Covering Berkeley for the Oakland Tribune, I get about two dozen emails, letters and phone calls each week about stories I’ve written.
About 80 percent are folks who aren’t pleased with something I’ve written. Understandable. Everyone has the right to their opinion. And sometimes I make a mistake and folks are quick to notice it and point fingers at me for my “agenda.” I don’t know any newspaper reporter who has the time or energy for an “agenda” these days but whatever.
I also get plenty of really nice, thoughtful letters from appreciative readers who are all too happy that there are still four or five of us still covering local news.
But occasionally, I get a letter that is so baffling, neither I nor anyone in the newsroom can make sense of it. So, I’ve decided to start a “letter of the week” item on this blog.
Today, that letter came from Robert in Fremont. I’m not using his last name because he did not include a phone number and I have no way to verify his actual identity. Who knows if he is who he says he is.
Anyway the letter is in regards to the life-threatening injury of former Berkeley tree sitter Tristan Anderson, who was shot in the head with a tear gas canister while protesting on the West Bank on March 13.
We covered the story that day and today’s story was a follow-up about his current condition and to advance a rally that was being held for him in Oakland.
Anderson, 38, had been involved in a demonstration in the West Bank village of Naalin to support villagers who have been trying to stop Israel from confiscating their farmland to build a separation barrier. He was struck in the right temple by a tear-gas canister fired by Israeli border police, according to the Northern California International Solidarity Movement.
Anderson has been in the intensive care unit at a hospital near Tel Aviv for nearly three weeks following several surgeries, including one to remove part of his frontal lobe in his brain. He also may lose his right eye.
OK, so on to the letter from Robert in Fremont:
“This guy is a rabble rouser who spends his time traveling the world in order to agitate. Why don’t you folks in the media do some investigating into how and why these activists do what they do and what it accomplishes?
“Obviously, Tristan doesn’t have a real job, so where does he get the money to travel the world to protest? So the guy got hit in the head with a tear gas canister– too damn bad.
“I’m sure the person who shot the canister was NOT aiming directly at his head. It was an unfortunate accident that would not have happened had he not been there in the first place.
“Life is a gamble, and this guy put himself into harm’s way once too often. You close your article with a quote from (friend Matthew) Taylor which reveals your true objective, to trash Israel for their `continuous violation of Palestinian human rights.’
“What about the human rights of all of the innocent Israeli citizens murdered by Palestinian suicide bombers over the years, or doesn’t that concern you and your liberal friends???:
“So the guy got hit in the head with a tear gas canister– too damn bad.”
Wow. I can honestly say that no matter what your politics — and Robert from Fremont don’t try to guess mine because you won’t — that statement is mean, uncaring and shameful.
Robert from Fremont also included an excerpt from an article in the Jerusalem Post regarding Anderson that I will post here for the sake of complete accuracy:
“We want to know the truth of what happened, and we want justice for our son,” Anderson’s father, Michael, told reporters at a press conference he and his wife (Nancy Anderson) held in Jerusalem.
The “command inquiry” that the IDF has launched is not about finding liability but rather investigating operational flaws, said [Michael Sfard], adding that this type of investigation did not have the same investigatory power to collect evidence as a criminal one and would allow the Border Police to coordinate their testimony.
“(Tristan) has always been interested in how societies in conflict resolve their issues,” said Michael, reading from a handwritten statement.
“He has gone to many dangerous places. He went to Iraq during the Second Gulf War, and spent years in Central America right after the civil wars in El Salvador and Guatemala, advocating for social justice.”
Maybe Anderson needs to spend some time in Fremont. At least one person there has a thing or two to learn about social justice.