As an assiduous reader of the New York Times, I’m appalled by the lack of condemnation from your editorial pages of the on-going Israeli air and ground attacks against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, which have killed hundreds of civilians, caused thousands of injuries as well as physical and ecological destruction among the civilian population and infrastructure. Your silence has only emboldened the Israeli leaders, who interpret it as tacit acquiescence.
The silence is troubling especially in the context of the official Bush administration’s repetitive truism that “Israel has the right to defend herself” as if that were the only issue. Israel has certainly the right to defend herself, but this right should also be extended to the Palestinians who are living under foreign occupation for the last 42 years.
Your paper should be the moral voice that questions the politics-as-usual attitude of President-elect Barack Obama and Secretary of State Nominee Hillary Clinton when they hide behind George W. Bush to withhold comments on the crisis, saying “There’s just one president at a time/There’s one secretary of state at a time,” essentially supporting Israel’s actions without having to say so. In the face of daily carnage, this position is morally wrong.
The credibility of the New York Times demands that you condemn the Israeli war crimes the same way you condemned the Russian invasion of Georgia, the terrorist attacks in Mumbai and the civil right violations in Zimbabwe. Blood that is shed in Gaza is no less red than the blood in Georgia, in India, in Zimbabwe, or in New York for that matter.
I hope reason will prevail both in the Middle East and in your editorial board, for your support for Israel need not preclude objective analysis of the crisis. You could very well condemn Hamas’s rocket launching at Israel while condemning the disproportionate Israeli response and asking for them both to stop. You have so far failed to provide that measure of balance and intellectual leadership the situation deserves. I call on you to do just that, for as the saying goes, “It’s never too late to do the right thing,” especially when minute after minute real people, including children, are being killed and maimed.
—Tontongi Editor in chief of the journal Tanbou, Cambridge, Massachusetts (January 4, 2009)
Editor’s Note: The New York Times didn’t publish the letter, but in an editorial published the next day (January 5), the New York Times essentially supports the Israeli offensive on Gaza, but cautions Israel on the pace and negative consequences from the conflict: “The longer the Israeli incursion, the more casualties mount (550 Palestinians and 5 Israelis have died so far); the more Hamas’s popularity grows among its supporters; the more moderate Arab states, which have correctly blamed Hamas for ending a six-month cease-fire, are alienated; and the more regional instability is fueled. It will also make it harder for President-elect Barack Obama to pick up the pieces of peacemaking when he takes office on Jan. 20.”
To its credit, in its issue of January 8, 2009, the New York Times published three articles that reflect the views of the critics of Israel’s offensive. They can be read in the following links:
“What You Don’t Know About Gaza” by Rashid Khalidi
“The Gaza Boomerang” by Nicholas D. Kristof
“Fighting to Preserve a Myth” by Gideon Lichfield