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Countering Bias and Misinformation mainly about the Arab-Israel conflict

Open letter to Gideon Levy

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About Maurice Ostroff
From Maurice Ostroff
November 11, 2006

Dear Gideon Levy,

In the spirit of the constructive constructive correspondence we have exchanged in the past, I now refer to your article "No one is guilty in Israel" (Haaretz Nov. 11). While you deserve kudos for your fierce and I believe sincere devotion to fighting what you consider injustice, I suggest, with great respect, that you would achieve more if you modified your overkill approach. Adding some balance to your critical articles would enhance your credibility considerably. Conversely the lack of balance, which you exhibit can be counterproductive. It is likely to diminish rather than enhance the chances of progress towards your intended aim, which I believe is to achieve an equitable peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
 
Not even Israel's detractors (apart possibly from Kofi Anan) suggest, as you allege, that there was "malice aforethought" or deliberate criminal intent by the gunners in the deaths of nineteen civilians in Beit Hanun.  Although the disaster is widely accepted as due to a tragic error beyond the control of the gunners, by omitting to mention that the Israeli fire was in response to Qassam rockets, you create the false impression that the Israeli action was unilateral. Moreover you compound this breach of sound journalism by making the serious allegation, without any effort at substantiation, that Israeli troops deliberately and maliciously fired on uninvolved civilians. When these allegations are made by an Israeli journalist, they are eagerly seized upon by those who seek to demonize us and inevitably serve only to generate more hate in Palestinian minds, thus impeding rather than advancing the chances of eventually achieving that peaceful settlement you and I both seek.
 
As you well know, one can distort facts without lying, merely by withholding part of the story. No responsible description of this tragic incident can ignore the surrounding circumstances. For instance in his article "A gunner's nightmare", (Jerusalem Post  Nov. 8) Steve Linde, wrote  "Can you imagine how terrible the artillery troops who fired the shells at Beit Hanun yesterday must be feeling now? After serving in IDF Artillery, I can only say that this is every gunner's nightmare scenario: killing innocent men, women and children".

Linde points out that in response to Qassam rocket attacks, gunners were ordered to "fire at the source" - the spots from which the rockets were launched. And they did, firing a dozen or so shells. He adds that the Qassams are intentionally fired at civilian targets, hoping for maximum casualties and damage, whereas the troops who fired at Beit Hanun weren't hoping to hit civilians. They were targeting terrorists firing rockets.

Your concern for the suffering of the Palestinians and your angry apportionment of all blame on Israel are by now well known.  However, to be constructive, it is with great respect that I urge  you to utilize your first-hand knowledge of the Palestinian scene to formulate your suggestions for bringing the strife to an end.
 
Please however, avoid oversimplified slogans. .You wrote to me in the past ;"nothing, but nothing, changes my deep conviction that this evil occupation must come to its end, without any ifs or buts"  As I assume your views have not changed I ask that you please define what you mean.  As very few, even among the most ardent advocates of 'ending the occupation' call for Israel to relinquish the Western Wall and access to Mount Scopus, while some refer to the 1967 lines and others call for a return to the 1947 partition lines, it is important that we know what is meant by calls to  "end to the occupation".
 
In the  meantime your readers would be interested to learn your suggestions about how  Israel should respond to the firing of Qassams and Katyushas.
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