MONDAY’S LETTERS: Few Editorials Condemn Israel, Few Columnists Do Shoe-Leather Reporting at Protests

By: E&P Staff

Readers continue to react to E&P’s coverage of the paucity of newspaper editorials condemning Israel, while another reader agrees with Greg Mitchell’s column about the scarcity of contrarian editorials about the Iraq war during a crucial period in 2003.


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Why Aren’t There more Editorials Condemning Israel’s Actions in Lebanon?

Perhaps too many Americans see the direct correlation between Israel’s “over the top” campaign and the ones waged by American forces. It would be hypocritical to support them and condemn the the Israelis.

Michael Burke
Victoria, British Columbia
Canada



I was astonished to see Nightline coverage of Lebanese Americans being evacuated from Beirut. A father with two small boys was being interviewed. As he pointed to the ruins around him, the expletives deleted were numerous in his rage at Bush. One can imagine him having been encouraged to go back to Lebanon to invest his life savings to help start a business in a land looking forward to democracy.

Now, with everything destroyed, he was being asked by Bush to pay his own way home. Could he not help being furious and feeling betrayed? With the excuse of several Israeli soldiers kidnapped, Lebanon now bleeds under the disproportionate retribution by the Israelis with bombs made in America.

Bill Bahr


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Newspapers’ Coverage of War Protests Underwhelming

Greg Mitchell was quite correct in his recent “Blood on Our Hands” column to decry the “refusal of newspaper editorial pages to protest above a whisper” during the build-up to war and the invasion of Iraq. As a voice of dissent on the opinion pages of a solidly Republican paper that endorsed George W. Bush for president in both 2000 and 2004, I was saddened but not surprised when the Athens (Ga.) Banner-Herald joined the cheerleading for the war in early 2003. How different the situation in Iraq looks now, as Bush’s “cakewalk” to victory has turned into a deadly debacle in the desert.

As a newspaper columnist here in Georgia for more than 32 years, I have often written about social movements in America and have protested the policies of both Republican and Democratic presidents in writing — and by bringing my readers eyewitness coverage of protest marches and rallies in such cities as Washington, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Atlanta. Columnists who oppose the war in Iraq have both the freedom and the duty to put their opinions into action by hitting the streets as “participatory journalists” and covering antiwar sentiment from the inside, rather than as aloof onlookers removed from the fray.

If writers can be praised for being embedded with the troops in Iraq, opinion scribes should garner similar kudos for being embedded with antiwar troops here at home. While ethics policies generally discourage news reporters from taking part in political activity, opinion writers should be activists and advocates, not just observers and commentators.

Just since 2000, I have brought my readers eyewitness views of protest rallies in Washington. It was in New York City during the GOP convention that nominated Bush for a second term in 2004 that I saw the most dramatic street protests against administration policies. During the convention, more than 1800 protesters and bystanders were arrested and jailed, sometimes for days, in the largest mass arrests in the history of New York. NYPD officers used mesh nets to corral citizens on the streets of the Big Apple, arresting not just protesters, but tourists, bystanders and a hapless Chinese food delivery man.

While taking notes and photos at a small, nonviolent protest near the New York Public Library, I was scooped up in the police nets and jailed for a seemingly interminable 30 hours. Handcuffed and stuffed into a police bus, I and the hordes of other arrestees were taken first to the filthy “Guantanamo by the Hudson” holding pens, then to a succession of New York jail cells as we slowly made our way to night court. Like almost all of the hundreds of others arrested, my “case” was dismissed and I finally walked out of police custody in the wee hours of a Manhattan morning. I considered the experience an occupational hazard and a badge of honor.

If a small-town, red-state columnist like me can travel thousands of miles at his own expense to bring readers on-the-scene coverage and commentary about the now-widespread movement to stop Bush’s military misadventure in Iraq, then why can’t the “Bigfoot” pundits from the nation’s opinion pages do the same? It is past time for opinion writers to put their money where their mouths are and their feet on the street. See you at the barricades!

Ed Tant
Athens, Ga.

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