‘A three-page, 2,500-plus-word article quoting at length from a single source is not a news story’

I am dismayed that The Commons chose to commission the biased, inaccurate reporting in Joyce Marcel's front-page article about Rep. Becca Balint's recent trip to Israel.

A three-page, 2,500-plus-word article quoting at length from a single source is not a news story. Balint has a proven history in Brattleboro publications of communicating to the public coherently in her own words, and I would have preferred that she had been allowed to do so, however much I may disagree with her on this issue.

Even the headline itself is misleading: "'We felt like we have to see for ourselves what's going on': Balint joins five House colleagues in fact-finding visit to Israel and Gaza."

As a basic point of geography, Balint did not, in fact, visit Gaza. She met with people who had resided in "the Gaza envelope": a 7-km-wide band of land that "envelops" the Gaza Strip. The ongoing, daily horrors happening in Gaza right now cannot be witnessed from visiting adjacent land that has now been a vacant, closed military zone for months.

Most residents of Gaza are refugees or descendants of refugees displaced from villages in the "Gaza envelope" and southern Israel by violent Israeli militias during the 1948 Nakba. Israelis residing in the "Gaza envelope" were strategically settled there to prevent the return of those refugees.

From the Nakba until today, many of the kibbutzim in the "Gaza envelope" face toward Gaza proper with tanks. Focusing on many kibbutz residents' relatively liberal views by referring to them as "peaceniks" obscures their functional role in perpetuating this ongoing Nakba.

Likewise, Marcel seems unfamiliar with the basic facts of Oct. 7. She conflates and confuses what happened at the rave site (the one site in the "Gaza envelope" that Balint visited) with events that took place across the area of incursion, and denies the objectively military nature of many of the targets attacked by al-Qassam Brigades, in particular those that they "planned" (quoting Marcel) to attack.

This is not to minimize the violence committed by militants (not just from Hamas) on Oct. 7, but if you're writing a news story, facts matter.

Marcel writes, "[T]he legislators talked to people on all sides of the conflict," but the trip was organized and paid for by J Street, a plainly pro-Israel, pro-Zionist, U.S.-based lobbying organization, a fact which receives precisely zero mention.

"All sides" suggests that we're not just limiting our focus to "Israelis vs. Palestinians." Indeed, some effort is made to distinguish between different positions within the Israeli polity. Palestinians, however, are simply cast as victims with no political agency: victims, furthermore, of certain right-wing settlers, rather than victims of the Israeli state or a Palestinian Authority imposed upon them since Oslo - the far-more-common scenario.

This article is not news reporting. It reads like a campaign ad, written - unfortunately for the candidate - by someone lacking a strong command of the subject matter.

I expect The Commons, as our local source of independent media, to do better.

Fhar Miess


This letter to the editor was submitted to The Commons.

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