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Criticism of Conrad

May 12, 1988

I must take exception to some of the letters taking exception to Paul Conrad's consistently stinging, but sadly correct, cartoons on the current tragedy in the Middle East (May 5).

Many of the writers betray a severe misunderstanding of the concept of free speech. To them, free speech is fine as long as its results are not unpleasant to them. If Conrad dares to criticize Israeli policies, he is anti-Semitic, an out-an-out liar and does not deserve to hold his job. Furthermore by having someone "biased" (editorial cartoonists are, traditionally, supposed to express opinions) as Conrad is, The Times is endangering its journalistic integrity!

Day after day, The Times publishes the Op-Ed pieces of a number of people who are relentlessly in favor of Israeli policies, no matter how murderous. Some of these people use such phrases as "self-hating Jew" to describe Jews who, like me, are opposed to the Israeli government's use of murderous force against civilians armed only with sticks or slingshots (or nothing at all), or the occasional bombing raid that, in the name of anti-terrorism, kills far more innocent people than any of the PLO's acts of terrorism ever have. That term, to someone as proud of my heritage as I am, is deeply offensive.

The First Amendment was made precisely for gadflies like Conrad. It was made for the people who hold unpopular opinions, who infuriate us with their attacks on cherished beliefs, who sometimes use questionable taste in attacking what they see as affronts on human decency, whether it is the homelessness crisis, abortion, or the military occupation of the West Bank. I don't know how many people have called for his firing, but I applaud The Times for keeping Conrad's skillful, courageous, sharp, and frequently stunning work on its pages for all these years. Mazel tov !

BOB WESTAL

Venice

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