Editorial: Taking an Acrimony Break

Becky O'Malley
Friday May 14, 2004

Over the past three months we have received and printed many letters from correspondents with a variety of points of view on the Israel-Palestine situation. We’ve received letters from people who describe themselves as Jewish, both by heritage and by rel igion, criticizing the actions of the government of Israel. We’ve gotten letters from people describing themselves as having such backgrounds which defended the government of Israel. We’ve had letters from people who make no reference to their religious b ackground which were both pro and con the Israeli government. We’ve printed letters attacking the actions of the Palestinian insurgents, and letters defending them.  

We have not received or printed a single letter attacking the Jewish religion. There may be people out there who equate the actions of the Israeli government with Jewish religious belief and/or ethnicity, but they haven’t written to the Planet. 

This week we received a particularly vicious letter attacking the Islamic religion from a correspondent who was not ashamed to sign his name and telephone number, and we’re finally fed up with this discussion. We’re not going to print it, at least not for now. 

The Berkeley Daily Planet is hereby declaring a 30 day cooling off period—a moratorium on all letters discussing the Israel-Palestine controversy. 

Many of our readers, in communications not intended for publication, have let us know that they think we’ve already devoted too much space to the topic. They say they’re just tired of hearing about it. 

We’ve gone on printing the letters for two reasons. First, much of the American press is afraid to touch the situation—it’s the real third rail in American journalism. (This is in pointed contrast to a substantial number of members of the Israeli press, which we read on the Internet, who are not afraid to criticize their own government.)  

Second, the Planet has been the subject of an organized campaign by people who describe themselves as pro-Israel, calling our advertisers and asking them to stop advertising in the paper, which they accuse of anti-Semitism. (With friends like this, Israel hardly needs enemies.) Our advertisers, to their eternal credit, have called us to report these incidents, and have refused to cancel their ads. In at least one case, an advertiser who has a small family-run franchise business interpreted the call he received as a threat to put him out of business. He hung in there anyhow. Another advertiser, who described himself as a not-uncritical supporter of Israel, suggeste d that the best solution would be for the Planet to refrain from any discussion of international topics, but we declined that option.  

We wanted to make sure that this smear campaign would fail, so that we didn’t give the impression of bending to inappro priate pressure. We’re glad to say that the campaign has indeed failed; our advertising continues to grow. So enough already, we’re not going to print any more nasty letters for a while. 

We will avail ourselves of editorial privilege and have the last wo rds on the topic before the moratorium starts. If there is ever to be a just peace in the Holy Land, would-be American supporters of Israel should learn that opposition to the policies of the current government of Israel is not nearly the same thing as an ti-Semitism, which many Israelis already know. And also, terrorist actions by semi-crazed Palestinian fanatics who adhere to the Islamic faith, though reprehensible, are not an indictment of either their religion, which has many peace-loving adherents aro und the world, or of their Arabic ethnicity. Most Muslims are not terrorists, many Muslims are not Arabs, many Arabs are not Muslims. If you’re going to argue for your opinion, at least get your terminology straight.  


—Becky O’Malley