16 August 2001
Open Letter from ADC to Washington Post Editorial Editor Fred Hiatt

The following is the text of an open letter from ADC Communications Director Hussein Ibish to Fred Hiatt, Editorial Editor of the Washington Post, regarding the disturbing pattern of anti-Palestinian incitement in the Post's commentary section in the past 2 days.

Fred Hiatt
Editorial Editor
Washington Post Via fax

Dear Mr. Hiatt:

I am writing to you as Communications Director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the nation's largest Arab-American membership organization, to express our deep concern that the Post editorial page is becoming a hotbed of anti-Palestinian incitement of the most hostile and irresponsible variety. As you are no doubt aware, yesterday your section of the Post featured an outrageous column by Michael Kelly which advocated that Israel "unleash an overwhelming force" against the Palestinians, "go right ahead and escalate the violence" and "destroy, kill, capture and expel the armed Palestinian forces." Today, Charles Krauthammer demands a "lightning and massive Israeli attack" on the Palestinians living under Israeli occupation, to "strike and expel" them, and build walls around those who are left. Both of these Post columnists discuss in detail the suffering of Israelis during the current conflict, but neither mentions either the far greater number of Palestinian dead and injured (most of them unarmed civilians and about a third of them children), nor do they mention the fact that it is Israel's brutal and unending occupation of Palestinian territories which is the cause of the conflict. Instead of analysis, they provide only incitement to massive violence and suggest measures that would not only create a profound crisis for the Middle East (and the United States for that matter), but would also constitute major war crimes and outrageous violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

I fully understand that you cannot be expected to control every aspect of your columnists' articles. But this does not mean that the Post should maintain no standards whatever with regard to those who write for it. I simply do not accept the idea that the Post would permit one of its columnists to write that Palestinians, in order to gain their independence and freedom from foreign occupation, should "go right ahead and escalate the violence" and "destroy, kill, capture and expel" Israeli soldiers and settlers. And, what does it say about the composition of the Post's regularly featured writers that, for two days running now, we have been treated to such bloodthirsty warmongering? Let us be clear: when Palestinians express similar sentiments about Israel and Israelis, the United States demands their arrest and Israel places them on hit lists and send its death squads to execute them. While I am glad to say that no one would contemplate such an appalling crime, if the standards applied to Palestinians were applied to the Post, your venerable building on 15th st. could be seized by heavily armed men like Orient House, or rocketed by apache helicopters like the apartment building in Nablus that housed the Hamas-affiliated Palestine Information Center. Recall also that in 1999, NATO bombed the Belgrade headquarters of Radio Television Serbia (RTS), killing a number of journalists, on the grounds that RTS was engaging in propaganda designed to spur the Serbian "lightning and massive attack" in Kosovo, designed to "destroy, kill, capture and expel" the Kosovar Albanians. In other words, when it comes to incitement, ideas of total freedom of expression are often violently limited by our own government and that of Israel.

I am not suggesting that such atrocities were justified, or that the Post should be subjected to the same treatment. On the contrary, I mention them only as an opportunity to point out to you both how outrageous those violent attacks on free speech were (something not widely recognized among American journalists), as well as how extreme the commentaries of Kelly and Krauthammer really are and in what category they belong. What I am suggesting is that a truly responsible newspaper ought to be able to maintain some minimal standards for its columnists, and that these have been sadly lacking in the past 48 hours specifically, and 10 months in general, in the commentary section of the Post on matters related to Israel and the Palestinians. If you are to maintain minimal standards, surely these must include not permitting your section of the Post to become a forum for columnists to regularly promote war crimes and incite massive violence.

I look forward to hearing from you soon regarding this extremely urgent and disturbing matter.

Hussein Ibish
Communications Director, ADC


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