Saturday, January 8, 2011

An Open Letter to Tim King and the Salem News

The “News” Editor of the Salem News, Tim King, has decided to defend his errant writer and her less than stellar reporting skills in a response to Craig Dershowitz’ Open Letter to Belen Fernandez HERE. By way of justification, Tim explains that Belen is “tongue-in-cheek” which seems to equate to “foot-in-mouth.” But, he vehemently protests, she is also “ever so smart.” Mr. Dershowitz never called her intellect into question. Instead, Craig simply demanded that Ms. Fernandez, holding herself out to be a reporter, maintain standards of journalistic integrity.

Reading Tim King’s response, it becomes clear, however, that editorial standards are somewhat confused at the Salem News. Mr. King refers to the artists who traveled with A4I as being Israeli. The artists who travel with A4I represent a cross-section of the world, with artists from the U.S., Europe, Israel and Latin America. It is this very diverse audience that proves that the world, arts community supports Israel. And, rightfully so!

After all, Israel is the only country in the Middle East with full and equal rights for all citizens. It is the only country where artists can practice their various crafts protected by freedoms of speech, expression and defense of their civil liberties. In Gaza, areas ruled by Fatah, Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, artists have significantly less rights and more fear. The stories of artists who have been arrested, tortured and murdered for their craft in these nations are horrifying. The amount of artists who have sought refuge in Israel is testament to the protection of arts we applaud so wildly.

In Mr. King’s desperate defense of his rogue reporter he fails to answer or even mention the point about freedoms and rights. This was the central point of Craig’s letter and the driving force behind Artists 4 Israel. It appears that Mr. King is tacitly ceding to us that Israel is, indeed, a country to be admired for its inclusiveness and liberty. Or not. Instead, Tim, like Belen, continues to be divisive. So divisive that he even finds time to play a game of “whose pain is worse” between Arab and Jewish youth. Mr. King, do you mean to say that one life is more valuable than the next?
Artists 4 Israel believes that all creation – be it an artistic work or a life – is precious. That is why A4I has, on our trips to Israel, done large-scale painting projects with mixed groups of Arab and Jewish youth. I am sorry that I do not know the exact percentage break-down but, we are not the ones who choose to segregate and see distinctions in people.

Artists 4 Israel is proud to have painted an Intel Clubhouse that unites Arab and Jewish youth through computer skills and community building. We are proud to have painted an elementary school that educates near equal numbers of Arab and Jewish children. We are proud to have painted a shelter for women who have escaped abusive relationships. We are proud to have painted the bomb shelters of Sderot. These are shelters that protect all citizens of Israel from rocket attacks – over 9,000 reported since 2001 causing 28 deaths. It is terrifying to think how many more might have suffered if not for these shelters.
And, one day, we will be proud to paint the Security Fence because it too provides protection from people with mindsets like Tim King who want to divide us and deem one side more worthy of suffering than another. We paint shelters because we believe in protecting creation.

The facts are undeniable:

“During the 34 months from the beginning of the violence in September 2000 until the construction of the first continuous segment of the security fence at the end of July 2003, Samaria-based terrorists carried out 73 attacks in which 293 Israelis were killed and 1950 wounded. In the 11 months between the erection of the first segment at the beginning of August 2003 and the end of June 2004, only three attacks were successful, and all three occurred in the first half of 2003.
Since construction of the fence began, the number of attacks has declined by more than 90%. The number of Israelis murdered and wounded has decreased by more than 70% and 85%, respectively, after erection of the fence.”

That Israel has made the brave decision to deal with the near constant barrage of rocket attacks and homicide bombers by building a shelter is testament to its courage and devotion to peaceful resolution. I leave it for the reader to determine what it says about Tim King and Belen Fernandez who want to tear down this wall and expose innocent men, women and children to the threat of death.

While Israel builds shelters to protect, Gaza and Fatah continue to stockpile weapons and build tunnels into their own civilians’ homes to wage an illegal, terrorist war against the citizens of Israel. You can read all about this deathly underworld HERE in a report from an Arab citizen whose family suffered.

In one year alone, these tunnels brought over:
33 tons of military-grade high explosives
20,000 assault rifles
3,000 pistols
6,000,000 rounds of small arms ammunition
38 long-range Qassam missiles
12 shoulder-fired, anti-aircraft guided missiles
95 anti-tank rocket launchers
410 anti-tank rockets
20 precision-guided anti-tank missiles

A4I would never paint a tunnel. We work for peace. But, we would consider painting on the other side of the fence if we were allowed. We have artists who are African-American, Latino, gay and female. Would they all be allowed into Gaza? Could Tim King or Belen Fernandez promise me their rights, even the most basic right to life, would be protected?

Oh wait, I know the answer already. We learned the answer when, approaching the gate to Bethlehem, our convoy was stopped. We were told no Israelis could enter this city under Arab control. Like the segregation signs of the 1960s, Bethlehem was closed to Israelis. We saw no apartheid that day but we did see good old, Jim Crowe style racism and segregation.

And, Tim, I was going to tell you something regarding lipstick but, seriously, can you class it up a little? There are innocent Israelis dying from terrorist attacks and innocent citizens of Gaza dying because their government chooses war over peace and you want to make obnoxious comments about animals. C'mon.

1 comment:

  1. You guys deserve credit for a lot of things. I am glad you represent a cross section of people, sort of like the activists at Bil'in who are shot at every Friday by Israeli soldiers who have no moral structure at all; and know only brainwashing. There is in my opinion, a great deal of denial of facts. I am the writer by the way, who was the first to write an article specifically about how the 'Hamas rocket attacks' that have been mentioned endlessly in media reports, literally thousands of times, has only led to the deaths of 28 people. No, that is not a small number, and yes, innocent Israeli people should never die from things like that, but why don't you address the fact that Hamas halted rocket attacks years ago and halted and even renounced suicide bombing? They aren't saints, no way; but they are the result of what happens when people are killed and pushed to the sea. I guess taking other people's land leads to endless problems, and that is the story of Israel. I view it all as a huge entitlement problem. Do you assist people in Gaza?

    You say I don't address 'freeedom' and you openly lie with: "After all, Israel is the only country in the Middle East with full and equal rights for all citizens."

    My God, do you believe that? Don't you know that Arab homes and villages are continually razed by these religious fanatics called 'settlers'? Thieves, taking homes, killing children in Gaza's buffer zone after planting an apartheid wall on Palestinian land. You can talk all day and paint your pictures and that is fine, I'm glad you can. People in Gaza are fantastic artists by the way. To the children there the wall is nothing but a symbol of Israel's non-free apartheid system that has DIFFERENT LAWS for Arabs and Jews.

    Belen and I are people who want to see a future; we would never partake in racist behavior. In fact we both go out of our way to fight racism. Israel is not free.