Commentary: Some Myths Are Dangerous By GERALD SCHMAVONIAN

Tuesday August 16, 2005

As a former resident of Berkeley, I and many of my friends, also Cal graduates now living in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys, enjoy reading the Daily Planet online. So it was especially disheartening to read the past several issues of the Planet, and the outrageously racist, anti-Jewish and anti-Arab comments made by numerous letter writers. 

The comments ranged from the ludicrous to the insidious. Mr. Richey (Aug. 7) attacked Mr. Gertz’s skullcap as the “Funniest looking yarmulke I ever saw.” If Mr. Gertz wants to wear a lampshade on his head, that’s no one’s business but his own. 

Mr. Hardesty (Aug. 7) attacked Mr. Spitzer’s loyalty to the United States. “If you are really such a great Zionist, Spitzer, go live in Israel.” Americans have the constitutionally inherent right to verbally attack or verbally defend any nation, including Israel, without being labeled a traitor or threatened with expulsion. 

Joanna Graham (Aug. 2) writes, “1967 is demonstrably the year in which American Jews en masse converted to Zionism.” In 1967, I was a student at Cal and most of the people I knew (including Jewish-Americans) came to regard Israel in that year, not as the land of kibbutzniks skipping down the furrows hand in hand, but as a militant, racist, jingoistic state. None of them converted to Zionism “en masse.” 

Lawrence White (Aug. 5) attacks Mark Richey for his temerity as a foreigner (?) from Cotati to attack “the character of a Berkeley citizen [John Gertz].” I never realized Berkeley issued passports and had its own citizens. I believe residents of Cotati and residents of Berkeley can both be citizens of the United States. 

But Mr. White is just getting started. He then makes the claim that the thesis of a Jewish conspiracy “had the logical consequence of the murder of six million.” Does he mean that if six million were not murdered that would be an illogical consequence? Or does he mean that criticism leads to genocide when it is directed at specific groups which should, thus, be exempt from all criticism? 

Mr. White, obviously confused, then poses a number of questions which I would like to answer. He asks: “If the occupation is the problem, how come the Arabs launched three wars (1948, 1956, 1967) before the occupation began?” Mr. White perhaps subscribes to the notion that people are more apt to believe a big lie than a small one. This is a prime example of an orchestrated lie, which through countless mindful repetitions conducted with a complete disregard to the historical record begins to appear “factual.” According to all historical sources, all major encyclopedias, including the Jewish Encyclopedia, all three wars (1948, 1956, and 1967) were launched by Israel. And, to Israel, each new conquest became a new starting point for negotiation. Mr. White fails to mention the only Arab-Israeli war really launched by the Arab side was the Yom Kippur War, launched by Anwar Sadat in 1973. But Sadat never attacked Israel proper, but only the Sinai Peninsula, which was Egyptian territory that Israel had occupied a few years earlier in 1967. 

Mr. White continues “And how come the Palestine Liberation Organization was established before there was an occupation? What were they trying to liberate?” I refer Mr. White again to any major encyclopedia, including the Jewish Encyclopedia, all of which show detailed maps of the United Nations’ division of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states. In the 1948 war, Israel conquered much of the proposed Palestinian state and subsequently expelled through intimidation and murder many of the local Palestinian people who were living there. That, Mr. White, is the occupation the Palestine Liberation Organization was trying to liberate. 

His next query is equally unintelligible “How come Germans don’t send suicide bombers into Poland to get back land they lost during World War II?” To remind Mr. White, Nazi Germany was the aggressor during WWII. Germany attacked and conquered Poland, not vice versus. The proper analogy would be if the Nazis had won WWII and consequently conquered and destroyed Poland, would Poles have the right to send bombers into Polish-Germany to get their nation back? And should we support those Poles or “let bygones be bygones” regarding the Holocaust? In fact, Mr. White, if the Palestinians didn’t fight against being dispossessed and dehumanized, it would be a travesty and tragedy for all free peoples. 

Next his inventive mind leaps again. This time he claims “a million Jews were forcibly expelled from Egypt, Libya, Iraq and other Arab countries.” Actually, those countries at the time, were ruled by Western-installed, pro-Western monarchies, none of which expelled any Jews to Israel. In fact, it was Israel’s policy to conduct “Magic Carpet” flights to bring Jews from all over the Middle East to Israel to populate it with Jews. The emigration was totally voluntary. British and American planes airlifted the Jews to Israel. And according to Alaska Airlines (one of the main carriers involved), the mission was accomplished without a single loss of life. 

Since Mr. White feels no imperative to cite any sources, his hare-brained fables continue unabated: “not one (Palestinian) votes in any Arab country.” In fact, Jordanian citizens of Palestinian descent do vote, as do Lebanese citizens of Palestinian descent, etc., etc. (just as American citizens of Palestinian descent may vote.) In fact, only “Israeli-citizen” Palestinians can vote in Israel, none of the four million Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank have any voting rights in Israel despite having lived under Israeli rule for two generations (38 years). Israel emulates formerly apartheid South Africa’s policy of excluding blacks from voting by saying they were “citizens” of Bantustans (tribal homelands) and legally not citizens of South Africa proper and consequently had no right to vote. This allowed apartheid South Africa to claim that it was “the only democracy on the entire continent of Africa.” Mr. White, rather than offer smug, insincere, and misleading assertions regarding the suffering of an oppressed people, do some research. To demonize the victim and portray the oppressor as the oppressed, not only requires a manipulation and distortion of history, it also takes a cruel person to perpetrate and perpetuate such a hoax. 

Rabbi Sara Shendelman (Aug. 12) encourages readers to “see both sides,” then proceeds to praise Lawrence White’s commentary “for its attempt to educate” the opposition. Posturing and exhorting “in a community that is 25 percent Jewish,” is she trying to intimidate the Daily Planet by numbers? It shouldn’t matter what percent of what the community is comprised of. True is true and untrue is untrue. Politics is a numbers game, but education should not be. The Rabbi must be leading a very insular life when she makes a blanket statement such as “We [Berkeley] are probably the most intolerant place in the U.S. when faced with a differing view.” 

John Gertz (Aug.7) demonstrates his total lack of historic knowledge by making so many ignorant and false statements that they almost defy comment. But in the interest of fairness, I will include him. He writes that Islam is the only religion spread by an army. If Mr. Gertz thinks only Islam has a bloody history of conquest, I refer him to the Old Testament. If he is unacquainted as to where to look: Check out Joshua. Also, anyone with a smattering of knowledge regarding the spread of Christianity knows that Christianity barely made any headway in its first few hundred years (only the Armenian nation had converted to the new faith). But then along came “By This Sign You Shall Conquer” Constantine. Gertz continues that Islam “is a religion that teaches that it has superseded all others.” Duh! So does Judaism, Christianity, and all other religions. It is, in fact, the very definition of any religion that it supersede all others. Otherwise, why would anyone convert? 

David Altschul (Aug. 8) asks “What governments in the Middle East allow women to drive cars, go to school, hold jobs, etc., etc….well, there’s Israel.” This duplicitous phrasing is obviously meant to mislead and deceive uninformed readers to think only Israel allows women any rights. In fact, the majority of Middle Eastern governments allow women these rights. And, interestingly, most of the ones that don’t allow women these rights are Americas’s closest friends and military allies in the region. He continues: “What government has used the schools and TV stations it controls to teach its children that the best thing they can grow up to be is a suicide bomber? The Palestinian Authority.” I challenge Mr. Altschul to prove this claim. When on the defensive, these same tired lies are always trotted out in hopes they’ll go unchallenged and through countless repetitions dupe some uninformed people. People, such as Mr. Altschul, who rely on lies to support occupation and suppression, must perpetuate stereotypes. If one oppresses people with violence, they will react with violence. That is a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

Lastly, people who love to bandy about terms such as Islamofacists, but are appalled at the Zionazi moniker because of the historical oppression of Jews by  

Nazis should take into account that the first peoples attacked by fascists (Mussolini) were Islamic peoples (Somalis, Eritreans, and Libyans). And just as in the case of the Jews, the world did nothing. 


Gerald Schmavonian live in Fresno.