Letters to the Editor: Apr. 2010

The Vienna Review welcomes letters from its readers.

To the Editor,

The March issue of The Vienna Review had me both pleased and annoyed regarding your coverage of the Middle East conflict.

The light was represented by Justin McCauley’s interesting and well written piece “Israel Talking” about the interview with ambassador Shir-On. Initially I was slightly taken aback by his reference to the notoriously one-sided Avi Shlaim right at the end of the article, having read the commentary section I understood it was Ms. Abrams-Houranis letter to the editor taking a dig.

Reading Saleha Waqar’s “Isolating the Maccabees” was all the more annoying since McCauley’s article clearly demonstrated that The Vienna Review’s editorial board is obviously aware about the need for balanced coverage. Waqar’s story stood out due to its obvious taking of sides and complete lack of any critical review of the speaker at the event that the article covers. And apparently Dr. Rabie’s speech did not want forpionts meriting critical scrutiny.

As to the statement about Israel being “the only country in the world that does not recognize its own borders” it would be enlightening for both Dr. Rabie and the author to consult the chapter about territorial disputes in the CIA World Factbook. They will be amazed to learn that there are border conflicts around the world.

I hate to disappoint the author, but the absence of “a possible uproar from Israeli supporters” would not have been due to shock in the face of Dr. Rabie drawing parallels between Israel and Apartheid South Africa – but simply to boredom and disgust. The slander about Israel engaging in Apartheid policies is a boilerplate argument, resounding everywhere in discussions and debates regarding the Middle East conflict, it is as common as it is baseless. Uri Avnery – who can certainly not be accused of a pro-Israel stance – rejects exactly this comparison in his article “Tutu’s prayer” published by the Ma’an News Agency. Is Dr. Rabie seriously comparing the situation of minorities in Israel, such as Russian Jews and Israeli Arabs, to that of the black population during the Apartheid regime in South Africa?

I hope to see a lot more articles on the Middle East conflict like Justin McCauley’s, as to the “report” by Saleha Waqar, maybe it should have been categorized as an opinion piece?

Anonymous (name illegible in original letter) 


The Author Replies,

If honest reporting can incite a response, negative or otherwise, I consider my job well done. Therefore, I thank you for your reply.  A couple of points: this was a report on Dr. Mohamed Rabie’s speech at Amerika Haus and was not a commentary.

However, that said, you contradict yourself by saying that this article should be “categorized as an opinion piece,” while agreeing that “…there was no critical review.” If I may ask you to take a closer look, you will see that it has only quotes from Dr. Rabie and the audience, and a brief biography of his achievements. There is intentionally no critical review. If, however, you would like to know my personal thoughts on the Israel-Palestine issue, I would be happy to oblige.

Regarding “the absence of ‘a possible uproar form Israeli supporters,’” you suggest that the absence “would not have been due to the shock…but simply to boredom and disgust.”

The world of the written and published word can be cruel. It only covers what it sees and what is said. If supporters of Israel do not stand up for themselves, however bored, in the face of such an attack, for a journalist sitting in the audience they might as well not exist (and only their absence will be reported, as I did). A good journalist does not make up facts and, with all due respect, that is the standard objective reporting—a term you seem to use flippantly (and mistakenly) in your response.

The Vienna Review is, as you rightly point out, “aware about the need for balanced coverage,”  which was why we reported both what an Israeli Ambassador and a Gaza refugee camp survivor had to say on a very contentious issue. Your response can be summarized simply as this: You agree with one, and disagree with the other.

If you wish to discuss any of this further, please feel free to contact me at the email address below.


Saleha Waquar, salehawaqar@gmail.com

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