Press Releases

Letters on the Middle East

Friday August 06, 2004

Editor, Daily Planet: 

I would like to propose, that in the spirit of honesty in journalism, you change your publication’s title to The Tuesday and Friday Berkeley and Middle-East Planet. Otherwise, please reinstate your moratorium on discussing the whole Israel-Palestine issue. This issue does not promote dialogue, merely promulgation of preformed opinions. We are unhealthily obsessed with this issue on an international scale, and honestly, for no good reason other than inertia. Fewer than one in a thousand people on this planet are Israelis, yet a quarter of the condemnations issued by the U.N. Commission on Human Rights are about Israel’s actions. Does that sound statistically belieavable to you, or does it sound like someone is blinding themselves to the rest of the world? I am not conveying any morality on this issue, I am merely pointing out an obsession. In the Middle East where, again without moral judgement, Jews and Muslims have actually been fighting and killing each other for at least the past half-century they do not desecrate each others’ graves. Yet desecration of cemetaries happens regularly in Europe. Why do they, who are not actually being killed by either Israelis or Palestinians, care so much to act so abhoringly? This whole issue serves as nothing but an emotional focal point for society to vomit up all the negativity in the world, about every possible issue, all couched in terms of this conflict. Specifically, your paper, by continuously catering to this obsession, is acting no better than any news agency that spent a year covering nothing but OJ’s trial, or the Clinton impeachment proceedings, or any other event to which the hordes of media lemmings continually flock to in intentional ignorance of the rest of this planet. The Berkeley Daily Planet likes to present itself as an independent alternative local newspaper. If you want to do something completely revolutionary and alternative, ignore this cursed issue. Coverage, no matter how pretendingly-objective, does nothing but engender more enmity between sides. I have been reading the letters to the editor for a while in various publications, and never once have I seen anyone write “Oh, that was an interesting opinion or fact that changed my view.” Every single letter is someone condemning the other side, other letter-writers, the editors, political powers that be or want to be, religions, nations, etc. Stop inducing this spouting of hatred and just please please please cover something that does not immediately make people want to (at least verbally) beat each other to death. My personal vote goes for replacing any future Israel-Palestine stories with more Boondocks strips. 

Modi Wetzler 

UC Berkeley Student 


Editor, Daily Planet: 

It was absurd enough that in a past editorial, Executive Editor Becky O’Malley stated that the Jews she respected were Israeli deserters and the likes of pro-Palestinian propagandists such as Barbara Lubin and Henry Norr (yes, dear Becky, there are indeed Jews who hate Judaism). But with her most recent screed on Israel (July 20), Ms. O’Malley leaves no doubt about her bigotry.  

O’Malley wrote that “our expectations are higher for Israel.” Is that why she excoriates Israel for defending itself with a protective wall that has already abrogated three months of potential suicide bombings? Is that why she fails to criticize Palestinian terrorist activity and the ISM members who help facilitate it? 

O’Malley goes on to say she criticizes Israel “for the same reason we tell our kids when we think they’ve made a mistake: because we care about you.” How disgustingly condescending! How reminiscent of “white man’s burden!” O’Malley, my family and friends in Israel are emphatically not your kids. They are fighting for their lives against Islamicist forces of ignorance and murder. As the editor of a newspaper, it is not your right to tell anyone else how to defend themselves against those who are pledged to destroy them—and this includes not just the likes of Hamas but the very elected government of the Palestinians. 

Finally, O’Malley joins Palestinian propagandists when she opines that anti-Semitism also means hatred of Arabs. Common use of language has become the definer of terms in today’s world. If you ask for the definition of anti-Semitism in the West, Asia, Africa or even the Arab world, is there any doubt that 95 percent of those queried would define the term as “hatred of the Jewish people.” 

I find it interesting that in what is supposed to be a paper focused on local events, O’Malley and the Daily Planet should place such constant emphasis on the Israeli/Palestinian issue with an incessant pro-Palestinian perspective. And hopefully by now, any realistic reader should understand this is a reflection of the prejudice of Ms. O’Malley and her publication. In this case, Ms. O’Malley, the term anti-Semitism is all too applicable. 

Dan Spitzer 


Editor, Daily Planet: 

Your editorial comment “Talking about what pictures say” on July 20, 2004, was an excellent example of someone who doesn’t realize how deeply partisan—and negative toward Jews—she really is. First, drop the smokescreen about Semites and Anti-Semites. We’re all Semites here, back to Jacob and Ishmael, progenitors of the Jews and the Arabs. The two peoples are siblings, alas. So when you decide which one is “oppressing” and “occupying” the other, think of it as a family squabble. No wonder the two Jewish reporters in your newsroom argue with each other as they do. To some the presence of Euro-Israeli Jews (survivors of the Holocaust) may seem to complicate this picture, but it doesn’t have to if you go far enough back in time (European Jews came from the Mediterranean following their expulsion from Spain and Portunal in the late 1400s). 

Now try elevating the scale of your thinking to consider these two groups on the same land. Both groups have been dispossessed for the last millenium or two. The Palestinians have never “owned” their land even though they’ve lived there for a long time. Palestine’s owners for the last two millienia have been the Romans, the Christians, the Arabs (Mohammedans), the Turks, the British—right up to the U.N. Partition in 1947, when the prospect of sharing the former British Mandate for the Trans-Jordan was accepted by the Jews and rejected by the Palestinians and every other Arab nation. 

The diaspora of the Jews is well known, of course. It seems the world is very comfortable with the idea of the Jews as a stateless people—as residents of some other state that may or may not choose to grant Jews full rights as citizens. You probably don’t know how recently Jews have been accorded full rights by the states in which reside as a matter of course. This has occurred only in the last century or so. So it is understandable that for centuries there has been a longing for a “home of one’s own” (Herzl’s formulation in the earliest days of Zionism) especially since the Nazis managed to kill half the world’s Jewish population. 

Since Camp David, Oslo, and Wye River, the Jews have been trying to come to terms with Palestinians on sharing their common land. In fact, most Palestinians and most Jews are ready to give it a go. But the combination of wretched Palestinian leadership, Arab intransigence, UN incompetence, and European Anti-Jewishness (they are far less subtle about it), have continued to make this impossible. Of course Israel has made mistakes, and the fence (note the difference in terminology, which you disrespect) is not the nation’s crowning accomplishment as statecraft. Fine, have a go at Sharon and his gang. You’ll have to stand in line behind many Israelis, and not a few American Jews. But what is this? Sharon, the father of the settlement movement, now wants to cut way back to the minimum needed for security, and to hand over Gaza to the Palestinians. Not perfect yet, but some progress toward the middle. 

OK, so now let’s move over to the Palestinian side to see how they’re doing at approaching some kind of middle. What’s your take on the movement? What about Yassir Arafat? How’s he dealing with this? Is he a founding father patriot or a corrupt streetfighter thug whose word means little and is now disgusting to his own people? What do you make of the Palestinian stab at self-governance under an “occupier” who pleads with the Palestinians to develop their own institutions and a viable economy so they can be something resembling a good neighbor? What about the Palestinian leadership’s refusal to admit the right of Israel to exist as a nation, for  

Jews to have their own country as the Palestinians insist for themselves? What do you have to say to the Arabs (especially Saddam Hussein and the Saudi state-sanctioned charities) who reward and encourage suicide bombers as a matter of national policy and world-political strategy? What do you have to say about the Israelis’ (the Jews’) right of self-defense against such attacks? What do you have to say about any of this, Becky O’Malley? What? I can’t hear you..... 

So now I hope you see what I mean when I say you are hopelessly one-sided. If you were not, Editor O’Malley would insist that the Berkeley Daily Planet provide equally strong criticism of the Palestinian side, and would exhort the two peoples and the whole meshpucha, including the other folks in the ‘hood, to cut the crap and figure out how to live with each other. Even Fox News does a better job of “fair and balanced” than you do. 

Fred Wittman