Americans” they are not reluctant to deploy all the buzzwords of the regnant multiculturalism—”inclusion,” “diversity,” etc., to gain seats at the tables of power. The Jewish lobbies may have prevailed over Salam Al-Marayati, but they are sure to face this kind of issue again and again, and it is hard to imagine the Arabs will lose all the future showdowns.
One must point to a substantial irony here: Virtually all ideological factions of the American Jewish community have (to the chagrin and occasional bafflement of those, like myself, who favor immigration reform) been steadfast in their backing of the current high rates of immigration—probably for reasons that have to do with their own immigrant roots. Now Jews are certain to experience the waning of the preponderance of ethnically based energy and idealism they have been able to mobilize on Mideast issues.
As the United States begins more and more to resemble, in the composition of its population, the UN General Assembly, the instincts and reflexes guiding its diplomacy will inevitably evolve as well. Certainly the political consultant’s remark about how few people really care about the Mideast will soon seem completely obsolete.