In an editorial this week, The Oakland Press attacked The Arab American News for running an opinion piece by Michelle Kinnucan on the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit’s celebration at the Michigan State Fairgrounds of Israel’s 60th anniversary. (“Detroit Jewish Federation: Celebrating racism and making money at it,” The Arab American News, Issue 1174, August 9-15, 2008, pages 14 and 15.)
The piece was thoroughly documented and footnoted and we believed there was merit to the writer’s argument that resources belonging to the people of Michigan were being used to fundraise for and celebrate the founding of a state that does not deserve to be supported.
Consider that Israel confers citizenship privileges based on one’s religion, that Israel has no constitution, that Israel has no recognizable borders, that Israel flies in the face of international law as it expands illegal settlements among a captive civilian population, that Israel is slowly starving to death a million and a half people in Gaza, that Israel is constructing a wall between its residents and the Palestinians in the West Bank which runs deep inside Palestinian territory and creates an apartheid state with Palestinians in bantustans.
Consider all the military checkpoints, the barbed wire, the use of live ammunition against women and children, the relentless home demolitions, the repeated military incursions into Palestinian cities and villages, the murder of innocent civilians on a scale far wider than any terrorist incidents, the imprisonment of 10,000 people including pregnant women and children.
Apparently the article hit too close to home for some of Metropolitan Detroit’s pro-Israeli activists. And apparently, like Israel, they don’t intend to play by the rules.
Instead of contacting The Arab American News by telephone, facsimile, email, snail mail or personal visit, and registering their opposition, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Metropolitan Detroit decided to blanket all area media except us with a press release condemning the paper for printing the article. Only then did our telephones begin ringing as reporters called for our feedback.
The article was clearly identified as an opinion piece under the heading of Other Voices. There was nothing in the article to justify claims by the group lobbying against us that it was a hate-filled piece. We’re comfortable with our decision to publish the piece and comfortable with the writer’s subsequent repudiation of the claims made in the press release. (“My response to the Jewish Community Relations Council of Metropolitan Detroit,” Michelle Kinnucan, The Arab American News, Issue 1177, August 30-September 5, 2008, pages 14-15.
This week, in an astounding betrayal of all tenets of press freedom and fairness, The Oakland Press joined the pro-Israeli activists in attacking our decision to print someone else’s opinion. Huh? One newspaper attacks another for standing up for freedom of speech and of the press?
In a poorly written editorial, The Oakland Press accused The Arab American News of “bias (sic) journalism,” even as they themselves absconded on the obligation of proving their points. To make outrageous charges but then say it’s all too bad to document, which is what the paper did, sounds like the very definition of biased — and cowardly — journalism to us. There was no courtesy call from The Oakland Press to us.
Had anyone at The Oakland Press checked, they would have avoided the mistakes they made which certainly compromise the credibility of their attack on us. They name the wrong sponsoring organization for the original event and they state that The Arab American News employs the writer, which it does not, And then there’s this gem: “Other religious and ethnic groups have learned to live together in the United States and the Jews and the Muslims can also, if, particularly in this case, the Muslims are allowed to.” What is that supposed to mean? And do they not know the difference between an Arab and a Muslim?
The editorial says: “There may be fighting in the Middle East but we don’t need it here. We don’t want it here. We don’t have to have it here.”
But we have to allow one party to the conflict to divert resources away from Americans and toward the conflict without saying anything about it? And we don’t expect the families of the other party to the conflict living here to say anything about that? Come on.
We welcome any opportunity for dialogue that does not come laden with the imperative that “we cannot discuss Israel.” But that’s exactly what we have always heard about dialogue with the pro-Israeli community.
Which, in the end, just goes to prove Kinnucan’s point that Israel and its supporters are not held to the same ethical standards of behavior, the same honor code, the same rules, as the rest of society.
Shame on The Oakland Press and no one else.