This was a letter I sent to TODAY newspaper which was published on 20 July, together with the editor’s reply. The text in red was edited out by the paper.
Just to illustrate how appalling the civilian death toll is, since I submitted my letter on the night of 18 July, the number of Lebanese civilians who have been killed by Israeli bombs has increased from 200 to 327. 500,000 Lebanese have been displaced by the Israeli offensive.
The US, a country which preaches so much about human rights, is deliberately delaying sending Condi Rice to the region in order to give Israel more time to annihilate Hezbollah, along with a few hundred more civilians. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has rightly said that the “perpetrators in the conflict could be held to account for war crimes”.
Death toll so far:
Lebanese civilians: 327
Palestinian militants and civilians: 96
Israeli soldiers: 12
Israeli civilians: 16
TODAY, 20 July 2006
Unbiased opinions: Looking at the Middle East from a neutral perspective
Letter from Gerald Giam
TODAY’s coverage of the ongoing Middle East conflict needs to be more balanced. Your choice of a former Israeli diplomat, Emanuel Shahaf, as your only regular commentator on Middle East issues may not be the most appropriate for Singapore’s context.
Although your writer does not push the Israeli position every time, his views still generally reflect the thinking of the Israeli government and provide insufficient coverage of the suffering of Palestinian and Lebanese civilians caught in the crossfire.
His commentaries on the latest hostilities appear to emphasise Syria’s and Iran’s complicity in backing the Hezbollah militants, while overlooking the fact that over 200 Lebanese citizens (mostly civilians) have been killed by Israeli air strikes since last Wednesday. I was particularly concerned when your writer’s commentary appeared on the front page of Weekend Today (“The road to war?”, July 15-16). Although I understand that it is TODAY’s editorial style to place commentaries on the cover page, your readers might mistake this to be an objective report rather than an opinion piece.
I am neither suggesting that you completely ignore the Israeli viewpoint, nor that you bring in a former Lebanese diplomat to present counter-arguments. However, you could consider featuring more opinion pieces from academics from local think tanks and universities who can provide a more neutral perspective.
In deciding to tap on Mr Shahaf as a commentator on the Middle East, Today considered two important factors: One, his intimate and up-to-date knowledge of the area, given that he is based there; and two, that Mr Shahaf — despite the fact of his nationality — has striven to formulate and express his views with impartiality. This includes having been critical of Israel’s actions on several occasions.
In the interests of offering a diversity of views, Today has published commentaries and analyses on the Middle East written by other foreign and Singapore-based commentators, including John Gee, William Pfaff and Irfan Husain. The NewsComment today on page 2 is another case in point.