Letters to the Editor
Matt McFetridge’s February column (“According to our man in Gaza”) elicited a strong response from our readers. Some of the letters we received are printed below.
David Perlstein, at our request, rewrote his letter as a guest opinion column, which appears in the issue. Mr. Perlstein’s column and the letters from Benjamin Pollock, Bart Gershbien, Ken and Joan Kaplan, and Serena Bardell are quite effective in providing us with other viewpoints on the situation in Gaza.
Matt McFetridge is a veteran news producer with strong views formed during his impressive and colorful media career working as a war correspondent for major news organizations for twenty years, covering over twenty wars in twenty countries. His column, “From the Global Affairs Desk in North Beach,” has been a regular feature in Northside San Francisco since the spring of 2007.
Mr. McFetridge’s column was not a Northside S.F editorial, nor does it represent the views or opinions of the management of Northside Publications.
EDITOR: I enjoy reading Northside San Francisco, which does a fine job telling me about the goings-on in my neighborhood. The February issue, however, was not so delightful. As I was flipping through the pages, I came upon the McFetridge column on Gaza. As I read it, my jaw dropped and I was dumbstruck by the outrageously defamatory nature of the piece, full of distortions and lies.
Here are some of the howlers and other claims McFetridge makes directly or by quoting extensively from his mysterious, nameless friend, with my comments.
(1) “Israel withdrew soldiers and settlers from Gaza in 2005, but still controls sea access, border crossings and air space.”
No mention that Israel must control land, sea and air access to interdict terrorists and arms smuggling. Also, the Rafah crossing is controlled by Egypt.
(2) “Hamas won elections in 2006, then in 2007 assumed full control after routing the Palestinian Authority’s Fatah fighters.”
Hamas brutally usurped power in Gaza, killing many members of Fatah in barbaric fashion, e.g., throwing them off roofs. This brutality continues to this day.
See this video clip: www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_OGhj43GAE
(3) McFetridge and his friend paint Israel in the vilest of shades: “... a mammoth meat grinder devours Gazans by the truckload.” But Hamas is whitewashed. Thus, this terrorist organization is “... by and large pretty easy to deal with, and to tell the truth, unlike the corrupt bastards in Fatah and Ramallah … they do have a code of morals, which is their greatest strength …”
This juxtaposition of the morality of the opposing sides is Orwellian. Israel went out of its way to avoid civilian casualties, e.g., making hundreds of thousands of phone calls to warn Palestinians of impending attacks. Hamas, on the other hand, intentionally sought to kill as many Israeli civilians as possible with its thousands of rocket and mortar strikes. Human rights groups have decried the use by Hamas of Palestinian civilians as human shields, behind which it fired its missiles. Following is an excerpt from a January 26, 2009 article by Reuters, which appeared on www.Haaretz.com, in which a European Union official is quoted on this topic:
“Standing in the war-torn Gaza Strip on Monday, the European Union’s foreign aid chief condemned Hamas for ‘acting like a terrorist movement,’ and accused the Islamist group of having ‘enormous responsibility’ for the devastation caused in Gaza during three weeks of fighting between Hamas and Israel.
“Louis Michel was among the most senior foreign officials to visit the coastal enclave since Hamas seized control in 2007.
“ ‘Hamas has an enormous responsibility for what happened here in Gaza,’ said Michel, the humanitarian aid commissioner, as he stood in a United Nations aid compound damaged by an Israeli shelling.
He echoed Israeli criticisms that Hamas used civilians as ‘human shields’ by fighting in populated areas and, describing Hamas rocket fire on Israel as a ‘provocation,’ he said in English: ‘Hamas is acting in the way of a terrorist movement.’”
(4) Israelis are reported “... to laugh and gloat over the slaughter in Gaza.”
The preponderance of Israelis, unlike Hamas and its supporters, do not pass out candies and honk their car horns when their soldiers accidentally hit civilians. Their leaders publicly expressed sorrow. When did Hamas ever apologize for killing Israeli women and children?
(5) In one of his most disgusting twists, McFetridge even blames Israel for taking advantage of a suicide bombing. He claims “...before the corpses were cold, spin doctors from the Israeli government were on the scene doing ‘interviews,’ which are really government talking points.” Even at its most heinous and vile, Hamas gets a free pass from McFetridge, who sees fault only with Israel.
(6) He states there were 1,300 Gazan fatalities, mostly civilians. Most journalists have had the decency to attribute this widely quoted figure to Palestinian sources, thereby injecting a modicum of doubt into the veracity of the estimate. McFetridge dispenses with this inconvenient journalistic standard and converts this disputed figure into fact. Actually, this estimate will likely prove to be distorted, just like the non-existent Jenin massacre was in 2002. At that time, the secretary general of the Palestinian Authority, Ahmed Abdel Rahman, said thousands of Palestinians had been killed and buried in mass graves, or lay under houses destroyed in Jenin and Nablus. Palestinian information minister Yasser Abed Rabbo accused Israel of digging mass graves for 900 Palestinians in the camp. After the battle, the United Nations estimated the death toll at 52 Palestinians and 23 Israelis.
EDITOR: The recent February editorial on Gaza and the tragedy of the Middle East was so stilted and silly it doesn’t deserve to be in print.
No government/country can exist without secure and safe borders without the fear of attack and missiles. Can you imagine what would happen to Cuba if it decided to lob a bomb into south Florida or if Ukraine lobbed one into Russia, or Poland lobbing one into Germany? The Gazans have been doing that unabated for a year. Israel has been showing restraint. Yes, they have closed their borders. Hamas crossed the border, killed Israeli soldiers, and one remains a prisoner (Shalit). Additionally, Hamas’s stated purpose is to destroy Israel. Can you imagine if we let Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida enter our country for employment and food supplies?
The tragedy is that the Palestinians are the most Westernized and educated of the Arab countries. However, they can’t even live in peace within their own borders as evidenced by the Hamas vs. Fatah fighting of the past years. The tragedy is that the outside forces, i.e., Iran and Saudi Arabia, are supplying the leaders with oil money to continue to fight rather than negotiate with Israel. Without those monies, Gaza would be more willing to seek a peaceful solution. The Gazans have no future – the birthrate is high, there are no jobs, especially without the ones they get in Israel. However, the leadership has incentives to continue because they profit from the war. Gaza has beautiful beaches and could be a European tourist destination, but not the way it is now.
Gaza has a long history of war and disruption. Alexander the Great destroyed Gaza and forequartered its king because if its unwillingness to negotiate.
The tragedy is that the fighting is only beginning because the right wing Likud is coming to power because of Gazans insisting on war. The right wing in Israel makes Bush look like a liberal. Will Israel be able to destroy Hamas? No, but it will make the people suffer until it will put pressure on Hamas. The oil money will run out, then the real pain will start.
For fun, submit the McFetridge “editorial” to Thomas Friedman at the New York Times for his response. If you are going to be journalists, understand and explain both sides.
EDITOR: I am amazed that you would even consider publishing an unsubstantiated, one-sided article as Matt McFetridge’s piece on Gaza. The writer makes no attempt to present a balanced approach to the subject and frequently resorts to name-calling such as referring to Israel as “Zionist occupiers” and “local-lackey client” of the West. On a site in Israel he refers to as the “hill of shame” he reports: “All these Israelis came to laugh and gloat over the slaughter in Gaza.” He also refers to the Israeli soldiers as vandals, racists and looters. Surely, this type of language is not meant to clarify or build understanding, but to polarize the situation.
As the only attribution is an unnamed correspondent for an unnamed news organization, the lack of precision in the language and reporting becomes even more suspect. I would recommend that as a neighborhood newspaper, you continue your emphasis on neighborhood news. Leave global news to those news organizations that identify their correspondents and check their facts.
The situation in Gaza and the Palestinian-Israeli relationship is much too serious and volatile to be handled in this anecdotal, irresponsible way.
KEN & JOAN KAPLAN
EDITOR: The McFetridge column was a very good piece. It was informative without getting boring or bogged down in facts, and there was a visceral, human side to it. The man who offered the reporter a cup of tea touched me because, as an Arab, I know you always offer tea to a guest. Excellent writing.
EDITOR: Many of us pray for an ongoing source of up-to-date information on neighborhood news in the Northside, be it zoning, permits, or any other proposed changes that could have an impact on our nabe. Ideally, all sides would get a voice on any (probably all) controversial issues. Your paper is the obvious first choice for providing this, and I’m sure there are enough involved individuals in your circulation area to pen opinions at no cost to your payroll.
On the other hand, information, opinion, propaganda on the Middle East – from mainstream, upstream, downstream, Arab, Israeli, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, left, right, middle – is more than plentiful from innumerable varieties of media.
I have been told by those oft-mentioned “reliable sources” that the reason the Marina Times and/or Northside San Francisco doesn’t carry local news is a desire to avoid controversy; clearly this cannot be accurate, else why would it feature a full page plus on the most controversial issue imaginable?!
EDITOR: Great article. I’m filled with envy (because being an international journalist has always been my career of choice) and admiration, because so few journalists are dedicated to covering alternate viewpoints, especially when it comes to an unpopular issue such as this. You forgot one bullet item though, and an important one: Hamas does not recognize Israel’s “right to exist” (a stupid claim for any state to demand), but Israel doesn’t recognize Hamas’s right to exist either, which, in effect, makes peace null and void.
I’ve gotten far more into this issue than I ever imagined. I’m supposed to be testifying in the general assembly on Wednesday on a bill related to Gaza, something I’ve never done before. You should see the counterpoints submitted by the other side in favor of Israel – outrageous!
Anyway, I want to thank you for your wide-eyed coverage and I encourage you to keep at it. You have many readers who are counting on you.
EDITOR: Matt McFetridge is a seasoned, veteran foreign correspondent who tells it like is. His columns have been a refreshingly irreverent and highly informative window on the astronomically asymmetrical suffering inflicted on the Palestinians and Lebanese by Israel’s deadly, U.S.-taxpayer-funded, permanent war machine. The Israel apologists whose alarm bells ring at the slightest questioning of the latest Israeli massacre, never reach, much less answer, the basic question: Who’s doing what to whom? Who are the invaders and colonizers, who are the defenders of their land? Who is the occupier, who is the occupied – and why, in the name of whomever’s god, is bloody invasion, occupation and colonialism good for Israel, but not for all the despised conquerors and racist colonial powers of the past? What’s wrong with “Palestine belongs to the Arabs as France does to the French and England to the English”? That was good enough for Gandhi, and that’s the bottom line in the continuing Israeli war crimes being committed against the indigenous people of Palestine.
Letters may be edited for space or content.