Sunday, September 14, 2008

Arab American News on Oakland Press Editorial

Reposted from Next Year in al-Quds:

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Oakland Press Tortures Truth

In an unsigned editorial last Monday, entitled "Hateful news article hurts chances for understanding," the Oakland Press weighed-in on the Jewish Community Relations Council of Metropolitan Detroit press release condemning the Arab American News (AAN) and Michelle J. Kinnucan for the article, "Detroit Jewish Federation: Celebrating racism and making money at it." The AAN and the author responded with editorials of their own which have both been submitted for publication to the Press. They appear below and in the AAN print and online editons.
Shame on The Oakland Press
Friday, 09.12.2008, 02:00pm

In an editorial this week, The Oakland Press attacked The Arab American News for running an opinion piece by Michelle Kinnucan on the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit's celebration at the Michigan State Fairgrounds of Israel's 60th anniversary. ("Detroit Jewish Federation: Celebrating racism and making money at it," The Arab American News, Issue 1174, August 9-15, 2008, pages 14 and 15.)

The piece was thoroughly documented and footnoted and we believed there was merit to the writer's argument that resources belonging to the people of Michigan were being used to fundraise for and celebrate the founding of a state that does not deserve to be supported.

Consider that Israel confers citizenship privileges based on one's religion, that Israel has no constitution, that Israel has no recognizable borders, that Israel flies in the face of international law as it expands illegal settlements among a captive civilian population, that Israel is slowly starving to death a million and a half people in Gaza, that Israel is constructing a wall between its residents and the Palestinians in the West Bank which runs deep inside Palestinian territory and creates an apartheid state with Palestinians in bantustans.

Consider all the military checkpoints, the barbed wire, the use of live ammunition against women and children, the relentless home demolitions, the repeated military incursions into Palestinian cities and villages, the murder of innocent civilians on a scale far wider than any terrorist incidents, the imprisonment of 10,000 people including pregnant women and children.

Apparently the article hit too close to home for some of Metropolitan Detroit's pro-Israeli activists. And apparently, like Israel, they don't intend to play by the rules.

Instead of contacting The Arab American News by telephone, facsimile, email, snail mail or personal visit, and registering their opposition, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Metropolitan Detroit decided to blanket all area media except us with a press release condemning the paper for printing the article. Only then did our telephones begin ringing as reporters called for our feedback.

The article was clearly identified as an opinion piece under the heading of Other Voices. There was nothing in the article to justify claims by the group lobbying against us that it was a hate-filled piece. We're comfortable with our decision to publish the piece and comfortable with the writer's subsequent repudiation of the claims made in the press release. ("My response to the Jewish Community Relations Council of Metropolitan Detroit," Michelle Kinnucan, The Arab American News, Issue 1177, August 30-September 5, 2008, pages 14-15.

This week, in an astounding betrayal of all tenets of press freedom and fairness, The Oakland Press joined the pro-Israeli activists in attacking our decision to print someone else's opinion. Huh? One newspaper attacks another for standing up for freedom of speech and of the press?

In a poorly written editorial, The Oakland Press accused The Arab American News of "bias (sic) journalism," even as they themselves absconded on the obligation of proving their points. To make outrageous charges but then say it's all too bad to document, which is what the paper did, sounds like the very definition of biased — and cowardly — journalism to us. There was no courtesy call from The Oakland Press to us.

Had anyone at The Oakland Press checked, they would have avoided the mistakes they made which certainly compromise the credibility of their attack on us. They name the wrong sponsoring organization for the original event and they state that The Arab American News employs the writer, which it does not, And then there's this gem: "Other religious and ethnic groups have learned to live together in the United States and the Jews and the Muslims can also, if, particularly in this case, the Muslims are allowed to." What is that supposed to mean? And do they not know the difference between an Arab and a Muslim?

The editorial says: "There may be fighting in the Middle East but we don't need it here. We don't want it here. We don't have to have it here."

But we have to allow one party to the conflict to divert resources away from Americans and toward the conflict without saying anything about it? And we don't expect the families of the other party to the conflict living here to say anything about that? Come on.

We welcome any opportunity for dialogue that does not come laden with the imperative that "we cannot discuss Israel." But that's exactly what we have always heard about dialogue with the pro-Israeli community.

Which, in the end, just goes to prove Kinnucan's point that Israel and its supporters are not held to the same ethical standards of behavior, the same honor code, the same rules, as the rest of society.

Shame on The Oakland Press and no one else.


The Oakland Press tortures the truth

By Michelle Kinnucan - The Arab American News
Friday, 09.12.2008, 02:00pm

One of the gratifying things about the Fair of Shame protest on August 21st was the response of so many of the Israeli youth. As we stood outside the Jewish Federation's celebration of Israel's creation, dozens of big, yellow school buses passed by. Because traffic was backed up the teens inside had a chance to read our anti-Zionist, pro-Palestinian signs, to speak with us, and to tell us where they were from. "Israel," they said, and many of them gave us smiles, peace signs, thumbs-ups, and other signs of approval when they saw what we were doing.

From the ranks of such young people come the hundreds of "sarvanim" or "refuseniks" who show their moral courage by refusing to serve or obey orders in the Israeli military because it violently oppresses Palestinians and people in neighboring countries (military service is compulsory for most young Jewish Israelis). Such young people populate the ranks of groups like Zochrot, which raises "awareness of the Nakba, the Palestinian catastrophe of 1948," in part, by erecting signs at the sites of the hundreds of Arab villages ethnically cleansed and destroyed by Zionist forces.

I am reminded, too, of another young Israeli I met a couple of years ago: Jonathan Pollak, who was seriously injured when Israeli troops shot him in the head with a teargas canister in 2005. Pollak was working with the International Solidarity Movement in the village of Bil'in where, he says, "Palestinians are protesting, and others with them, against the theft of their land, against the steps the Israeli government and Israeli army are taking to make their lives impossible — basically to commit a quiet ethnic cleansing."

Of course, the young Israelis in the buses were still going to a celebration of the creation of Israel but they suggest that the youth don't necessarily buy all the hoary fairy tales that their elders peddle about Israel. This certainly includes the oft-repeated lies regurgitated in the Oakland Press editorial of September 8, concerning my August 8th article in The Arab American News (TAAN), "Detroit Jewish Federation: Celebrating racism and making money at it."

The Press claims, "Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East … [and] one of the most open and tolerant nations. I put these lies to rest in my response to the Jewish Community Relations Council of Metropolitan Detroit (published in the TAAN on August 29). Suffice to it say, even the State Department's 2007 report on human rights noted, "Institutional, legal, and societal discrimination against Israeli Arabs, non-Orthodox Jews, and other religious groups continued" in Israel. Mossawa, the Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Israel, has documented that "At least twenty Israeli laws discriminate against the Arab minority …" Further, no country that, as Israel does, militarily dominates and occupies millions of people for more than forty years, extending to them neither citizenship nor any real say in the rule over them, can honestly be called a democracy.

The Press also complains there was no "policy of ethnic cleansing of Arabs from its lands" in 1948 when Israel was founded. In fact, "Plan Dalet" envisioned the "systematic eradication of Palestinian population centers" and was hatched by the Haganah in 1947. Plan Dalet is well-documented by Palestinian and Israeli historians such as Walid Khalidi, Ilan Pappe, and Benny Morris. The infamous April 1948 massacre at Deir Yassin of over 100 Palestinians, half of them women and children, occurred under Plan Dalet.

The Press got one thing right. Israel is "tolerant" … of torture, that is. As Louis Frankenthaler of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel wrote earlier this year, Israel "continues to use torture. … One may choose to believe that torture has been 'abolished in Israel' but it continues with impunity." A 2006 scientific poll for the BBC in 25 countries found: "The largest percentage endorsing torture was found in Israel. … A majority of Jewish respondents (53%) favor allowing governments to use torture … In contrast, Muslims in Israel … are overwhelmingly (87%) against any use of torture." Maybe Israeli tolerance for torture is what inspired the Press to torture the truth so viciously when they criticized the TAAN and my article.

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