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Letters to the Editor

Tuesday December 23, 2003


Editors, Daily Planet: 

This morning I heard a knock on my door... Although there was no clatter, I sprang from the chair and flew like a flash. What to my wondering eyes should appear eight tiny reindeer accompanied by Ms. St. Nick. I heard them explain “We have some groceries for you!” 

From this droll little mouth (by way of Clement Clark Moore), thanks to the members of the community who made this possible: Berkeley Firefighters Association, Berkeley Fire Department, Berkeley Lions Club, Girl Scout Brownie Troop #319! 

Helen Rippier Wheeler 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Los Angeles Times of Nov. 28 reports that Riverside County provided generators to the elderly and disabled for use during outages caused by the big fires. This was paid for by the State Dept. of Community Services and Development for generators that cost from $834 to $1, 273 for a total of $204,990. 

I propose that the near homeless be provided free electricity if they are about to have their supply cut off by their electric company. It could make a world of difference to them. 

At the same time, the electricity should be used in a conservative way to get the most out of it. 

The City of Berkeley has a program where high school students are employed during the summers to insulate homes of deserving persons. 

About 20 or 30 years ago, we were able to cut our electricity use by about 50 percent and natural gas by 75 percent and are still enjoying low monthly bills. The costs that have repaid to us many times by our savings. 

Charles Smith 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I just read the article regarding the possible development of the BHS tennis court/parking site into a mixed use site that would include teacher housing and teacher parking (BUSD Studies Development On Former Tennis Court Site,” Daily Planet, Dec. 19-22). I am rather astounded that such an article would be written without any inclusion of perspectives from teachers themselves. After all, if such a development were indeed to happen at that site it would obviously have a huge impact on teachers. 

It was teachers through their union, the Berkeley Federation of Teachers (BFT), who introduced this very same development idea a few years ago to the superintendent and the school board and who said that we would be interested in spearheading it. I have since had numerous meetings and conversations with developers (Patrick Kennedy being only one of them), city officials, and others in further exploring the issue. BFT also has also shared with BUSD officials some preliminary ideas and potential connections we have for financing such a development. 

Please don’t forget to ask a Berkeley teacher next time that you write an article that pertains directly to us. 

Barry Fike, President,  

Berkeley Federation of Teachers  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I would like to fill in a few omissions and correct a couple of errors in your article, “‘Floating Cottage’ Owner Dealt Setback by Council” (Daily Planet, Dec. 19-22), regarding the Dec. 16 City Council hearing in which Council rejected Christina Sun’s appeal of the Zoning Adjustments Board’s decision revoking her permits for 3045 Shattuck Ave. 

On April 19, 2002, owner Christina Sun submitted an application to remodel her two-story house at 3045 Shattuck Ave. In her sworn testimony, she told City Council it was vacant at that time, and thus her characterization of the existing use as “single-family house” was accurate. In truth, her own appeal contains sworn statements from two of her former tenants indicating they lived there through the end of May. 

Since Ms. Sun was renting her tenants individual rooms on separate leases, she was not using the property as a single-family residence. Although in 1999 she lost single-family status for her property at 2414 Carleton St. for that very reason, she told City Council that she was unaware separate leases made any difference. 

Ms. Sun told Council it was after she received her original permit that she first learned, from planning staff, that she could add a third story. In fact, as Ms. Sun stated in a legal complaint she filed against her original contractor, she solicited estimates for both two and three stories before she applied for a permit, and she signed the three-story contract on May 31, 2002, the day after she received the two-story permit. 

In her application, Ms. Sun left “Demolition—Whole or Partial” unchecked and stated that one of the two garages would remain. Nevertheless, in the first half of June 2002, before applying to revise her permits to reflect her plans for a three-story building, Ms. Sun demolished the first story. She then immediately applied to revise her plans, and the remaining second story stood on blocks until after she received her revised permits in March 2003. 

On April 29, 2003, Ms. Sun submitted revised plans that would have eased renting the second and third floors as separate flats. Staff responded by asking Ms. Sun to remove interior doors, eliminate a second water heater, add an exterior door at the bottom of a stairwell, and execute a deed restriction limiting use of the building to a single-family dwelling plus a commercial space. On May 20, Ms. Sun executed the requested restriction. Nevertheless, between June 1 and 18 she discussed renting the third story as a separate flat with a couple who own the business across the street, and also with one of their employees. 

These rental offers call into question Ms. Sun’s claim that she needs six bedrooms and four bathrooms to house her extended family when they come to visit. If she rented out one floor, she would be left with the same three bedrooms and two baths she told City Council she has in her current residence. 

Robert Lauriston 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am responding to Yolanda Huang’s letter to the editor (Daily Planet, Dec. 16-18). I have no philosophical argument with Ms. Huang and others advocating better, more nutritious food in our schools; the issue as a School Boardmember is how to provide this food within budget, without detracting from the General Fund (as is currently happening), which of course translates into taking money from our classrooms and our educational programs. However, accuracy is important to me. Ms. Huang has conflated several different circumstances and board actions in her letter; all bargaining unit administrators received a raise in 2002-2003, as per contractual obligations. The food services director was not singled out for additional compensation. Secondly, the vote related in Ms. Huang’s letter, 3-2 by the school board, and the quote attributed to me (Spring, 2003), was in fact for three individuals promoted due to increased administrative and supervisory duties and was not related in any way to our food services program. It was not even part of the same discussion. The vacated positions in fact were not filled due to budget constraints. These are always difficult decisions in times of budget deficits; however, the business of the district has to continue. We need to provide services, as well as continue to supervise and evaluate staff and program. 

I urge interested parents to check out our lunches at Longfellow and Willard, and the forthcoming lunches at the reopened Berkeley High facility in January. We have other viable lunch programs at some of our elementary schools. These are the models for what I believe can be successful, within-budget, healthy food for our kids. 

I also urge all of us, Ms. Huang, the school board, and other concerned members of this community, to find solutions in Sacramento and elsewhere to the historic underfunding of our food services (and other) programs. In these times of shrinking state support for our schools this is even more imperative. 

John Selawsky 

President, Berkeley School Board 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I live in Santa Barbara, and my visits to Berkeley are infrequent. The atmosphere of Berkeley is very different than that of my home town. Berkeley has the feel of a time capsule, where a free-spirited yesteryear still lives on while the rest of us have settled down. There is a vibrancy and life absent from other cities. I recently visited Berkeley with my father, and as we walked past street vendors hawking their wares on Telegraph Avenue, and enjoying the live performance of street musicians, he commented that things hadn’t changed much since he lived in Berkeley in the 60s. I felt glad that there were places like that left. 

I was shocked to read in the Berkeley Daily Planet (“Musician’s City Hall Feud Carries a Hefty Price,” Dec. 5-8) that long-time street musician Michael Masley was served an $800 ticket for selling his CDs without a license, and playing with an amplifier without a license, and may face jail time if he isn’t able to pay the fine. Has Berkeley come to this? Is even improvisational and dynamic street music subjected to heavy handed beauracracy? 

In my mind, Masley, who I first encountered while he was visiting Santa Barbara, personifies the atmosphere and spirit of Berkeley. And rightly so, he has played its streets for two decades. In fact in 2002, Masley was the Grand Marshal of the “How Berkeley Can You Be” parade. His legal troubles foreshadow a disturbing trend of regulation for regulation’s sake. 

If permits is what the city requires, then make the permit process simple, fast, and efficient. When Masley went to the permit office, expecting to get a permit the same day, he was laughed out and told to wait six months. It’s bad enough that the permit cost over $100, no small sum for a street musician, but what is the man supposed to do in the mean time? And how can issuing a street music permit possible take six months? Such bureaucratic inefficiency is a shame to the city. 

The city of Berkeley should be proud that such talented musicians as Michael Masley, who has been featured on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” and performed with such well known groups as Garbage, call it home. I would urge city officials to rethink the laws that require street musicians to be permitted. If permits are to stay, then Masley’s fines should revoked, and he should be given an apology and a permit (free of charge, today—not in six months). Let the spirit of Berkeley live! 

Parker Abercrombie 

Goleta, CA 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thank you very much for publishing George Bisharat’s excellent, informative op-ed (“The Other Diaspora Israelis Must Confront,” Daily Planet, Dec. 9-11) which told of the dispossession of the Palestinian Arabs from what is now Israel in 1947-48. The actual expulsions of the native Arabs started in 1947 and the five pathetic Arab “Armies” only intervened in what was still predominantly Arab Palestine in May, 1948 to prevent the expulsion of the remaining Arabs which they correctly feared would happen after the unilateral declaration of the State of Israel by the Zionist military units. The Jewish forces actually outnumbered the combined Arab forces by 3 to 1 (60,000 to 20,000), so much for “little Israel” as a victim of aggression. There were no Arab broadcasts urging the Palestine Arabs to flee, this was documented in 1958 by the UK journalist, Erskine Childers, in his essay The Other Exodus. The BBC monitored all broadcasts in the region and there were no such orders to flee, as has been a staple of Zionist propaganda for half a century. At least 750,000 but probably as many as one million Palestinian Arabs were expelled or forced to flee. That this was in any sense “voluntary” could only be believed by a psychotic. The 600,000 Arab Jews who Israel enticed from Iraq, Morocco and Yemen, largely, do not cancel out the Palestinians who were expelled. This is a head of cattle argument that Zionism’s racist proponents make as an attempt to whitewash the original expulsion of the Palestinian Arabs. If any of the specious “arguments” made by the usual Israeli apologists in response to Dr. Bisharat’s cogent op-ed were used in a Ph.D. thesis in Israel itself, they would flunk out. Israel has killed many, many more Palestinian civilians than vice-versa since 1948. We need to cut off all aid to this state. 

Michael P. Hardesty 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The responses to George Bisharat’s article on the Palestinian right of return filled me with sadness, because hopes for peace in the region rest on Palestinians and Jews—in Israel and the wider world—entering into dialogue with good faith and mutual respect—just what Bisharat was attempting. 

Avraham Shalom, one of four former directors of Israel’s Security Service who recently warned that Israel was heading toward catastrophe, said: “We must, once and for all, admit that there is another side, that it has feelings and that it is suffering, and that we are behaving disgracefully.” 

As Bisharat insists, recognizing the other side’s feelings involves going back to 1948, the time Palestinians call “al-Naqba,” the catastrophe, and seeing it through Palestinian eyes. Israelis must find the courage to publicly acknowledge the suffering caused by the founding of Israel. 

Bisharat writes, “Accepting back refugees, who would form a larger Palestinian minority in Israel than has been deemed ideal for Jews, may be the price Israel must pay for establishing a Jewish state in Arab Palestine.” (Note that Bisharat does not call for the end of the Jewish state.) This may be the price Israel has to pay for peace—and it needs peace to survive. 

But Israel’s acknowledging responsibility for Palestinian suffering is compatible with a restricted right of return—for example, to a newly established state of Palestine, with some exceptions, as proposed by the recent non-governmental Geneva accord. Fairness and good faith, however, demand at the least extensive payments of reparations by Israel. 

To deny that in 1948 Jewish armies and paramilitary groups drove out more than 700,000 Arabs from the land that became Israel is futile—it did happen, just as the holocaust happened. 

The celebrated I.F. Stone—a Jew, the first newspaperman to travel with illegal Jewish immigrants to British mandate Palestine, and a frequent visitor to Israel thereafter—wrote in 1967 of “the myth that the Arab refugees fled because the Arab radios urged them to do so. An examination of British and US radio monitoring records turned up no such appeals; on the contrary there were appeals and even ‘orders to the civilians of Palestine, to stay put.’” Today’s 1.2 million Arab citizens of Israel are descendants of the 133,000 who stayed put. 

Even if some Palestinians fled in response to Arab inducement, their flight did not give Israel the right to permanently take over their land. 

Stone further writes: “Jewish terrorism, not only by the Irgun, in such savage massacres as Deir Yassin, but in milder form by the Haganah itself, ‘encouraged’ Arabs to leave areas the Jews wished to take over for strategic or demographic reasons. They tried to make as much of Israel as free of Arabs as possible.” More recently, Israel’s new historians (e.g., Benny Morris) provided abundant confirmation of this. 

As stated in James Sinkinson’s letter, the various Arab countries in which Palestinians took refuge do bear responsibility for Palestinian suffering for denying them and their descendants citizenship, whether or not some of the refugees refused resettlement, as Bisharat writes. 

But the Arab countries’ misuse of the refugees in no way cancels out 1948. Apologies are also due on the Israeli side for the increasing horrors of an occupation aimed at forcing Palestinians from their land; and on the Palestinian side, for the policies adopted by their various resistance groups of targeting civilians. 

Maybe it would be more to the point to call for apologies from all those responsible for the current tragedy: the European nations, for 2000 years of persecution of the Jews; the Allies in WWII, for giving the Jews a territory that was not theirs to give; the Arab nations, for their self-serving policies toward Israel and Palestinians; and the United States, for unconditionally supplying Israel with vast military and economic resources it used to pursue expansionist goals. As Stone 

writes: “A certain moral imbecility marks all ethnocentric movements”—some form of ethnocentricity is present in every instance mentioned above. 

Could it be time to set up a Truth and Reconciliation commission like that of South Africa? Would it make sense to do it NOW, maybe in some neutral country—and not wait for a peace agreement? 

Annette Herskovits 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

We can blame the Zionists for dispossessing the Arabs, or the Arabs for denying Jews a national home. Or we can blame both together. The central issue is still the existence of the Jewish state. There is a solution to the conflict. I think it’s the only one. It is to have both sides live in the same country. 

Yes, that’s what I said—the same country. That’s the only possible solution to the conflict. Remember the stated reason for the fighting is occupation of somebody else’s land. Make the land ownership common and that problem goes away. 

We Americans first identify ourselves as Americans, then we recognize our national origins, or the origin of our ancestors, or our ethnicity. If the political divide that gave us the unsatisfactory 2000 presidential election were to further factionalize the country and degenerate into territorial war, we might have something like the Israeli-Palestinian terror war here in the U.S. As it is, we are fighting the war on terror as an extension of the Israel-Palestine war. 

If we Americans, with all our ethnic variety, can live together in one country, if the Canadians, Belgians and Swiss can operate with multiple languages, it’s clear that it is possible for Arabs and Jews to live together in the same country. Just stifle the hate. Those other countries had periods of hatred; the US had a civil war. 

The “peace process” should start with the city of peace—Jerusalem. Make it officially a diverse settlement, with neighborhoods of Muslims, Jews, Armenians, Coptics and American Evangelicals. Run the place with a representative council. Hey, we expect the Kurds, Sunnis, Shiites, Baathists Brits and Americans to get together to run Iraq, don’t we? 

Of course, the “new Jerusalem” would have to be a weapons-free zone. Palestinians and Israelis may continue killing each other outside the city, but would check their weapons at the city gates. 

I think a new Jerusalem is the only reasonable starting point for a true peace process. People have to get together to operate a multi-lingual, multi-culture, multi-religion city of peace. If they really can’t do that, then any road map leads to a barren waste, and the UN should make the Mideast into one big theme park, entertaining tourists with gladiatorial battles among terrorist groups, promoted like a bull fight. 

What would follow success in Jerusalem? The new nation, of course. What is now Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and part of Egypt would become a new country, with autonomous cultural regions. Of course the capital would be Jerusalem. 

I know many Israelis and Palestinians spit and scoff at the “one state solution,” but there simply is no other way that doesn’t involve more of the war. 

Let’s start with the new Jerusalem. Bring in a bunch of Belgians, Swiss Canadians and even a few Americans to run a temporary government and  

infrastructure. Who would take over after that? The citizens of new Jerusalem. Hallelujah. 

Steve Geller