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Transcript:

January 16, 2009

BILL MOYERS: Welcome to the JOURNAL.

First, a word about my comments last week on the carnage in Gaza. What I had to say drove hundreds of you to your keyboards to tell me what you thought.

DON DEMBOWSKI: Your comments on the Israeli - Palestinian conflict were most welcome. Such thoughtful analysis is hardly ever heard on TV. The US has to show Israel some tough love to get the situation out of the impasse it has been in for so many years. -- Don Dembowski

LORNA BOSNOS: I'm a Jewish woman and am shocked once again by Israel's choice to destroy a territory and devastate a population. At first, I was swayed somewhat by the cries that Israel must have the right to defend itself, that Hamas has been firing rockets unceasingly, but this? --Lorna Bosnos

SAMUEL GINSBERG: I ask you, Mr. Moyers, what is a sovereign state supposed to do when its neighbors launch thousands of rockets aimed at its cities and its innocent women and children? What is an army supposed to do when its enemy uses its women and children as human shields? What is a humane, advanced civilization to do when it is confronted with a culture that embraces hatred and death as a way to sanctify life? -- Samuel Ginsberg

LEONARD BOASBERG: You imply a moral equivalence between Hamas and Israel, but in pointing out that Hamas is committed to eradicating every Jew in Israel, you neglected to add that Israel does not wish to eradicate the Palestinians, but only wishes to live in peace with them. --Leonard Boasberg

HAROLD COHEN: How utterly naïve you are! The Hamas government, freely elected by the Arab populace of Gaza, is directly responsible for the Israeli onslaught. If you were faced with possible death to your family because of continuous rocket attacks, I don't believe you would "turn the other cheek" and wait for some vague attempt at finding a cease-fire agreement. Your first effort would be to destroy the source of these attacks, so that you and your loved ones can exist in peace. --Harold Cohen

BILL MOYERS: There's a lot more, all on our Web site at pbs.org, including my exchange with the National Director of the Anti-Defamation League. Your letters remind me of a time during the Vietnam War when I asked a reporter, just back from the frontlines, "Who's telling the truth out there?" "Everyone," he said. "Everyone sees what's happening through the lens of his own experience."

And so it is goes. When I decry the death of civilians in Gaza as Israeli troops try to stop the missiles fired by Hamas terrorists, I'm accused of being too hard on Israel. When I point out Israel's right to self-defense, and remind viewers of Hamas' leaders who have pledged to kill every Jew in Israel, others think I'm being too soft on them.

Some of you were offended by my comment that "god-soaked violence" has become "genetically coded." Those words were obviously not sufficiently precise, I was not talking about a specific people but of the violence in the DNA of the human race, as the Bible itself so strongly attests.

So here's the lens through which I see things. From my days in President Johnson's White House onward, I have defended Israel's right to defend itself, and still do. But killing innocent people is wrong, whether in Vietnam, Israel, Iraq or Gaza. Sometimes a candid critic is a country's best friend.

As the former Israeli soldier turned journalist, Jeffrey Goldberg, wrote in the NEW YORK TIMES this week, Hamas cannot be bombed, nor cajoled, into moderation. "Tanks cannot defeat deeply held beliefs," he wrote. No. Waging war on an entire population guarantees one thing: the radicals get what they want, and the innocents, on both sides, suffer.

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