Letter to Hindustan Times on Its Bias Against Israel

Dear Sir or Madam,

Your recent editorial on the United Nations General Assembly decision to upgrade the status of Palestine failed to disclose some crucial facts and contained erroneous information. 

1) You write of Israel, “it ritually abuses its military superiority to harass, intimidate and murder innocent Palestinians.”

Israel does not “ritually abuse” or  “murder innocent Palestinians.” Civilian-to-combatant casualties in the December, 2008 – January 2009 “Operation Cast  Lead” against Hamas and other anti-Israel terrorists in the Gaza Strip and this November’s “Pillar of Defense” attacks in Gaza, for example, had a ratio of less than one-to-one. Compare this to the three-to-one and four-to-one ratios  reported by  the U.N. for  Western action in Kosovo and Afghanistan. Would you use such terms to describe other actions?  Israel goes out of its way — even making  warning phone calls, leaflet drops and sending text messages — to minimize non-combatant deaths among Palestinian Arabs.

You fail to inform your readers that Israeli actions are carried out in response to acts of terrorism. If you check accounts by major news media of Israel’s military operation on November 14 and past Israeli military operations in April 2002, July 2006 and Dec. 2008, it is clear that all were responses to attacks by Palestinian or Hezbollah terrorists. Are you aware of the increasing rocket attacks from Gaza in the days preceding November 14? Are you suggesting that Israel does not have the right to defend itself against suicide bombers and rocket attacks? Would you apply this same standard to India when Pakistani militants attack in Kashmir?

2) You wrote that “It also ignores the fact that Israel refuses to deal directly with the democratically elected Hamas government of Gaza that represents close to half of the Palestinians.”

You chose to not disclose that Hamas’s leadership has repeatedly affirmed it will never accept Israel’s right to exist and promises to liberate every last inch of Mandatory Palestine (which includes Israel). Is that not relevant information for your readers when you state that Israel refuses to deal with Hamas? These are translations of the recent comments of Khalid Meshal,  the political chief of Hamas:

“Palestine — from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea, from its north to its south — is our land, our right, and our homeland. There will be no relinquishing or forsaking even an inch or small part of it.”

“Palestine was, continues to be, and will remain Arab and Islamic. It belongs to the Arab and the Islamic world. Palestine belongs to us and to nobody else.”

“Since Palestine belongs to us, and is the land of Arabism and Islam, we must never recognize the legitimacy of the Israeli occupation of it. The occupation is illegitimate, and therefore, Israel is illegitimate, and will remain so throughout the passage of time.

“The liberation of Palestine – all of Palestine – is a duty, a right, a goal, and a purpose. It is the responsibility of the Palestinian people, as well as of the Arab and Islamic nation.”

“Jihad and armed resistance are the proper and true path to liberation and to the restoration of our rights, along with all other forms of struggle – through politics, through diplomacy, through the masses, and through legal channels. All these forms of struggle, however, are worthless without resistance.”

If you were to substitute the word “India” whenever the word “Palestine” is used and these words were uttered by the leader of Pakistan, would you want to negotiate with the democratically elected leader who held such views?  Also recall that the Nazi Party was democratically elected in pre-war Germany, as were the Italian fascists. That did not certify their acceptability as diplomatic interlocutors.

3) You wrote, “Zionist agents in the UK and Australia tried to get their respective countries to show solidarity with Israel in defiance of the overwhelming world opinion: former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, one of the chief architects of the illegal British involvement in the Iraq war, crawled out of the woodwork …”

Your use of Zionist appears to be a derogatory code word for Jews. Do you find it offensive when people refer to Hindus or Muslims in conspiratorial and derogatory ways?

You also imply that there is no obligation to honor past commitments. The Palestinian Authority move contradicts its commitment to direct negotiations with Israel made in the Oslo “peace process” and circumvents the requirements of U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and the subsequent diplomatic “road map” of 2003. Yet you insist that anyone who opposes the Palestinian move at the United Nations must be an “agent.” Might they just be people who disagree with you?

4) You claim that “Israel under Benyamin Netanyahu’s government has refused to enter in to any peace negotiations for years, and have gone on to build Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.” Statements made by Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas make it clear that it was Abbas who refused to negotiate with Israel. You may feel that he is justified in refusing to negotiate, but that does not entitle you to change the facts, which also include Palestinian rejection of U.S.-Israeli offers of a West Bank and Gaza Strip “Palestine” in exchange for peace in 2000 and 2001 and an Israeli offer in 2008. Might not this Palestinian refusal to negotiate suggest that negotiating a two-state solution with Israel is not the Palestinian leadership’s goal?

5) You contradict your previous claim that Netanyahu has refused to negotiate by claiming Israel’s demand for negotiations  without preconditions is unreasonable. You propose nothing instead? If you support unilateral actions or an imposed solution, then why would Israel be wrong to adopt the same attitude and unilaterally act and impose its own solution? The editorial’s inconsistencies and contradictions suggest more an anti-Israel double-standard than a reasoned critique.

6) You raise the issue of the International Criminal Court and International Court of Justice. Yes, Palestinian Arabs could bring charges against Israel. And Israel could bring charges against them for aiding and abetting terrorism.  I trust that you share the belief that suicide bombings against civilian targets and firing rockets at civilian communities, as Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and other Palestinian terrorist groups do are acts of terrorism. Again, the experiences of India with regard to suffering unjust attacks from Pakistan should give you some understanding of Israel’s predicament.

7) You mention Israel’s “Operation Cast Lead” and describe it as  “a war crime and was designated so by Justice Richard Goldstone.” I recommend you re-read Goldstone’s comments and his most recent editorial last year in The New York Times. In fact he did not describe Israel’s Operation Cast Lead as a “war crime.” And furthermore, his report equally condemned Hamas which you failed to

8) You state Israel’s  “continuing siege on 1.5 million residents of Gaza is collective punishment according to International Law including the Fourth Geneva Convention and Rome Statute.” If that is the case, why then did the United Nations in its report on the Gaza flotilla of 2010 conclude that Israel was not only within its rights, but obligated to fulfill the requirements of its naval blockade. There is no consensus on the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention and Rome Statute, to which the Palestinian Arabs are not a signatory and whose provisions Israel has not violated or found guilty of abridging. The Times should clarify that what you call the “siege of Gaza”  is opinion, not fact.  The United Nations lists a higher life expectancy and standard of living for Gaza than for neighboring Egypt.

We urge you to reconsider your one-side and factually inaccurate editorial. Context about Hamas and Israel’s operations against Palestinian terrorists should be supplied. Such one-sided commentary reflects poorly on The Hindustan Times. As published, your editorial stands as an example of obvious bias for journalists anywhere.  Your open-minded response to these factual objections would begin to show The Times achieving an informed balance.

We look forward to your response.

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