ROCK ‘n KROL, or THE MORE THE MEDIUM, plus … OUR GUEST COLUMNIST, Hagit Ofram, ON THE CONTINUING INJUSTICE IN THE WEST BANK AND EAST JERUSALEM
BY DAN VALENTI
THE PLANET received an anonymous e-mail and a phone call (voice mail) that told me I was an accomplice to law breaking each time I appeared on the radio/TV show “Good Morning, Pittsfield,” hosted by John Krol. After my laughter died down, I stopped to consider the point.
The gist of the hostile messages had it that since Krol is a city councilor who votes on the school budget, he is in conflict of interest, since the show is broadcast from Taconic High School and is on courtesy of the school budget.
First, by tracing the e-mail, THE PLANET has a good idea of who sent it. We will not embarrass her or him by revealing a name. Second, we continue to be surprised by the sour grapes that are used to press out political vintages of poor quality. We know something about both wines (love) and whines (don’t love). Third, this issue has long been settled.
Since a few people can’t leave it alone, let’s attempt to settle this once and for all. John Krol has as much right as anyone else to do such a non-commercial talk show. Being an office holder does not abrogate a person’s civil rights. The proof comes in the form of documentation. What do the facts say?
On Jan. 27, 2010, Krol had a phone conversation with David A. Wilson, Legal Division deputy chief, State Ethics Commission. Shortly before, Krol sent Wilson the following e-mail:
For the past three years, I have volunteered hosting a radio program at WTBR-FM, a radio station owned by the Pittsfield School Committee, located in Taconic High School (a Pittsfield Public School). I began this show — Good Morning Pittsfield — in November 2006, long before becoming a City Councilor in January, 2010. There is no contract for my hosting the program, I am not paid for it, and evidenced by the fact that I hosted the show three years before becoming a City Councilor, my elected position played no role in allowing me this opportunity.
On Feb. 4, 2010, Krol received an e-mail from Wilson:
You sought confirmation of my telephone advice that the conflict of interest law did not prohibit you from continuing to host the show during your tenure as a City Councilor. I hereby confirm my Jan. 27th telephone advice to you that the conflict of interest law will not prohibit you from continuing the host the show during your tenure as a City Councilor, but will require that you make a public written section 23(b)(3) disclosure of the fact that you do host the show prior to your in any way acting as a City Councilor or on any matter relating to the Pittsfield Public Schools or its radio station or the public access station on which I understand the show is also broadcast. You should file that written disclosure with the City Clerk. If, after making the disclosure, you do participate in any such matter, you must be fair and impartial. If you are unable to be fair and impartial in the matter, you must abstain.
The record shows that Krol signed such a form on Jan. 8, 2010, received by City Clerk Linda Tyer’s office at 3:26 p.m. that day.
THE PLANET hopes this puts the matter to rest and shuts up Miss Sour Grapes and Mean Mister Mustard, who for some reason, bears a grudge against Krol. Look, you can disagree with his positions. Fine. We do that often. You can clamor against his ties to Jim Ruberto. Fine, although THE PLANET cautions against the wisdom of applying guilt by association. But you can’t claim that John Krol is doing anything wrong by hosting the show.
Krol by training is a journalist. He also served as a secretary in Mayor Ruberto’s office. He now works in a PR role for Berkshire Health Systems. What’s wrong with being smart enough to get the show going so that, when he was ready to carve out his niche in political circles, he name wasn’t entirely unknown. Those who criticize Krol’s show on an ethical basis stemming from his council seat have it 180 degrees wrong. Krol isn’t using his show to promote his political agenda. He established the show so that one day he could have a political agenda. As far as we know, there’s no law yet against being smarter than others.
True, THE PLANET is an occasional guest on “GMP,” and we shall continue to appear as long as we are asked. We welcome and applaud any public forum, channel, or medium that shares information with the public. More is better, not less.
THIS JUST IN: JOHN KROL, IN RESPONSE TO THE PLANET’S REQUEST FOR A STATEMENT, SENT THIS EMAIL TONIGHT:
Today’s Guest Column is by Hagit Ofran, director the Settlement Watch project of the Israeli Peace Now movement (Shalom Achshav), one of this website’s contacts in the Middle East. Widely-recognized as Israel’s foremost expert on West Bank and East Jerusalem settlements, Hagit is responsible for monitoring, scrutinizing and analyzing construction and planning of settlements in the West Bank. She lives in Jerusalem. She wrote this report, which she submitted to THE PLANET.
Many of my readers know that the Mideast situation is a topic I have written about often, including several opinion pieces that created a stir. Peace in the Middle East, particularly justice for homeless Palestinians, has been a cause I support and remains a topic that garners much of my attention. Full disclosure: THE PLANET is a financial supporter of Americans for Peace Now, a subidiary of the Israeli-based organization of the same name. The link is at: http-//peacenow.org/in-t#3FF748 — Dan Valenti
A HOUSE ISN’T ALWAYS JUST A HOUSE
By Hagit Ofram
When Hamas terrorists killed four Israelis in the West Bank in August, the condemnations came from across the Israeli political spectrum. That the dead–one of whom was pregnant–lived in a settlement made the act no less reprehensible, even to those of us who oppose the settlements.
That day an impassioned discussion about the murders broke out on APN’s Facebook page.
Amid the sometimes-overheated rhetoric of that Facebook discussion, one comment stands out in my mind–that “some radical Israeli will react by building a house.” Although he didn’t write it, I could hear the author saying: “by only building a house.”
A house could be a symbol of civilization and wholeness. Perhaps even a concrete rebuke to a bloody crime or a constructive reply. That, the writer seemed to imply, is the Israeli way, the Jewish way. Our white to their black.
If only it was that simple.
Really, it’s our black to their black. Let me explain.
The world doesn’t come in black and white. Certainly not in the West Bank, where houses that shelter families can also stop a peace process. That Jews build houses while Palestinians murder is nothing but sanctimonious rhetoric. I know this because I count these houses that Israel builds in the West Bank and the Palestinian parts of East Jerusalem. And because I observe, every day, the damage that these houses inflict on my country’s efforts to live in peace with our neighbors.
In my job, I monitor and analyze construction and planning of Israeli settlements. I travel daily throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem to report on settlement related developments. I scrutinize aerial photos of settlements and official Israeli documents. And I get to know the people on the ground first-hand–the settlers, the soldiers guarding them, and their Palestinian neighbors. My job at Peace Now is to put settlement houses, like the one suggested by the writer on Facebook, into context:
- Was that house built on Palestinian-owned land? One-third of Jewish settlements in the West Bank lie on privately-owned Palestinian land. I recently met a settler from Ofra who is involved in an effort to locate the Palestinian owners of land that her settlement was built on in order to purchase the land from them. I find it touching, her wish to be fair. She honestly didn’t know all these years (Ofra was established in 1975 almost entirely on land privately owned by Palestinians) that she was living on land owned by others. But the whole settlement enterprise has been conducted under a smokescreen that Peace Now’s Settlement Watch project is today penetrating.
Is that house causing friction between Israel and the United States? From the announcement of new construction in East Jerusalem last March on the day Vice President Joe Biden was visiting Jerusalem, to the end of the partial moratorium on settlement building in September and beyond, Israel’s public relationship with the United States is undermined by settlements. What the world sees is an ongoing standoff between the two countries. Yet U.S. support is Israel’s greatest strategic asset. With America stretched thin in Iraq and Afghanistan and a nuclear Iran looming, Israel cannot afford to strain its relations with the U.S.
- Is that house jeopardizing a two-state solution? Continued Israeli settlement eats up land where a Palestinian state could emerge. It complicates future border and security arrangements. It harms the credibility of moderate Palestinian leaders and undermines Palestinian popular support for the two-state solution. And it creates a new problem for Israel as a Jewish democracy. If we want to hold all the land, Israel must give the Palestinians full rights to remain a democracy. But the Palestinians are or will soon be the majority of those who live between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. So holding all the land means we will lose our independence as a Jewish people.
- Is that house being used as propaganda by Hamas? Hamas takes advantage of settlement construction to show that negotiations only perpetuate the occupation because Israel continues establishing facts on the ground under the guise of peace efforts.
That house, and thousands like it, is endangering the Zionist dream of Jews being a free people in our own land. Our entrenchment in the West Bank is entrapping us.
That is Peace Now’s message to our fellow Israelis. We’re patriots – that means when we put on the uniform of the Israel Defense Forces, we loyally guard that house. But when our military duty ends, we take up our civic duty to warn our fellow citizens of the danger we face by continuing the occupation.
At last we have a state, the homeland of the Jewish people: The state that so many generations of Jews dreamed about. But the implementation has been flawed. We have reached a situation in which the state has mortgaged itself, and its future, in order to hold on to the territories, for the sake of the settlements.
That cost has begun to make average Israelis wonder about the price they are paying for the settlers’ self-indulgent ideology.
As columnist Yair Lapid recently wrote in the daily Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, referring to the settlers, “Four percent of the Israeli population cannot decide that they are the only ones who know what is right. We live here too.”
So that house, so cavalierly promoted as the response to an act of terror, affects the entire Israeli public. But the truth is that the occupation is not merely about houses in settlements. It is also about violence and the flouting of Israeli law.
Yes, it is a minority of the settlers who violently break the law, but what they do reflects on the entire Israeli public. They vandalize Palestinian property. They defy Israeli law by refusing to shutter Beit Yehonatan–an illegal apartment building in the middle of the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan in East Jerusalem. They cut down olive trees and they desecrate West Bank mosques. They attack Palestinians, Israeli security forces, and peace activists.
Ya’akov Teitel of the Shvut Rachel settlement wasn’t just building a house. He was indicted in November 2009 for murdering two Palestinians and laying several bombs, including one at the home of Peace Now veteran activist Prof. Zeev Sternhell.
But the fact remains that even the violence of the most militant settlers is dwarfed by the chronic injustice perpetuated by the Israeli government in the form of the occupation. The settlers are there because of the occupation. And Peace Now has been the most consistent Israeli protest movement doggedly opposing the occupation. We do it through demonstrations, petitions, ad campaigns, and by publicizing the findings of the Settlement Watch Project that I direct.
We see the work of Americans for Peace Now in the U.S. as an extension of Peace Now’s work in Israel. Most Israelis realize the devastating impact of settlement construction. American friends of Israel need to come to the same realization.
APN is the leading voice for those Americans who support Israel and know that a negotiated peace will ensure Israel’s security, prosperity and continued viability as a Jewish and democratic state. APN spreads that message through its website and its blog, in print and online articles and editorial pieces, and through social-networking media like Facebook and Twitter.
APN provides half of the funding for Peace Now in Israel. This supports innovations, such as the new exciting interactive online map of the settlements developed by APN, “Facts on the Ground.” Introduced in September, “Facts on the Ground” is also available to users as an app for the iPhone and iPad. Now anyone in search of the facts behind the settlements can explore the West Bank with just a click of a mouse or a touch of a finger.
We want APN to develop more apps and educate more people through Facebook.
And we want to conduct more aerial tours of the West Bank.
In September, Peace Now Secretary General Yariv Oppenheimer took a planeload of Knesset members, reporters and photographers on a flight over the West Bank to see that “if the settlements do not stop spreading, the land between the Jordan River and the sea will soon become indivisible for all practical purposes, and the two-state option will cease to exist,” as The New York Times wrote of the eye-opening tour.
We believe that we must do our utmost to show every Israeli the big picture of the damage that settlements cause to our national security. We are mobilizing a new generation of young people. We continue to report on new construction, and we continue to use the Israeli courts to block illegal settlement expansion. We run educational workshops on Israel’s campuses. We are out demonstrating in support of peace and we are the clear, loud voice of Israel’s peace camp in the public sphere.
If you believe that balance and realism are keys to a secure and flourishing Israel, then add your voice to ours. We’ve all heard the sermons and read the opinion pieces with the good news about Israel: that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East; that Israel has more Nobel laureates per capita than any other country; and that Israel is at the forefront of developing green technology and medical technology.
But supporting Israel is more than simply cheering its successes. By supporting APN, you’ll be part of a well-informed community of Israel supporters who demand high standards and peaceful negotiation from both sides of the conflict. Without sanctimony. By adding your voice to ours you’ll help make it clear that a house isn’t just a house. On behalf of myself and my colleagues at Peace Now in Israel, I want to thank APN for all that they do. They are a vital and essential force in helping us achieve a negotiated solution
THE PLANET thanks Hagit Ofram for her article. We invite guest columns from anyone, on any topic. To submit a column for consideration, email: email@example.com.