Readers Continue Middle East Dialogue

Tuesday July 27, 2004


Editor, Daily Planet: 

Your diatribe (“Talking About What Pictures Say,” Editorial, Daily Planet, July 20-22) denying your editorial hostility against Israel rings false, hollow and shrill. You have never opined that Palestinian terrorist murder of innocent Israeli civilians is inexcusable. You have never written against the Palestinian’s institutional policy of recruiting, arming and sending pre-teen children to blow up as many Israeli civilians as possible. You have never suggested that Palestinian factions openly and vocally dedicated to Israel’s annihilation, and denying any border behind which Israelis may live without the threat and reality of terrorist murder, deserve no place of power or authority in the region. You have never addressed the corruption that diverts aid from the Palestinian people. Your rancor is reserved solely for Israel. 

Israel seeks a way to avoid the moral conflict of responding to the Palestinians in kind, so it built a fence to keep the suicide bombers away. But you complain about that, because the inconvenience caused by the fence is more compelling to you than Israeli lives. One understands why the International Court ruled that way—because its members are political patsies of regimes dedicated to removing any vestige of a Jewish state from the region (or the world). It’s harder to understand why you take that cruel and inhuman position—which is why so many (no, not just a few) readers chalk it up to your anti-Semitism. That is not an unreasonable conclusion. 

I, for one, don’t necessarily believe your views are the product of anti-Semitism. For the moment, I’m willing to chalk up your misunderstanding to the simple ignorance which jumps off your editorial pages—which is why I was so pleased when you declared a moratorium on Daily Planet discussion about Israel. I hope you reinstate it, and devote more attention to local issues; you have enough trouble getting Berkeley news right, without editorializing about matters regarding which you apparently have no clue. 

Mark I. Schickman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The July 20-22 issue includes a letter from Fred Lisker which features a map of the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia. All but two of the countries 

are named, the exceptions being Israel and Palestine, which Mr. Lisker has crowned with the Israeli flag. Mr. Lisker’s message is that Palestine is not an independent state and that if the Palestinians are unhappy with their status under Israeli rule they can just move on to any of the other countries depicted on his map.  

Mr. Lisker seems to be of the opinion that “an Arab is an Arab” and that, consequently, Palestinians should be content thousands of miles from their ancestral homeland in, say, Tajikistan or Sudan.  

As a test of his underlying assumption I’d like Mr. Lisker to immediately evacuate his own home. He can choose to relocate anywhere else in the Americas, such as the Yukon Territories or, perhaps, Bolivia. To be sure, he and his family may find themselves in a foreign and hostile environment and be ignorant of the culture, language and customs, but that’s the lot of refugees and I’m sure that they will find some way to survive.  

In their absence, I’ll occupy the family home, to which, in any event, I have an overriding claim based on my superior religious and political pedigree, and besides, I know I’ll be able to make his property more productive. If Mr. Lisker is reluctant to move perhaps he would agree to my encircling his property with a 10-foot-high wall, incidentally, disconnecting his access to water and electricity, and digging up the road leading to the house. Of course, I’d provide a checkpoint in the wall so that he could leave to forage for food and to obtain medical care, but only if he applied for permission well in advance. Even then he’d have to be willing to wait for hours, sometimes days, never knowing whether or not the unsupervised teenage guard at the checkpoint would agree to let him through, leave him standing in the sun, or simply shoot him.  

Oh and one other thing: I’d hold Mr. Lisker personally liable for any misbehavior by his neighbors. If the dog next door so much as barked, the bulldozers would be at Mr. Lisker’s door early next morning—and I mean early. 

Joseph Stein 




Editor, Daily Planet: 

Regarding Becky O’Malley’s editorial in the July 20-22 edition, I have to say that it is sad to counter the mistakes of a reader with one’s own. Fred Lisker’s uncritical purveyance of the attempted irony (in fact more of a self-parody) and demographic absurdities (counting Turkey and the countries east of Iraq as “Arab”) of the cartoon map and its caption was properly exposed by O’Malley. Unfortunately, her own attempt to use irony to turn the tables on Lisker falls on its face. Like most journalists, O’Malley prefers to use prefabricated statements removed from any kind of context (in this case a dictionary definition) instead of having to do real research and historical analysis. Forget for a moment that “Semite” and “Semitic” are terms that are inseparable from the history and practice of Eurosupremacist colonialism; forget for a moment that these terms were invented by the same people who invented “Aryan”; forget for a moment that these terms were invented as “objective” linguistic props to hold up the division of people into the racist categories “Negroid,” “Mongoloid,” and “Caucasoid”; forget for a moment that the presence of Arabs and Ethiopians (speakers of Arabic and Amharic, the other “Semitic” languages mentioned in the dictionary) in Europe never resulted in the same kind of uneasiness and suspicions as the presense of Jews. The historical fact, put in its proper context, is that the term “Anti-Semitism” was invented by a politician to describe the political movement he created whose expressed goal was to curtail, and hopefully reverse, the “undue” influence of Jews in public life (politics, culture, commerce). Since then, anti-Semitism has always and only referred to hostility and discrimination directed at Jews. O’Malley’s assertion that “consistency (like some other dictionaries) suggests that it’s also a form of anti-Semitism to exhibit hostility toward or discrimination against Arabs as a religious [sic], ethnic, or racial group” is plainly contradicted by the facts of context and history. 

C. Boles 




Editor, Daily Planet: 

You write in your editorial of July 20 that “Jewish or not, Israel is not everybody else. Our expectations are simply higher for Israel...” 

What Chutzpah! What do you mean by saying that “Jews and Israel are not like everybody else?” Of course Jews are like everybody else, we are humans just like “everybody else.” Your statement implies that Jews are outside the human race. Who gave you the authority to have higher expectations of Israel than of any other state? This is not a “mark of respect” but a blatantly anti-Israel statement. All states must conform to international law and all states have the right and duty to protect their citizens. If this means building a security fence then it is right and proper. 

In the same paragraph of your editorial about Jews not being “like everybody else” you say about Israel that “...we care about you.” On the surface that might sound like an endorsement of Zionism. In fact, if you care about Israel, you would have to endorse its right to protect both its citizens and other residents against suicide bombers. I question your statement that you care about Israel. If Israel cannot defend its own citizens its very existence is imperiled. 

Sanne DeWitt 





Editor, Daily Planet: 

In her editorial, Talking About What Pictures Say, Becky O'Malley completely misses the point. The illustration she refers to (Stop the Unjust Occupation of Arab Lands!) was created by the pro-America, pro-Israel activist group Protest Warrior. Like all their signs and T-shirts, it was meant to poke fun at what members see as the hypocrisy of the left, through the use of sarcasm and irony.  

Much like the confused reaction of protesters when they first encounter these signs, O'Malley simply doesn't get it. She does allude to the sign's true meaning, but then goes off on a rambling diatribe about how "anti-Semitic" it is. In fact, the sign uses the language of the anti-Israel crowd (they are the ones who believe Israel is "occupying Arab lands") and juxtaposes it with the graphic (tiny Israel surrounded by huge Arab countries) to make a point. But to no avail.  

O'Malley's obtuse comments demonstrate a profound lack of comprehension, not to mention a sense of humor. Lighten up, lady!  

Cinnamon Stillwell 

San Francisco