the message moves forth slowly…

Wednesday 20 May 2009

Moving (again) to a large city/metropolitan area, I’m now dealing with larger news outlets than the small circulation regional newspapers like The Crescent News I left behind in NW Ohio.  But even so, after reading this op/ed piece by Ariel Cohen in Monday’s The Baltimore Sun, I felt compelled to respond, hoping that my response might actually be printed.  Opening the paper today, I was hopeful but not too optimistic — and then surprised to see my name under a letter to the editor titled “U.S. must recognize suffering of Palestinians.”  (Click the links to see the two different pieces.)

I was happy to see it there, and not really wanting to read it since I had written it, after all.  But then I did read it, and I was again a bit disappointed at a few of the edits the paper had made, likely in consideration for “length.”  Those getting the print edition might notice, like myself, there is room enough in the letters column for at least another sentence or two, which would have been easily enough for at least one of the other main points I made.

First, I was most disappointed to see that The Sun cut off my writing just before what I’d call the thesis of my letter — certainly the main, concise zinger: “Until citizens of Israel and the U.S. begin to recognize the institutional terror and oppression carried out on Palestinians by our two countries, the hostilities held by Arabs throughout the world are likely to continue.”

Secondly, The Sun failed to publish an important, and I think little known, fact about the Obama administration’s peace vs. military ambitions: “The White House’s request to send $2.775 billion to Israel in support of their oppressive military in the upcoming fiscal year hardly seems to be in line with an administration truly working for peace in the region.”

And really, the things the paper didn’t publish are the most contentious and things the public doesn’t hear much about — so why should I be so surprised that was what The Sun decided not to publish?  (Maybe I should have reversed the order of content in my letter — maybe I’ll try that next time. c:)  And did you notice the lengths of the two pieces?  If number of words are any indication of the point of view a newspaper supports, there would be a clear signal displayed in these examples.

Overall, though, I am glad that something made it in to the paper, and maybe even some who read my letter in the paper might find this post and get to read my full letter.  I hope this is another small part in getting the world to understand what is going on in Palestine and the creation of pressure for Israel and the U.S. to make changes to their policy and actions.

Here, get the opportunity to read my unedited and complete letter below:

On Monday, The Sun decided to print the slanted, pro-Israel message of Ariel Cohen just as new Israeli PM Netanyahu and new U.S. President Obama were meeting in Washington to discuss each country’s role in the Middle East.  Sun readers would be slighted if this were the only point of commentary they were to receive in relation to this meeting, so let me supply some thoughts from a differing perspective.

Ms. Cohen mentioned three mistakes she felt the current administration is making, skewing the situation for her own agenda in the process.  First, she felt the administration is ignoring hostility by Arabs and radical Muslims.  While I agree such hostility exists, I think the administration’s efforts to seek peace squarely attack that issue, for actions by both Israel and the U.S. are significant reasons (if not the reason) for such hostility.  A large part of the hostility held by the Arab world has to deal with Israel’s continued occupation of the West Bank – including settlement expansion and the construction of the Wall, which in reality annexes much land to Israel – along with the continued blockade on the Gaza Strip, where Israel controls all that can enter or leave and virtually nothing does.  As for the U.S., the continued war in Iraq and a seemingly unconditional support of Israel in the past make it a major target for hostility in the Arab world.

The second mistake mentioned was a perceived “arm-twisting”of Israel to gain favor with Iran.  This, however, again seems to only be the administration’s effort to curb the hostility mentioned earlier.  Why would Iran accept any of President Obama’s gestures as sincere of U.S. continued to unquestioningly back Israel, a country with longstanding hostilities with Iran?

The third mistake Ms. Cohen mentions in the administration’s path to peace is that it rewards terrorism.  There is a cruel irony that Ms. Cohen chooses to mention “terror attacks, which killed nearly 1,200 Israelis since 2000” – a number that is still less than the number of Palestinians killed in Gaza during Israel’s bombardment the month leading up to President Obama taking office.  Until citizens of Israel and the U.S. begin to recognize the institutional terror and oppression carried out on Palestinians by our two countries, the hostilities held by Arabs throughout the world are likely to continue.

Like Ms. Cohen, I, too, am critical of some of the administration’s tactics.  The White House’s request to send $2.775 billion to Israel in support of their oppressive military in the upcoming fiscal year hardly seems to be in line with an administration truly working for peace in the region.

I will concede to Ms. Cohen that there are certainly no “instant solutions.”  However, until Israel begins to allow for Palestinian self-rule and self determination by ending settlement expansion, withdrawing Israeli settlers and occupation forces currently in the West Bank, ending annexation of lands through the construction of the Wall, and removing border restrictions to Gaza, the United States needs to make clear, in word and deed, that the current oppression is not acceptable and will not be tolerated of a country wishing to remain a democratic ally in good standing with the administration – and the people – of the United States.

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‘unconditional support’ for Israel questioned (damn straight!)

Wednesday 14 January 2009

Though it has similar thoughts to my previous post, you can read my letter to the editor for the Crescent-News (Defiance, OH) here or below.  I’m excited that more people will be hearing these truths (especially in such a part of Ohio as this!).

Many one-sided pieces regarding the current Gaza/Israel conflict have graced these editorial pages in the past weeks, and I wanted to interject some thoughts that don’t come out much in the US press which give reason to question the seemingly unconditional support given to Israel by so many.

First, I want to say that I in no way condone violence, no matter who is perpetrating it; I support neither the rockets being launched by Hamas nor Israel’s military violence made in the name of retaliation.

In the US, Israel is portrayed in politics and the press as a peace-seeking democracy, and many cite Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 as a good-faith act toward peace in the region. However, this was done without consultation of Palestinians, and many agree this simply has allowed Israel to focus its efforts on the occupation of the West Bank, where Palestinians continue to suffer daily (something I experienced firsthand this past Spring).

In fact, while Israel has not had anyone stationed in Gaza since the 2005 withdrawal, they have continued to control its borders, sea coast, and air space. In recent years they have created a blockade around Gaza that completely restricts or extremely limits the movement of much needed food, medical supplies, fuel, and electricity. A recent statement from the Vatican went as far as to compare Gaza to a “concentration camp.” Israel continues to ignore international law in the Fourth Geneva Convention, which requires an occupying power to provide for the welfare of the civilians it occupies (which should be applied to Gaza and certainly to the West Bank).

Most Palestinians did not choose to live in Gaza but are refugees, driven from their homes by the Israeli army at the creation of Israel in 1948. These Palestinians have never been compensated for their previous lands and homes, similar to the way Native Americans were treated in respect to the lands of this country.

Also, while Hamas is considered a terrorist entity by the US and others, it is also a political party that won Palestinian Legislative Council elections in January 2006. The legality of this election is not in question. This was in large part a response to the corruption in the Palestinian government previously, not a sign that the people as a whole seek the elimination of Israel, even though this is stated in the Hamas party charters. Israel, the US, and many others continue to ignore Hamas’ right to rule based on these legitimate democratic elections.

Finally, much has been made about Israel’s “right to defend itself,” including recent resolutions passed in Congress stating just that. However, no one cares to describe the oppressive circumstances Israel has continued to place upon Gaza (and the West Bank). So while I do not agree with Hamas’ violent resistance tactics nor Israel’s retaliation, I ask: Should not Hamas have the same “right to defend itself” from an oppressive situation imposed by Israel, a right that so many give to Israel itself?

Also, check out this great piece by Rashid Khalidi last week in the NY Times with some similar sentiments.


some thoughts on freedom

Tuesday 30 December 2008

So a few weeks ago, I read this syndicated opinion column by Thomas Sowell called “Freedom and the left” in my local paper.  It stirred me up a bit for various reasons, and it poses a lot of interesting thoughts from a point of view I usually don’t hear about that often (maybe a good reason I’m out of the liberal city life for a while), but it pushed me just enough to sit down and write a letter the editor.  From all I can tell, it was never published, so I thought I’d use this as a forum for my retort.  While I definitely hope you read opinion, I think Sowell’s, too, is necessary for a nice view on the different ways we all perceive freedom.

My response: Freedom is two-way street.

I was quite taken aback to read syndicated columnist Thomas Sowell’s take on “community service” (Freedom and the left, 19 December 2008) and his condemnation of those on the “left” who support and require such acts for our young people. While there were one or two points worth reading, I felt many of his attacks were half-truths or complete falsehoods that can’t be overlooked.

First, he calls people who are homeless vagrants, ignoring the fact that most homeless are mentally ill, have had their job cut by the employer (not for reasons the worker controlled), or workers who cannot find affordable housing at the meager wages they are paid. Then, using his logic of degrading the homeless, he argues “community service” in a homeless shelter aids vagrancy rather than honors and respects the humanity of those who are shut out of the housing process. He claims (without supporting facts) that the homeless seek food and shelter as “entitlements,” stereotyping the homeless as lazy rather than recognizing the separate root causes that put them in their situation.

However, I felt Sowell’s most egregious error was his one-sided condemnation of the “left” for their lack of supporting freedom by requiring community service by defining freedom as, “the right of other people to do things that you do not approve of.” If this is freedom, then what about the views of those on the “right” around issues like abortion and gay marriage – wouldn’t freedom allow those who wish to abort a fetus that ability and two men to marry, even if one may not approve of it?

Freedom is a two-way street, a fact that Sowell obviously does not recognize; I wonder how many others see freedom in a similar light.