The "comments" or "talkback" section is a common feature on news websites which affords a venue for lively debate on a wide gamut of political and social topics. While openness is key to the success of the forums, most news sites strive to maintain a modicum of decency in the otherwise free debate.
Inevitably, editorial boards must censor dialogue that crosses boundaries of acceptable verbiage.
Haaretz's redlines include understandable "no no's" such as racist remarks, foul-language, and incitement to violence.
However, last on the list of items that are grounds for deletion, Haaretz writes the following:
Use of the phrase: "There are no Palestinians" or derivatives thereof.
Documents and quotes which support the claim that there never was a Palestinian people are often cited in legitimate debates and speeches by respectable commentators and Zionists (see examples in letter below). The quotes are used to counter the claim of Arab historic rights to the Land of Israel.
To allow for fair-minded formulation of opinions and policy, it is important that access to such documents and quotes remain uncensored. Moreover, limiting such statements colors the dialogue in favor of one political spectrum.
Arutz Sheva sent the following letter to the Haaretz editorial board questioning its declared censorship of legitimate arguments. No response has thus far been received.
To: Editorial Board
I found of great interest your list of guidelines for publishing talkback comments which appear at the end of the article: "I Voted for a War Criminal."
I commend you for guarding "openness of dialogue" and stating that "Political orientation will have absolutely no bearing on whether a comment is posted or rejected."
However, your last criteria for deletion of a comment was puzzling: "Use of the phrase: 'There are no Palestinians' or derivatives thereof." Such statements are beyond the pale of openness of dialogue, according to your editorial policy.
This historical truth of no distinct Palestinian people was articulated by none other than former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir who said:
"There were no such thing as Palestinians. When was there an independent Palestinian people with a Palestinian state? It was either southern Syria before the First World War, and then it was a Palestine including Jordan. It was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as a Palestinian people, and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist."
Sunday Times, 15 June, 1969; The Washington Post (June 16, 1969)
But your readers won't be allowed to consider Golda's remarks since her political orientation on the issue of Palestinian peoplehood is not considered legitimate at Haaretz.
But, it's not just Golda who made the point. Many Arabs admitted that the campaign to utterly destroy the Jewish State unites Palestinians and not aspiration for statehood.
Palestine Liberation Organization executive committee member Zahir Muhsein said just that on March 31, 1977 in an interview with the Dutch newspaper Trouw:
"The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct "Palestinian people" to oppose Zionism.
For tactical reasons, Jordan, which is a sovereign state with defined borders, cannot raise claims to Haifa and Jaffa, while as a Palestinian, I can undoubtedly demand Haifa, Jaffa, Beer-Sheva and Jerusalem. However, the moment we reclaim our right to all of Palestine, we will not wait even a minute to unite Palestine and Jordan."
Would Zahir Muhsein's comment be deleted from your talkback?
Lebanese American Sharon Nader Sloan, Esq. noted in her article "The Big Lie" from 2001:
"…Did you know that for 19 years Jordan occupied and ruled the whole West Bank, including Jerusalem? ...All this time, …did we hear anything about a Palestinian state? No, we did not. Why not?
Because their never existed a Palestinian state. And in the entire history of nations, Jerusalem was never the capital of any country other than that of ancient Israel and modern Israel. So how can there be a claim on Jerusalem as the capital of a state that never existed?
[Palestine] is the name of a region -- just like Siberia is a region, not a country. There is no Siberian country, nor is there a Siberian people…
Some may argue that Golda's statement from 1977 is irrelevant today, as she would most probably recognize "new political realities." Now, wouldn't that question be fertile ground for legitimate argument in a talkback between political rivals on Israel's left and right?
But your current policy has disqualified historical truths that would otherwise be voiced by those of a certain political orientation. This, despite your assertion that "Political orientation will have absolutely no bearing on whether a comment is posted or rejected."
Your rule of deleting derivatives of the statement 'There are no Palestinians' does not coexist with your "guiding principle of openness of dialogue." One of them must go.
I urge you to retain your openness, and allow the political right to freely express historical truths which support its agenda.
I await your reply.
Director of English Media
Arutz Sheva, IsraelNationalNews.com