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Censorship in Rockland

Hi All,
On the evening of Inauguration Day (last Tuesday, January 20th) the Rockland County Legislature unanimously passed a pro-Israel resolution that had been introduced during the attacks on Gaza. I was among a small number attending to voice opposition as a result of an initial appeal by Alan Levin.
Subsequently, I submitted a piece for publication in the Journal News. After some back and forth last week about wording (which seemed a little strange in itself since it was my piece), I was told on Friday that my piece would be in the Journal News as a Community View on the weekend. When it didn’t appear over the weekend or on Monday or on Tuesday, I contacted the editor on Tuesday. I was told that there was a delay, but that they still intended to place it in the paper. Today (Wednesday) someone advised me that the piece was on the on-line only site of the paper. Since I had not been notified of any change by the JN, I contacted the paper to make sure they still intended to publish it in the paper itself. They told me that they no longer intended to publish in the paper. I guess this is one way to bury and marginalize dissent again on this sensitive issue.
Below are the links to today’s JN on-line version of what I wrote. Below that I have pasted the piece with the original title “WHERE IS REASON AND CONSCIENCE ?” I also have added back and highlighted in italics some of the changes made by the paper which touch on content (a couple of which were made without my knowledge or consent after some agreed changes last Thursday and Friday in the process of securing what I thought was the firm agreement to publish). I also took this opportunity to make a couple spelling corrections and added a few words in the first sentence to clarify my point that, while there may be special times when it is appropriate for a local governmental body to speak out on “foreign affairs”, I am not saying that it should be their usual everyday business. For example, many of us petitioned the Legislature back in 2003 to oppose the invasion of Iraq, many Vermont towns during the war voted that their state not allow its National Guard to be used in Iraq, etc.
David Mitchell
JN on-line:
My re-edited on-line version:

January 28, 2009

Where is Reason and Conscience?
(Rockland Legislature got it wrong on Israel resolution)

David Mitchell
I believe there are certain times when it is proper for the Rockland County Legislature to fully consider and express itself on foreign affairs. However, it got it wrong last week.
I want to thank Alan Levin of Nyack, who helped mount an on-line petition that called on the Legislature to revise or vote down the resolution. He spurred some concerned Rocklanders to attend (and a few to speak out at) the Legislature session Tuesday evening in opposition to the one-sided pro-Israel resolution before it in relation to Gaza and the complex and longstanding Israel/Palestine conflict. With so much going on that Inauguration Day, Alan Levin’s effort to bring this to our attention, and generate some concern and action was a necessary – if unheralded – task. It’s a shame that there seems to be so much reluctance to speak out on this issue. We should have paid more attention to this event to generate more of a turnout to express our concern and conscience and to demand a real and full-blown public hearing before a vote on such a complex and inflammatory issue. Instead, those from the public attending were allowed two minutes, and then they sat while most county legislators scolded them at length while spouting Israeli talking points. A page may have been turned in Washington, D.C., on that Tuesday (Inauguration Day), but not in Rockland. Our Legislature was still reading from the same old script while wearing the same old blinders.
In any event, a few Rockland citizens attended and spoke out at the legislature for the two minutes allowed. A local on-line petition with more than 65 signatures was submitted to the Legislature opposing the resolution as one-sided and counterproductive and asking for postponement for fuller consideration in a public meeting of what would truly aid in achieving peace and justice.
The resolution had been introduced prior to the temporary cease-fire last weekend and at the height of Israel’s massive assault and bombardment of Gaza population centers that led to so many civilian deaths. These actions disturbed world opinion and deeply troubled even many ardent supporters of Israel. Nonetheless, the stated intent of the resolution is to express “unwavering” support for Israel. The lengthy resolution reads like a brief of Israeli views and allegations blaming all on Hamas – including even the previously existing and desperate humanitarian crisis within Gaza after the 3-year-old siege and blockade by Israel that was harshly tightened even more over the past 18 months   and which many consider an inhuman and illegitimate ‘collective punishment’ of the civilian population. While the resolution obliquely acknowledges that there had been a truce or “calm” between Hamas and Israel before the current crisis, it lays all the blame for the breakdown of that cease-fire on Hamas despite allegations of violations by both sides. In a particularly Orwellian flourish, the resolution even lays the blame for the civilian casualties in Gaza during the current conflict on Hamas alone. There were no attempts to amend or even question one iota of the resolution or its perspective by any of the legislators.
Unfortunately, the Legislature voted unanimously (15-0) for the one-sided resolution. It was so sad and disheartening for some present to see even legislators Connie Coker, D-South Nyack; Chairwoman Harriet Cornell, D-West Nyack; and Joseph Meyers, D-Airmont, not only vote for the resolution, but have their names added as co-sponsors.
Whatever one’s opinion on Israel’s claim that it is only defending itself (and there are many issues of fact and context to consider in evaluating that claim), one would still think the massive bombardment and the resultant 1,300-plus deaths of an imprisoned and besieged civilian population would give pause. Isn’t this the kind of terrorist tactics of killing civilians for the cause (the “slaughter of the innocent”) we all are supposed to oppose? Yet, the effect of our Rockland Legislature in passing this resolution is to endorse the Israeli massacre. This is worse than the usual every day silent complicity.
Where is our humanity on this issue? Where is reasoned discourse that fully considers the issues? Where is not sacrificing our ideals to expediency? Where is our conscience?
The writer is a Spring Valley resident. [and a Green Party member -ISW]

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