.Exec Editor Responds to False Accusations That a Story Was ‘Spiked’

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As a journalist, I have spent time in all parts of Israel and Palestine, including Gaza more than once, to see the reality and hear the stories of Jews and Arabs who live amidst a horrifically tragic conflict. 

Over the years, the hopes for a Palestinian state that could live in peace with Israel and build a prosperous future have turned into a distant dream, as extremists on both sides fought for control of all the territory in Israel and Palestine, rather than share a land.

Both the Hamas leadership, which is committed to replacing Israel with an Islamic Palestinian state—and ultranationalists in the Israeli government—contributed to the impasse. Both camps undermined progress towards peaceful co-existence that had been made through the Camp David and Oslo Accords, and towards normalization of regional relations through the Abraham Accords.

The hopes for peace have not been advanced by the Biden administration either. It has been unable to temper the Israeli government’s military counter-reaction to Hamas’ terrorist attacks. Similarly, when Free Palestine protests employ language like “from the river to the sea” or make other statements that clearly oppose the very existence of the state of Israel, it stokes Israel’s security fears and promotes a scenario—elimination of the world’s only Jewish state—that puts the lives of its 9 million Jewish and Palestinian citizens at grave risk. The chants are arguably anti-Semitic, since they hold Israel to a standard to which other international players get a pass. An upsurge in antisemitism is causing American Jews to worry about their safety, and many are fearful to speak up.

As I explored the Middle East conflict with an open mind some years ago, I realized that both peoples have a genuine connection to one land. This deep sense of belonging is historic, religious, personal and familial. Each narrative is equally compelling and just. Neither’s can be allowed to triumph at the expense of the other, which would result in a human disaster of cataclysmic proportions. Lives, be they Jewish, Palestinian or others caught in the crossfire, are precious. Reducing the likelihood for the loss of lives is an imperative for thinking, caring people.

Informed by this view, it is the Bohemian’s editorial policy to cover these current events in an evenhanded and fair way that gives voice to all sides. Last week, we received a piece by a longtime freelance journalist that we believe did not meet the balance test. Because it was turned in less than 24 hours before our press deadline, we decided to hold the story for a week, and asked for additional reporting to provide balance to the story.

The 1000-word story submitted as a reportorial news piece was, in our view, colored by opinion. It described Israeli actions no less than 11 times as “genocide” without providing countervailing perspectives. It quoted only Israel’s critics, except for a quote from Israel’s defense minister—three days after the massacre in Israel—describing Hamas fighters as “human animals.”

After reading the piece, I wrote our editor: “This piece is one-sided and does not place the war in context of factors such as the hostages, the massacre, the tunnels, the use of civilians, hospitals & ambulances as human shields, the explosions caused by stored explosives in Gaza, the unreliability of statistics, etc. Our coverage of the war needs to have some evenhandedness given that there is much pain and emotion on both sides.”

The piece’s author has accused the Bohemian of “spiking” or “censoring” the story. This is not the case, as we planned to run the piece the following week, with additional reporting, and discussed this with the writer. There is a normal process in which editors work with writers to improve stories and provide honest and fair coverage of important issues. Our readers deserve thoughtful, intelligent writing about complex subjects, and we will always strive to provide that.

It is disconcerting to see the divisions in the Middle East creating conflict here in the United States. We are saddened to see relationships with colleagues we have worked with for years ripped apart over this issue. 

We are heartbroken to read that a six-year-old Palestinian-American boy in Illinois was fatally stabbed by his landlord.  And, as we debated this submitted story, a 69-year-old Jewish American died in Ventura County after a confrontation between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian demonstrators. It was a reminder that passions are too high and need to be dialed back a bit, so that we can just live together.

We take full responsibility for the decision to not rush an article to print without reflection, and we believe that that call was prudent. Others are free to disagree. Editing decisions are not censorship, something which a government does, and there are many other venues where opinions can be published.

We call upon Israel to stop the bombing of civilian areas and to allow food, water and supplies to enter Gaza. A humanitarian disaster will not bring security, only a new generation of PTSD-impacted haters with weapons. Hamas must release the hostages. And it must stop firing missiles into Israel’s neighborhoods, cease building tunnels of death with money that should be used to build a better life for Gazans and not turn Gaza’s schools, hospitals and religious centers into military sites.

After that, both sides must make concessions to coexist. War sucks. Human life is precious. We don’t build a better planet or improve our lives by demonizing and killing one another. 

Dan Pulcrano is the executive editor of the Weeklys publishing group, which publishes the North Bay Bohemian. This article was updated on November 14.

10 COMMENTS

  1. Doing what editors once did. I used to be in that tribe, and I’ve been grieving as much over what’s happened to our profession as everything else. Thanks for your integrity. Even if I don’t agree with every perspective you hold, I know that’s often the mark of difficult fairness.

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  2. As a former journalist, who was born andu lived in the middle east as a child and returned to the American University of Beirut as a UC student, l continually struggle with the Israeli propaganda machinations and it’s power. The balance you are striving for, while admirable, also, in some manner, ends up ameliorating the lies told by Zionists for too many years.

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    • I don’t know where Mr. Byrne gets the ridiculous notion that I oppose a ceasefire. In the article above I clearly stated “We call upon Israel to stop the bombing of civilian areas and to allow food, water and supplies to enter Gaza. ”

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  3. what is happening in Palestine is a genocide. the fact that you chose not to run an article written by someone who wanted to shed light on this is disappointing to say the least. “Israel” is Palestine, Palestine has always existed and “Israel” was created by forceably removing Palestinians from their homelands. and now, again, “Israel” is attempting to erase an entire population from the tiny areas of land they are still “allowed” to live in. if you’re not able to see, understand and say that what is happening in Palestine is wrong and you think “Israel”’s actions are in any way justified then you are complicit.

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  4. hmmm my original comment was flagged as a duplicate. my guess is because i called the genocide what it is, a genocide. great censorship…

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  5. Your oped is ridiculous. You try so hard to do the “both sides” game that it’s obvious you don’t know what you’re talking about. The fact, regardless of what Hamas says, it’s the Palestinians are doing the majority of the dying and it’s the Israelis doing the majority of the killing. The Palestinians, not the Israelis, are losing their land day after day. (In fact, the IDF X feed (aka Twitter) recently had a post that claimed Israel proper, the Golan Heights (Lebanon says no, it’s theirs), and “Judea and Samaria.” You know what that last part refers to? The West Bank. Israel is claiming it as their own. The two-state solution died years ago. I guess you missed that. Recently Smotrich was in Europe and stood in front a map of “greater Israel” that included the country of Jordan. Jordan said WTF? Israel wants it all and it’s all ok because god said so.

    On top of this, Palestinians suffer daily indignities and are subject to violence at the hands of settlers and the IDF, who both act with impunity. Israel routinely demolishes Palestinian homes and then charges the family. To avoid the charges, the family can do it themselves. The land is then given over to settlers. Jewish groups are calling the recent settler rampage in the West Bank “pogroms.” HOW SCANDALOUS!

    You write that Hamas must “not turn Gaza’s schools, hospitals and religious centers into military sites.” Do you have proof of this? Anything concrete besides what the IDF says? My guess is no. OTOH, wouldn’t saying Hamas has done this make a great excuse to target those areas? Did Israel have to reduce to rubble over 50% of homes in Gaza, because “Hamas was hiding there”? Bomb the orthodox church because “Hamas was hiding there”? Bomb a refugee camp filled with civilians because “Hamas was hiding there”? They cut off all electricity to a hospital and everyone in the ICU died. Because “Hamas was hiding there”? And besides, as Israel says, they’re not doing the killing, Hamas is.

    The NYT recently published an oped by a professor of Holocaust and genocide studies at Brown University. While he refrained from calling Israel’s war on Hamas a genocide, he wrote “My greatest concern watching the Israel-Gaza war unfold is that there is genocidal intent, which can easily tip into genocidal action.” He then goes on “What we had warned about — that it would be impossible to ignore the occupation and oppression of millions for 56 years, and the siege of Gaza for 16 years, without consequences — exploded in our faces on Oct. 7.”
    (https://www.nytimes.com/2023/11/10/opinion/israel-gaza-genocide-war.html?searchResultPosition=1)

    Ask the English what price they paid for occupation. Ask King Charles what personal price he paid. Did we have this hand wringing and equal sides when the IRA was bombing parades and discos? If memory serves me correctly, most Americans stood with the IRA.

    While violence against civilians is never ok, and Hamas was wrong and even violated Islamic teaching, it’s certainly understandable. 75 years is a long time to live as second class citizens.

    A few last questions. Who killed Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh? Israel admitted they “probably” did it after denying for months that it was Palestinian militants. One general said she was “armed with a camera.” You think that shot right under her PRESS helmet wasn’t a well-trained sniper? And they kept shooting at the journalists. Defend that.

    Can you now do a “both sides” oped concerning Native Americans, Manifest Destiny and white settlers? Because that’s what’s happening in Israel.

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  6. Yes, “very fine individuals on both sides.”
    When this paper and it’s journalists are not allowed to call genocide what it is, it’s dead.

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