Sunday, May 22, 2005

The Ithaca Journal devoted its entire editorial page today to responses to Sandy Wold's column two weeks ago. In their own editorial, they bravely argued for the value of free speech, invoking the names of Locke and Voltaire - but without considering the professional responsibility of a newspaper to edit articles responsibly. Sandy Wold apologized for her remarks, saying that:
Rather than defend or explain myself to my critics, I decided to listen and understand, and I was surprised to see how complacent I had become with my point of view. Reading letters that came from around the world, investigating their sources, discovering new ones, questioning my assumptions, and the assumptions of my sources, I had periodic moments of feeling duped. So I went back and studied my original sources and their sources so I could feel reaffirmed. Finally, I came across an example of a battle between Palestinians and Israelis that happened over 50 years ago. According to the media representation, the Palestinians were "massacred," and according to the Israeli source I read, the Israelis were acting in "self-defense." Apparently, the media left out the bigger picture, which was that the Israelis were being blockaded by the Palestinians and facing near starvation. Also, a Red Cross witness to the aftermath of the "massacre" only verified Palestinian gore. I believe that such series of misrepresentation, misunderstanding and media bias is common to all conflict. It is no wonder many of us feel so confused and unable to help.

I commend her for her willingness to listen to and think about the remarks people made to her - some of which were fairly hostile, judging from the Honest Reporting web site, which publicized her column to their subscribers. On the other hand, she does need to do more homework on the Arab-Israeli conflict. For example, in the quoted paragraph, what battle is she referring to? The siege of Jerusalem in 1948? And another quibble: over 50 years ago, when people referred to "Palestinians," they meant Palestinian Jews, not Palestinian Arabs. She should have used the term "Arabs." (With this comment, I'm not denying the existence of a Palestinian people today.)

The Journal also published many letters from people around the world who were outraged by Wold's comments - most of whom probably knew about her column from the story about it on the Honest Reporting web site, or perhaps from LGF.

A letter that I wrote also appeared in the print version of the newspaper, but for some reason doesn't seem to have made it onto the electronic version. This is the text:
I am writing in response to Sandy Wold’s article, “Mothers can make healing a priority,” published on Saturday, May 7, 2005. I identify as a “Zionist Jew,” and ally myself with the Jews who established the state of Israel, whom Sandy Wold condemns as having “occupied Palestinian land in the name of God and victimhood.” I’m not sure exactly where to start in response to her poorly thought-out and inflammatory remarks. The Zionist movement, which fought to establish first a Jewish homeland in Palestine and then an independent state, was founded in the late 1800s, long before the Holocaust. The founders of the state were predominantly secular Jews who wanted to establish a place where Jews could find refuge from anti-semitism in Europe and build their own modern Jewish culture. Far from “getting stuck in the victim role,” as Wold accuses “Zionist Jews” of having done, the Zionist movement very actively tried to solve the problems of Jewish life through the creation of their own national movement – a nationalist movement very akin to the Palestinian national movement, which in parallel to Zionism has the aim of creating a Palestinian state.

Wold also accuses Israel of “terrorist attacks and slaughter of the Palestinians” and says that anyone who criticizes Israel is “guilt-inflicted for the Holocaust without any regard for Palestinian suffering.” This statement minimalizes the suffering that Jews went through in the Holocaust and completely avoids mentioning the Israeli victims of Palestinian violence. Is it only Palestinians who suffer in the ongoing conflict? What of the many terrorist attacks inflicted upon Israeli civilians by Palestinian suicide bombers from Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades?

Wold seems to have taken sides in the ongoing conflict, squarely on the side of the Palestinians – but does this really advance the “self-healing” agenda that she argues for in her article? Isn’t it time for both Israelis and Palestinians (and their supporters in the United States) to recognize the complexity of the situation and admit that there is right in the claims, and the historical memory, of both sides? In my view, the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip should end, making it possible for a viable Palestinian state to be founded alongside Israel. This would not salve all wounds, but it would make a new beginning possible, where both peoples would suffer less than they have in the past, and perhaps begin the long process of reconciliation with each other.

My letter was also the only one written by someone living in Ithaca, who would read it in its paper form, rather than learning about it from an internet source. I'm disappointed that other people in Ithaca didn't feel motivated, or capable, of writing a response to her, but I am glad they published mine (and thus far I've only gotten positive responses to it).

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