Letters to the Editor

A Fox Guards the Spectator Coop on Yom Kippur

I was quoted in a front-page story by Rob Saliterman on an anti-Israel demonstration in Times Square ["Palestine Supporters Stage Rally," Oct. 9]. More than half of my quotations originally included by the reporter, including most of the substantive ones, were deleted under suspicious circumstances.

Even more troubling, the meaning of one of my quotations was misrepresented to make me look like a racist. An editor altered Saliterman's original story by adding the incorrect statement that I was "worried by Arab solidarity" simply because I was critical of an extremist, pro-violence demonstration that featured Nazi swastikas painted on Israeli flags. The addition of this outrageous statement was especially harmful given that it lent credence to the false and troubling notion that Jews and Zionists oppose civil rights for Arabs.

The Spectator agreed it had made me sound like a racist. The short correction it published, however, made no mention of the deleted quotes and was tucked away on the bottom of page three. Therefore the damage done to my reputation and to LionPAC, as I was speaking in official capacity as co-president, was not repaired.

Last Monday, in the wake of a petition campaign that collected over 200 signatures in less than 72 hours, the Spectator ran a staff editorial apologizing for the disproportionate quantity and biased nature of the coverage given to protests against Israel ["Reflections on Mid-East Coverage," Oct. 16].

Without naming me, the Spectator also said it "regret[ted] the suggestion of prejudice" conveyed by their presentation of my quote.

I delayed writing a letter for publication in hopes that the Spectator would explain the circumstances in which I was defamed. Instead, as a face-saving measure, the Spectator issued only a vague apology. Saliterman's story ran on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year. Many of the Jews on the Spectator staff undoubtedly were observing the holiday at the time the story was tampered with.

In the Staff Editorial, the Spectator conceded that a member of its Managing Board is a former Turath board member, but trumpeted its faith in its staff to set aside ideology when acting as journalists. It did not deny that political motives were behind the changes made to Saliterman's article. In fact, the Spectator declined to offer any account of the reason for the tampering, casting it as an innocent mistake.

The Spectator's new, public commitment to a balanced portrayal of reactions to Middle East events is a welcome development, but a full explanation for the manipulation of Saliterman's article is necessary if the Spectator intends to move forward.

Gregory Shill, CC '02

Oct. 22, 2000

The author is co-president of LionPAC, Columbia's pro-Israel Political Awareness Committee.

Critics Should Realize that Israelis Act in Defense

In reference to the violence in the Middle East, a few clarifications are warranted. It seems the media and many outsiders to the issue are undeservedly placing the blame on Israel for allegedly being "violent" and using "excessive force." My question to these critics: If your people began to get stones thrown at them while they were praying at your religion's holiest site, what would you do? Would you sit around and do nothing?

The violence began when an Israeli politician when to see the Temple Mount, something that Palestinians consider a defilement of the site. In response, they began to throw rocks at Jewish worshippers praying at the Western Wall. To protect innocent civilians, the Israeli army brought in rubber bullets and other riot gear to disperse the crowds. This is just another case of how the Arab enemies of Israel almost always provoke the violence, as was the case in the previous five wars fought by Israel, and subsequently complain about Israel's retaliation. Perhaps they should stop their attacks on Israel.

Furthermore, while the killing of 12 year-old Muhammad al-Durrah is atrocious, his death is not an occasion for Israel-bashing. Absent from the picture of the boy and his father was a building full of machine-gun armed Palestinians firing at Israeli troops. Perhaps if the Palestinians stopped using children as shields to hide behind, then this would not happen. I am deeply mournful that any of this violence has occurred. May peace find its way to the region soon.

Lucas Bejar, CC '04

Oct. 6, 2000

Mid-East Conflict Makes Passion Inevitable, Not Deplorable

To the Editor:

The students on campus protesting recent Israeli violence should be supported. The protests have been criticized for bringing "emotion" and "anger" to campus. Should one be dispassionate when anti-tank missiles and live ammunition are fired at Palestinian children? Should one be subdued in the face of another round of blatant Israeli violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention?

Throughout the post-Oslo period, while the confiscation of Arab homes and the building of settlements accelerates and the denial of Palestinians' most basic human rights persists, every voice raised in protest is criticized as "inopportune" or as a "threat to peace."

In his "Letter from Birmingham Jail," Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. reserved his harshest words for those well-meaning observers who preferred "a negative peace which is the absence of justice to a positive peace which is the presence of justice." Believers in peace should be the first to protest against Israel's lethal use of force and the continued injustices of Israeli policy.

Shirin Sinnar, Law School

Oct. 6, 2000

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