Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Letter to the Woodstock Times


To the editor:

We recently attended the Modern Language Association conference in Seattle, where we took part in a number of discussions inspired by the Arab Spring. Throughout the conference there was a high level of excitement and of admiration for all the struggling, freedom-loving people of the Middle East and North Africa. This movement, carried out for over a year by the ordinary people of Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, and a number of other countries, including Syria and Palestine, has fired the imagnations of the world and helped spark a popular uprising against economic and social injustice in the USA. With these connections in mind, we returned to Woodstock with a renewed sense of purpose and solidarity.

Imagine our dismay, then, on opening the Woodstock Times to the diatribe by Susan Puretz against MECR, an organization of which we are proud members, and against anyone who dares criticize Israel while "neglecting" to speak out against the Assad regime in Syria. Ms. Puretz' attack is both inaccurate and misleading!

Her letter is inaccurate in claiming that MECR members do not care about the struggle against Assad. MECR members have protested and continue to protest the murderous brutality of the Syrian regime, just as we protest against all brutality and repression everywhere, whether in Syria, in Egypt, in Tunisia, or in Palestine or in the USA. The fact that we focus on the brutal and violent repression and killing of Palestinians, who are simply trying to live their lives in peace with justice, by the IDF and the Jewish settlers in the Occupied Territories of Palestine, is logically and morally tied to the worldwide struggle for human rights.

Ms.Puretz is also misleading in that she relies on a specious line of argument, popular among unthinking "knee-jerk" supporters of the Netanyahu/Barak regime, which poses outrageous and false alternatives. The line that asks "Why don't you protest against ----- instead of criticizing Israel?' is a classic red herring. This is the logical fallacy that proposes we redirect our attention to something new away from the subject at hand. It also uses the related fallacy of the "excluded middle": either we support the Syrian people or we support the Palestinians. The middle position -- that we support both and equally criticize the Syrian and Israeli regimes -- becomes a non-possibility. The writer wants to force us up against the wall and into categories of her own making -- or rather of the making of Israeli propagandists over the course of the last generation. Ms. Puretz is consciously or unconsciously attempting to provoke us, while continuing to believe she is right!

This reminds us of a story of a husband who comes home early from work to find his wife in bed with another man. The suprised wife blurts out,"Why did you come home so early?" The husband furiously snaps, "Why do you have another man in our bed?" The wife calmly replies, "I asked you first...Don't change the subject!" In a sense, Israel and its supporters, like Ms. Puretz, ask the Palestinians, "Why are you so angry with us?"....While the Palestinians ask Israel, "Why are you illegally occupying our land, building walls and checkpoints,demolishing our homes, building new settlements ,confiscating our olive trees, and killing our people?" And Israel replies, "Don't change the subject, I asked you FIRST!"

To Ms. Puretz' arguments we say NO! They conceal the truth. The same UN to which Puretz refers has not only condemned the Syrian government. It has for over 40 years continued to call upon Israel to end its violent and illegal occupation of Palestinian land and to stop building settlements there in contravention of the Geneva Treaties. There is only one law for the weak and the strong, the oppressor and the oppressed. Moral indignation does not stop at the borders of Israel -- or at those of the United States, which has maintained a hands-off policy with regard to both the protestors in Syria and the Palestinian masses, while continuing to pour billions in money and weapons into Israel. Most of the world, including the best and brightest of our own country, recognizes these simple truths.

Perhaps Ms. Puretz should find out why. To us, it's a no-brainer!

Barry Fruchter Amber Rose members of Middle East Crisis Response (MECR)
Woodstock NY

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