Sunday, January 18, 2009

Letter to Bessy Reyna: Op Ed Piece Riddled with Inaccuracies, Illogic and Bias

The following letter was sent to the Hartford Courant by Rabbi Seth Riemer responding to Bessy Reyna's recent column. PRIMER's analysis of her column may be found at

Dear Ms. Reyna,

Your January 16 op ed piece, "Israel Doesn't Own the Moral High Ground," although factual in some respects, is riddled with inaccuracies, illogic and bias. I will illustrate, point by point:

Former President Jimmy Carter is not known as a fair presenter of the facts of that conflict. To call it a "defensive tunnel" strongly suggests pro-Hamas bias on his (and your) part. To suggest that those tunnels are not used for arms smuggling again demonstrates bias. You repeat this pseudo-argument later, when you write: "The tunnels between Gaza and Egypt, which the Israelis allege are used to smuggle arms for Hamas...." Can you, as a serious journalist, deny that what you refer to as an allegation is a fact?

That is followed by this astonishing statement: "This rationale comes very close to what President Bush used in attacking Iraq: looking for the weapons of mass destruction that never materialized." Here you appear to be comparing non-existent weapons of mass destruction and fictitious imminent danger to U.S. interests, with...what? Non-existent Hamas kidnappings and attacks?

Non-existent Hamas threats of kidnapping and non-existent "further attacks"? You can't be serious, given that Hamas has both kidnapped and attacked, both threatened more kidnappings and threatened more attacks!

When you talk about "1.5 million Muslims and Christians living in the tiny Gaza strip," you unnecessarily inject the theme of religious hostility, which in the case of the Hamas-Israel conflict is one-sided. While Hamas attacks Israel because it is a Jewish state, Israel is not attacking them because they are Muslim and Christian. That rhetorical flourish on your part is implicitly anti-Semitic, I regret to have to point out, for you are carting out all the old arguments about Jews'=2 0nefarious intentions toward Christians and Muslims.

Why is Gaza "the largest prison in the world"? Israel pulled out of Gaza in order to give Gazans a chance at a free and productive life. Look what Hamas did with that golden opportunity.

Given that Hamas's intentions (stated in its charter) are to destroy Israel and murder Jews, the reference to Gazan malnutrition rings hollow. It is unfortunate and tragic, but who created the tragedy.?

You claim that U.S. actions and policies are "strengthening Hamas," but=2 0at the same time you indicate the need for U.S. impartiality with regard to the conflict. That is self-contradiction. If the goal is to weaken Hamas, then the U.S. should do what it can to weaken Hamas. You might reasonably argue that U.S. actions to weaken Hamas are misguided, but this is not the trend of your discourse, which refuses to address the issue of how to deal with Hamas's murderous and racist intransigence, which is the bottom-line issue in that conflict.

You state: "Why does the U.S. government continue to view Israel as the sole victim in this conflict?" That rhetorical question is completely false. The U.S. does not view Israel as the sole victim; even President Bush, by no means a liberal on foreign affairs, asserted the need for a Palestinian state as the only means of ending the historical victimization of both Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs.

The moral equivalency of your next statement boggles the mind. You say: "While it is true that the Gazans elected Hamas, which denies Israel's right to exist, it is also true that Israel has inflicted an intolerable existence on the Gazans." What you're saying, in ess ence, is that a government devoted to the mass extermination of Jewish people is the same as a government that is on public record as supporting a two-state solution respectful of Palestinian national sovereignty. The rationale of moral equivalency is an immoral philosophical doctrine.

Perhaps, just perhaps, U.S. lawmakers take the position they do because they have come to it from a perspective of moral clarity, and not from the cynical motives you insinuate.


Rabbi Seth Daniel Riemer

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