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Al-bireh before the occupations.
photograph courtesy of
www.al-bireh.org
In regards to our article "Two guys from Al-bireh, and Brooklyn" that ran last month, we received countless letters, many of them not very supportive. One fool even called many local businesses asking for a boycott of our publication on the grounds that we are "Pro-Palestinian." We always appreciate feedback, and as we stated at the bottom of the article we keep hoping for peace in the Middle East. It is a complicated conflict and we hope the violence will soon end.

We takes no sides on the issue, but are concerned by the new climate of censorship that is arising that insists we run a counter article for every story that is published about the conflict in the Middle East. If we ran a story on the Bosnian conflict, we would not have been asked to do the same. If we run a film review, are we obliged to run one positive review and one negative? Insisting upon such a counter article is a form of censorship.

Anyway, it was always our intent to cover the situation holistically and we will be running a follow-up piece in the future.

Many of the letters we received were strikingly racist. The individual that was seeking a boycott had this to say about our Palestinian neighbors in Brooklyn: "they house(d) and worship(ed) with the cold blooded murderers of 9-11."

Genius, right?!

Anyway, here are the responses:


Dear FREEwilliamsburg-

You have got to be kidding "colin cheney"! You wrote a one sided pro Palestinian article which only permitted unchallenged distortions and out right lies. What a sham and a shame. Get informed and educated on the Mid East subject before you buy such outrageous bullshit from your Arab neighbors. Hey, didn't they house and worship with the cold blooded murderers of 9-11? I can't help but wonder why the thousands of Israeli victims of Palestinian terrorism do not get even a mention in your absurd article. And more BS that Sharon is the problem- Arafat walked OUT on negotiations with Ehud Barak to start a violent wave of attacks on innocent Israeli civilians. The Palestinians are not made crazy by the "Jewish." That you can blame on Palestinian parents, Islamic religious clerics and Arab political leaders who preach hate and intolerance. The editor of this rag should really reconsider another profession. It is offensive that after 9-11 Islamic terrorist sympathies are being published. In any case any point of view without balance is UNCREDIBLE. If I wanted Arab propaganda I would watch Al Jezeera! Unsubscribe me from this reviolting newsletter.

UNSUBSCRIBE ME - due to your1 sided arab (terror) support. The article you
published by colin cheney was a gross distotion and morally wrong. Have your
writers read a bit on the Mid East before you allow uncredible fabrications
to be published in your newsletter.
--Name Withheld

Dear FREEwilliamsburg,


The latest suicide bombings broke out long before Sharon was elected and
after virtually all of the West Bank and Gaza and Eastern Jerusalem was
offered. That inconvenient factoid seems to elude your intrepid reporter and
his interview subject.

There is a cost to be paid for deliberate targeting of Jewish civilians for
maximum slaughter. That cost is being paid now, and will keep being paid
until violence as a negotiating tool is renounced. If Arafat kept his
promises and negotiated in good faith, there would be a state already. He
chooses unapologetic terror as his primary tool and cynically relies on the
inevitable response as a sympathy building tool. Just like in 1948 when they
invaded Israel and then again in 1967 when they massed on Israel's border and
boasted they would drive the Jews into the sea, Arabs seemingly only pose as
victims when they are in fact suffering from the response to their
aggression. Don't do the crime if you can't take the time, so to speak.

Did you ask your subject why the Egypt and Jordan illegally occupied the West
Bank and Gaza from 1948 to 1967? What was stopping them from granting a
state? Or why they used it as a launching ground for attacks on Israeli
civilians for years before 1967?

2 years after the IDF left Lebanon, there are still weekly unprovoked attacks
on Jews from across that border. Will you have some sob story when they
finally go back and clean up?

Will you interview the Jewish family that saw their baby deliberately
murdered last week in their home outside Jerusalem?

Considering the depravity of the dozens of suicide bombers that came out of
Jenin, the response was not nearly as severe as it should have been. And you
can print that and my name.

--Mike Taubleb.


Dear FREEwilliamsburg,


I feel deep sympathy for the guys from Al-bireh. However, if one wants a
solution for the sad situation, getting the facts right is an important first
step. without going into all the details, I’ll just point out one very
important misrepresentation in the article. ["Salah points to Rabin's time
in office to demonstrate that Arafat has the power to call a meaningful cease
fire, and that he would be listened to, if the conditions were right.
"From 1994 to 1998, nobody mess with the Jewish," he said.] The fact is that
after Rabins murder, in November 1995, Peres (the architect of the Oslo peace
agreement) took his place in power until the following elections in May 1996.
A series of devastating suicide bombing in the center of Tel Aviv killed
some 60 Israelis and brought about the election of hard-line Natanyahoo
(http://www.cnn.com/WORLD/9605/28/israel.impact). Imagine a couple of
powerful bombs in the corner of Bedford Avenue and North 7th street killing
dozens of people and think about the impact that it will have. After 9/11 it
should be easier to imagine.

I've been hoping for peace with the Palestinians ever since I was old enough
to think about such things. As an Israeli living in New York, I've made sure
to go back to Israel during election time to vote for candidates from the
peace camp. Unfortunately, Israeli goodwill is repeatedly undermined by the
Palestinian inability to speak with one coherent voice. Instead of a state,
the Palestinians had evolved in the territories a rule by a collection of
murderous gangs, with Arafat serving as top dog rather then a true leader.
It’s a systematic problem in the Palestinian government that prevents any
solution. I could go on and on, but I'll just add one thing. There is a
tendency with intelligent, moral, liberal people to confuse the weakness of
the Palestinians and strength of Israel with question of justice,
sympathizing with the Palestinian for the simple reason that they are the
losing side. The truth is that Israeli might and Israeli right are two sides
of the same coin. By being a democracy, with independent court system, where
soldiers who get out of line (inflicting cruelty or looting) stand trial,
where free press informs all Israelis about the FACTS of the situation and
enable them to make good decisions, Israelis are also able to show strength
and resolve in the face of a very difficult situation, and remain the winning
side. The Palestinians as a society have failed to show many of these
traits. Those young Palestinians who wish for change should work on their
own society ills, rather then blow themselves up with the hope of taking a
few Jews with them. Then they will find most Israelis more then eager for
peacful and just co-existance.

Peace for all.
An Israeli in Williamsburg South Side


Dear FREEwilliamsburg,

Even after reading your feature article regarding two guys from Al-Bireh (Colin Cheney, May, 2002, V.26) and your attempt to humanize the Middle East Conflict, I still found myself lacking the sympathy your article intended to conjure up. During war, the little people always bear the brunt of the suffering. I understand that most Palestinian refugees would certainly trade peace and live alongside Israel an an independent Palestinian state. Most Israelis would like to see this, too. However, Palestinian leadership and their directives to terror groups that mastermind terror bombings severly mislead their people. The sons and daughters of those at the helm of the PA are not the ones strapping explosives to their bodies. Their intent has been and still remains the destruction of Israel, whether short-term in an outright war or long-term by insisting on a right of return for Palestinians into Israel proper, where after years of integration into Israeli society, they will systematically gain control of the government and dictate anti-Jewish policy.

The accords drawn up at Camp David in the summer of 2000 by former President Clinton, former Prime Minister Barak and Chairman Arafat would have given the gift of a fair peace deal to more than just two guys from Al-Bireh. Arafat has failed the little people of his community that he is supposed to serve in attempts to reach impossible goals- namely, the destruction of Israel and the establishing of a Palestinian state in it's place. This is what he could not accomplish at the negotiating table and has resorted to terrorist activity instead to accomplish those goals. Again, these goals do not serve his people's most pressing needs as your article might imply but failed to note specifically. You can ask the gentlemen from Al-Bireh about that in your follow up.

And with regards to your pleas for sympathies and humanization of this ordeal,
perhaps you should look past the the other side of the Williamsburg Bridge where the stench of the World Trade Center attacks still reeks before you raise questions American or Israeli policy on their handling of terrorism or how to combat it in Afganistan or the refugee camps of Ramallah and Jenin where it's many roots remain. Israeli policy puts the saftey of it's citizens first as it rightly should while taking whatever precautions necessary to do so without harm to innocent civilians. It is at times hard to do so and that should be taken into account. Afterall, war is a dirty business. Just ask some of the American families and American-Jewish families who have also lost loved ones to terrorist attacks in America and Israel, too.

Name Withheld,
Flatbush, Brooklyn, USA

Dear FREEwilliamsburg,


For what it's worth, I would just like to throw in a letter of
support--since I've heard you guys have been receiving other kinds of
feedback as well--for your coverage of the "Two Guys from Al-Bireh." My
letter may be rendered meaningless by the fact that I'm a friend of Colin's
and a Leftist Communist Pinko Scum, but nevertheless I feel the need to
speak out.

Colin's article carefully presented the story of one family and one family
only. Any comments about Israel or about Jews were in quotations, and in
fact I thought Colin made a point of showing how much respect his subject
had for Rabin and the Israeli peace camp. Nowhere in this article was
violence advocated, neither by the subject nor explicitly or implicitly by
our young 'fro-headed author.

In times like this all we have are stories to get at the reality behind the
numbers and the competing diatribes from politicians. And unfortunately, in
this case, the stories on both sides of the conflict are full of tears and
blood. Too much blood, as the interview subject himself clearly felt.

Those who would have you tell a story of Israeli suffering to "balance" your
coverage, or who accuse you of taking sides in this conflict by telling this
story, miss the point. This story and others like it are not just about the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or even about the Middle East, but about the
effect that war has on civilians, local businesses, immigrants to New York,
and the rest of us who live in the same communities as those immigrants.
Those who would have you ignore this man's story because it doesn't flatter
their politics are basically asking you to keep silent, to not cover, the
story of someone in your community. I personally never want to live in a
community where the suffering of my neighbor is met with silence because to
tell his or her story is seen as risky or controversial. I know that
FREEwilliamsburg is a neighborhood-oriented paper that will just as
compassionately cover the stories of Jews, or Afghans, or Africans, or any
other locals whose stories call out to be told.

To ty to silence a story about Palestinians is to deny that Palestinians are
suffering, which is beyond extremism. We all know that there is too much
suffering on both sides. And to argue that every story about a Palestinian
needs to be "balanced" by a story about Israelis is to maintain the
tit-for-tat, "I did this because he did this" attitude that got us in this
mess in the first place. The point is that this Palestinian man is a
neighborhood figure with a compelling story.

I applaud FREEwilliamsburg's decision to cover this man's story as I would
applaud the coverage, anywhere, of the real suffering of anyone from any
country. This man's story is not a bomb. This man's story is not a rifle.
And in the end, when all the bombs are finished dropping and the rifles have
been fired, usually all we have are stories like this one--which were
drowned out at the time by the bombs and the rifles--to teach us how it all
could have happened differently.

All the best,
Name Withheld

Dear FREEwilliamsburg,

Thanks for running this article (Al-bireh article)! People need to hear more about the violence against civilians on the Palestinian side of the conflict!

--Name Withheld

Dear FREEwilliamsburg,

HUH???? Am I seeing correctly? You are printing unchallenged Arab lies in the same city that was slaughtered by Arabs on 9-11? That is outrageous and completely offensive to me. I suppose your Christmas donations will be going to Hamas this year. Shame on you!
--Name Withheld

Dear FREEwilliamsburg-

Jeez -
Has NO ONE in the media figured out that there are TWO sides to each story.........and more importantly, that the Arab side is ALWAYS made up of well-constructed, yet total LIES that the media has become accustomed to accepting BLINDLY.

Your publication is another blatantly antii-Israeli vehicle for promoting Yasser Arafat's terrorists.

Shame on you, and shame on your publication.

--Name Withheld


Dear FREEwilliamsburg-

To the Editor: I have read the article, Two guys from Al-bireh, and Brooklyn, in your current issue and am distressed at your one sided presentation of the situation between Israel and the Palestinians. While I understand that this article represents one man's take on the situation, I would have expected you to also run an article representing the other side of the story. Yes, there is a large Arab community in Brooklyn but there is also a very large Jewish population. You could very easily have also run a story entitled Two guys from Kirat Arba, and Brooklyn or something similar. News reports coming out of Jenin in the last several days have dispelled the lies that there was any kind of a "massacre" that took place there and in the name of fair reporting you should have at least presented both sides of the story since your editorial comment indicates that you are not taking sides and wish only peace for both peoples in the region. I will gladly forward to you any of the numerous and wonderful stories I have read in other media outlets which fairly and effectively present the full story.


--Name Withheld

In regards to our Gay Williamsburg Article:

Dear FREEwilliamsburg,

Cindy Price premises the first installment of a two-segment piece on discovering gay Williamsburg with a reader’s question: “Where’s a good place to meet indie gay boys that are relatively masculine in Williamsburg. Do they exist? Am I alone?”

The piece did not fully address the reader’s question. Instead of going on a hunt for a haven of butch homosexual male rock boys, the piece provided an overview of the experiences at different gay-ish places. The question that the reader poses,and that this piece was supposedly inspired by, contends that there are soooo many gay-acting gays around Williamsburg and that this is such a problem, Price and Co. (it sounds like a law firm) would make it their mission to seek out that “relatively masculine” gay Williamsburgian.

Why condone such views that “perpetuate mass distributed culture and ideas (your mission statement)” that being straight-acting is more attractive and thus being “gay-acting” is unattractive? I was glad to see that the piece did not turn out to be a mission for straight-acting men in Williamsburg as that is a way of thought that is a disease in the queer community. As if an “effeminate” gay man is not faced with enough discrimination in this WASP-country of ours, to be turned on by his own brothers is even more painful.

I enjoy and appreciate your website but I wanted to bring this to your attention.

Name Withheld



Dear FREEwilliamsburg,

I really enjoy your recent column. I feel the same. Williamsburg's
party scene is so iffy for gays and straights.

I must admit despite the cute patronage and deluxe food, Sweet Mama's
sucks. It has terrific Southern cooking (although my friend claims his
dad's fried okra is much better) but the service was uneven, in fact
very lousy - at least on the night my friends and I went. First, the
bartender doesn't know how to make mix drinks, so we were resorted to
drinking crappy watered down beer. (That happened at Galapagos when it
first opened. Why do people hire bartenders who don't know how to make
drinks??) Then, we waited an 1½ hr before being seated, which was
reasonable knowing how busy the place was that night. Then we waited another
½ hour to get the wrong menus (brunch/lunch instead of dinner.) No one
there care to bring us the correct menu even after we asked four times.
Finally, we got ONE dinner menu and were asked to share. Fine. Then
at least three waitresses came and asked if someone has helped us yet.
We said no. Then each of them said they'll get someone to help us but
no one came! It was awful. No one brought us our drinks we ordered
and we were left starving for another 45 minutes. When we did place our
order, we were informed many items on the menu were out. So we order
what's available and watched guests at other tables enjoy their food.
People who were seated after us got served first and already left.
After another 1½ hr, our food arrived but it was all wrong! We were so
hungry we ate it anyway. We asked for the check soon after we finished
our meal. Again, three waitresses told us they'll get someone to bring
us our check, but no one did. Sure, one of the waitresses was smiling
but unhelpful. Another 45 minutes and still no check. It was
ridiculous. It was one thing that they were busy, but another that they chose
to ignore certain tables.

Overall, it was just an unpleasant dining experience.

--Name Withheld

We Had No Idea

Dear FREEwilliamsburg,

Although I greatly enjoy your paper, I must admit that I long for a little political balance (the reviews of washed up hacks like Todd Gitlin and Gore Vidal come to mind). There are a few right-leaning, libertarians in Williamsburg, you know.

Cordially,
Michael Moynihan
Editor
www.thepolitburo.com


Another letter about the Turkey's Nest

Dear FREEwilliamsburg:


I am appalled at the outright classist review given the Turkey's Nest on your bar review page. It truly shows complete disregard for those that lived in this neighborhood before it was "discovered". "Those who complain about rising rents" perhaps have a right to; after all, this is their home also, and prohibitively high rents make it increasingly hard for it to remain so. To slam a group based on economic status, and to then callously criticize them as people who "piss away their money on Quick Draw and cheap pints of Bud", is lower class than the guys that you are slamming. Not everyone has money at their disposal--and as for how people spend what money they have--to each his own! Surely those who piss away their money on lottery and cheap beer (not only the working class, I might add) are no different from those who piss away their money on Brooklyn T-shirts and martinis?

What saddens me is the utter blindness to Williamsburg as a whole; it does this neighborhood a disservice to advertise it as solely young, affluent, and hip. Williamsburg is working class. Williamsburg is Polish, Italian, and Puerto Rican. It is ungracious to not treat everyone here with the utmost respect in their home.
As a native Brooklynite I happily welcome newcomers--I beg you, though, take care not to tread to carelessly on the fabric that makes this such a wonderful place to live.

ps- By the by, is the fact that the bar is becoming more of a hipster hangout a good thing?

--Name Withheld


Disclaimer from the Editor:
Opinions addressed in Free Williamsburg are
not necessarily our own, godammit!

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Free Williamsburg© | 93 Berry Street | Brooklyn, NY 11211
[email protected] | June 2002 | Issue 27
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