Sunday, November 16, 2014

A Letter Not Published

Carol Denbo wrote a letter to the Jewish Advocate in response to a letter which was published. The published letter referred to an article earlier published about J Street.

Denbo's was told her letter would not be published, with an explanation that the Jewish Advocate had a new policy and would no longer publish responses to letters.

Posted here are Denbo's letter, followed by the correspondence between Denbo and Daniel Kimmel, the editor of the Jewish Advocate. This correspondence has been edited to make it easier to follow. The correspondence is followed by the original article about J Street and the letter to which Denbo responded.

Denbo's letter, submitted November 14:

Stan Fleischman's letter last week placing part of the blame on Netanyahu for the inability to find a workable two state solution has several flaws.

First, there were no announcements of "new settlements" but simply announcements about plans for future building in existing communities which will in all likely hood  remain part of Israel if there were ever to be an agreement. Abbas has already decreed that any  Palestinian State would become Judenfrei. With over a million and half Arabs currently living in Israel,  Mr Fleischman might want to ask himself who in this case the real undemocratic leader is. Finally the recent escalation of terror attacks on innocent Israeli civilians has prompted the Israeli government to consider preventing Palestinian Arabs in disputed areas from riding on certain buses. I would not call this undemocratic but simply a smart move on the part of the Israeli government to safeguard its citizens from terrorism.   Let's not rest the blame for the lack of peace on the only true Democratic government in the Middle East.

The fact remains that there will never be a workable two state until the  Palestinian leadership recognizes Israel's right to exist as a sovereign Jewish State and stops inciting its citizens to violence.

Carol Denbo
Swampscott MA

The letter was submitted with the following request:


Can you kindly print this in next edition of Advocate?

Thank you

Kimmel's response:

I'm afraid not.  I've been discussing the letters column with the publisher and the decision was made that letters should address articles in the paper, not other letters.  I know this will seem unfair but I'm sure there will be an opportunity for you to respond to an article or op-ed, or perhaps you would like to submit an op-ed for consideration yourself.  However as a response to a letter from another reader, we're not going to be able to use it.

Denbo to Kimmel:

That is a bad decision!! I am in total disagreement.

Subscribers should have the opportunity to express an opinion that is totally contrary to another opinion. Letters do have an influence on readers and you are not allowing an opportunity for a dissenting thought.

I am getting fed up with the direction of your paper and will  discontinue my subscription!

Kimmel to Denbo:

I've offered you alternatives to express your viewpoint.  We have limited space for letters and we can't use it for a back and forth between readers. I am more than happy to have a wide range of views and "dissenting thought" in the paper.  However we (not just myself) have decided that readers arguing with each other is not the ideal format for that.

Denbo to Kimmel:

Who is the "we"?

The Jewish Journal has a policy that allows for ONE response to each letter and no more. This way it allows for another opinion and it does not have to be carried on endlessly. It is not "arguing" but simply presenting another viewpoint! It is a policy that you need to consider.

Until that time, I have decided to discontinue my subscription to your paper.

There are many others who feel the same way and I would advise you to take another look at this if you do not wish to lose more subscribers.

I am not in the habit of writing op-eds; I simply write letters!

The original article about J Street, published October 31, 2014:

J Street documentary shows strengths, weaknesses of controversial group 
Local screening continues ongoing debate 

By Sam Lanckton 
Special to the Advocate 

"We wanted to see what the J Street journey was like. This is an interesting topic that has not been covered," filmmaker Ken Winikur said at an Emerson College screening of his film, "J Street: The Art of the Possible" on Oct. 22. "My view of how you get politics done in America dramatically changed while making the film. It is extremely difficult. Their dedication to the cause, whether you like them or don't like them, gave me a new admiration for people who can stick it out in politics."

"I want people to walk out after viewing this film feeling hope, because the alternative is...there is no alternative. And the American Jewish Community has a role to play in this," co-director Ben Avishai said.

"Time is running out on a two-state solution. This is a dire situation. You can love J Street, you can hate J Street. But either way, time is running out," Winikur said. "It's in everyone's best interest, Israelis, Palestinians, and Americans, to resolve the conflict."

"We want people to feel a sense of urgency and a sense of optimism about what's happening," Avishai concluded.

The film makes the case that there is an urgent need to resolve the tensions between Israelis and Palestinians and to find a workable two-state solution. Experts such as former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, legal scholar Alan Dershowitz, New York Times journalist Thomas Friedman and others weigh in on the merits (and flaws) inherent in the goals J Street is trying to achieve, and the ways in which the group goes about trying to achieve them. At times vilified as an anti-Israel lobby, at times praised as a thoughtful, albeit critical, partner with the Zionist cause, the organization emerges in the film as a project created by complex individuals attempting to negotiate a most complex set of political, societal and ideological issues.

If the film has a hero it is Jeremy Ben-Ami, executive director of J Street. He is seen traveling the country and speaking out at venues large and small in defense of the notion that one can be pro- Israel while also being critical of Israel's policies. Some listeners and co-panelists greet this concept with scorn, while others seem won over to Ben-Ami's point of view.

As the attempt to achieve a two-state solution suffers repeated setbacks, the staff at J Street becomes ever more frustrated. Further frustration derives from efforts by more mainstream American Jewish organizations to marginalize the organization and even to dismiss it as irrelevant. J Street achieves perhaps its greatest victory when Vice President Joe Biden addresses its annual conference, thereby conferring on the group a much-needed degree of legitimacy.

Following the screening, Avishai and Winikur helped lead a discussion on creating a two-state solution in light of the recent war in Israel. Participating in the discussion were journalist Danny Rubinstein, Israel's longest serving West Bank correspondent and former editor of Ha'aretz Daily, and Professor Bernard Avishai of Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Dartmouth College, an author of three books on Israel, and father of co-director Ben Avishai.

"The two-state solution doesn't have any future. Not because I don't like it," Rubinstein said. "I like it very much. I like a lot of things I cannot achieve. It's not practical anymore. It's one state today. It's one economy. I don't believe the Arabs will continue with terrorism and violence, not for much longer. Today we are under assault from a political campaign. And the Israeli government is doomed to lose. Israel is becoming an apartheid state, and we have to figure out a way for this not to happen, for everyone there to co-exist."

"A two-state solution has to mean some kind of confederation, some kind of urban infrastructure that is divided up cooperatively," Professor Avishai countered. "There is no such thing as a one-state solution. At some point you cannot deny political rights to people and expect them to swallow it. At some point it becomes violent."

The avoidance of such future violence through a two-state solution is the mission of J Street. Whether one agrees or disagrees with their politics or methods, this intelligent and insightful film offers an engaging glimpse into the organization.

The letter published November 14 to which Denbo tried to respond:

Two state alarms

I can’t agree more that “there is an urgent need to resolve the tension between the Israelis and Palestinians and find a workable two-state solution.” (“J Street documentary shows strengths, weaknesses of controversial group”, Oct 31). While Abbas and the Palestinians have contributed their share of obstacles to peace, such as calling the temporary closure of the Temple Mount a “declaration of war”, Netanyahu and his government have likewise been taking every opportunity to fan the flames of fear and discord.

The deterioration in the Middle East situation has spurred J Street to launch a program of “two-state alarms” to alert American Jews of undemocratic actions of the Netanyahu government. These include the announcement of new settlements, allowing dozens of settlers to move into a predominantly Palestinian neighborhood, and proposing to keep Jews and Arabs on segregated buses by creating Palestinian-only bus lines.

Newton Highlands
(The writer is a member of the J Street Boston Media Committee)

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