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'TV as Servant of Prejudice'

July 18, 1988

In response to Herzog's commentary on the foreign media, I must ask why he chooses to characterize criticism of his government as anti-Semitism. Criticism of Israel, self-proclaimed as the only legitimate democracy in the Middle East, should not incur the chilling effect of the anti-Semitic label. Indeed, freedom of the press should be at the heart of the democratic tradition.

But this reductionism, equating criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism, has been an effective weapon against those who advocate policies that differ from the Tel Aviv line.

First, when the foreign press played an important role in the removal of Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines, it was characterized not as anti-Filipino; it was, if anything, anti-despotic and anti-corruption. Also, the press is attacked and censured by the South African government for trying to expose the horrors of apartheid; it is characterized not as anti-Afrikaner, but rather, as anti-apartheid.

Second, that anti-Semitism exists in the present, and has been a scourge of Western civilization in the past, is not in dispute. Arguing that it is the cause of the criticism of Israel over its Palestinian policies, however, is disproportionately extreme. No responsible American journalist--whether on the networks in general or during the extended "Nightline" coverage in particular--has ever questioned Israel's right to exist juxtaposed with Palestinian rights. Likewise, foreign press criticism has not reduced American support in monetary, military, or security terms.

Finally, in this regard, as a citizen of the country that supplies Israel with nearly $4 billion in aid annually, I believe we have the right to engage in criticism of that government's policies. This is especially true since our values are firmly rooted in the rights of the self-determination of people. Also, American workers are losing jobs to British and Chinese workers because of the Israeli veto power over the Administration's efforts to sell planes and weapons to Arab states.

For these reasons, Americans, and at least the American media, have the right to criticize Israel. As Israel becomes more polarized itself, which can only lead to more oppressive measures against the Palestinians, I believe this criticism to be constructive and specific, and, not by any means anti-Semitic.

SCOTT OLINGER

Long Beach

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