Petronius Arbiter Lives Again

Petronius Arbiter, a Roman proconsul and satirist who lived about 60 C.E., ridiculed Jews for prohibiting the eating of pork and mocked their habit of lifting their eyes heavenward in prayer and their rigorous enforcement of the law of circumcision, Presently, there is a writer who uses the name “Petronius” to sign his column, “Diplomatic Pouch,” in a bi-weekly publication called “The Delegates World Bulletin” which describes itself as “an independent publication” “dedicated to serving the United Nations and the international community.”

In the Feb. 10 issue of this publication, “Petronius” has an item about the meeting Feb, 6 between a group of writers and actors and John Fobes, the Deputy Director General of UNESCO who was then in New York. The columnist comes down hard with his hammer and chisel on the group–Arthur Miller, James Michener, Colleen Dewhurst, Julie Harris and Anna Strasberg, representing Writers and Artists for Peace in the Middle East which organized the meeting–by noting that their visit was to “make war on his (Fobe’s) organization” and “how they would emasculate UNESCO which had betrayed its allegedly non-political vocation.”

“Petronius,” Arbiter-like, then writes: “The ticklish visit had to be made to Mr. Fobes, because his boss, Director-General M’Bow of Senegal, was at the time too busy visiting Arab countries and the Soviet Union, where he was not exposed to such unpleasantness.”

The modern-day “Petronius” notes that “Author (sic) Miller” remarked “darkly,” that “Unless UNESCO repels (sic) its action taken against Israel, it will ultimately crumble, and with that one international organization after another will begin to unravel.” The “independent publication” columnist does not, of course, mention that the five artists had met with Fobes to present him with a letter to M’Bow protesting the recent anti-Israel resolutions adopted by UNESCO which, they pointed out, had subverted the organization’s principles and purposes. How now, Petronius Arbiter?

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