Monday, June 20, 2005

There were several letters in yesterday's Ithaca Journal responding to the full page of opinion pieces published on May 21, 2005, responding to Sandy Wold's column criticizing Israel. (By the way, I discovered by going back to the site that my letter has made it on to the IJ's web site: "Zionist Jew" rejects inflammatory comments.)

Along with three letters critical of Israel written by other people, Sandy Wold herself wrote an angry retort in yesterday's Journal, in which she said that she is retracting her apologetic letter of May 21:
I have been deeply concerned about the presentation of the May 21 opinion page. While the Journal followed its "journalistic standards," they nevertheless made choices that placated an international group at my expense and neglected to inform readers of significant behind-the-scenes events. Readers should know that 90 percent of the hostile letters published on May 21 came from Honest Reporting", an organization of 120,000 who bombarded me with hostile emails and calls. Readers should know that the Journal publisher urged me to submit a peace-making communication I posted to the honestreporting.com blog on May 9. Readers should also know that the Journal omitted two significant paragraphs from my May 21 guest column without my permission while superfluous quotes remained.

She's right that the letters were prompted by the posting on Honest Reporting, and also by the posting on Little Green Footballs. I went to the HR website and some of the comments posted there were extremely hostile, as were those on the LGF site. While I didn't agree with what she said, some of the HR and LGF comments were over the line and engaged in personal abuse.
My critics made countless false assumptions about what I believe and the Journal misrepresented me and my message of May 21. Ironically, the volatility of my critics and the Journal's appeasement perfectly exemplify the dynamic I was describing in my original guest column of May 7.

I don't quite know what she means by the "volatility" of her critics. Yes, people were mad at her - as advocates of Israel often are at those who criticize or demonize Israel (I think her comments came closer to the latter than the former). I don't see that the Journal "appeased" them - rather, it published letters critical of her remarks - and letters that were not personally abusive. They objected to her on political, rather than personal grounds. Anyone writing in public on Israeli-Palestinian conflict has to be prepared for criticism (and sometimes personal attacks) from those disagreeing with them.
I also object to the choice of pictures for that page which demonized Arab people. Readers deserve to be reminded that not all Palestinians/Arabs agree with PLO behavior. My column and its omitted content was written in a sincere spirit of seeking understanding of the individuals within this group and simultaneously clarifying what I originally meant by the universality of the victim mind-set. I did not know that the Journal would edit my column in such a way that would collude with the agenda of this group to silence dissent; I therefore retract my letter of May 21 and will publish elsewhere.

For the information of readers who only saw the internet version of the Journal from May 21, there were two photographs placed at the top of the page, below which came first my letter, then a whole series of international letters (prompted by the posting on Honest Reporting), and then Sandy Wold's column responding to those who criticized her (specifically, the international letters, not mine). The photograph on the right depicted Palestinian men wearing masks, and aiming guns. The legend below the picture was, in the words of the Journal, "Masked Palestinian militants of the Popular Resistance Committees, a militia linked to the Fatah movement, perform a military exercise in the streets during a rally in Gaza City, Friday. As Palestinian-Israeli fighting spilled over into a third straight day, Israel warned a cease-fire declared in February is in danger of collapse." The photograph on the left depicted Jewish settlers, also armed, in Gaza, with the legend: "Jewish settlers walk toward an abandoned building located between the Jewish settlement of Kfar Darom and the Palestinian town of Deir el-Ballah on Friday. Settlers intend to set up a defensive position in the building used earlier on by Palestinian militants who fired missiles and light arms fire at the Jewish settlement." Both pictures were from the AP. The placing of the photos side by side seemed to me the Journal's attempt to be evenhanded - to point out that there is violence on both sides from sources not officially authorized - Jewish settlers and the Popular Resistance Committees.

I think it's very telling that Wold only objected to the picture of the Palestinian gunman, and didn't even mention the photo of the Jewish settlers. She is only capable of seeing media bias on one side (as is true of many of the letters criticizing her).

In response to Wold's letter, the editors of the Journal wrote (June 18): "EDITOR'S NOTE: Wold was repeatedly advised by the opinion page editor that she was welcome to submit a follow-up column to her May 7 piece, but was not required to do so. Wold accepted that invitation, submitting nine versions of her reply as well as a hand-written addendum. The final version of her reply, plus addendum, was about 300 words longer than The Journal's established 750-word limit for such submissions. It was carefully edited to approach that word limit without altering its message. We stand by that effort."

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