Public Comment

Commentary: An Oligarchic Cesspool of Radical Lunacy

By John Gertz
Tuesday April 25, 2006

Graham called me a hypocrite for urging Berkeley’s City Council and Peace and Justice Commission (P&J) to pass anti-Palestinian resolutions, when I derided the same bodies for passing a pro-Palestinian resolution. I never said, nor did mean, any such thing. I do not believe that Berkeley city government has any constructive role to play in the locally divisive issue of the Palestine/Israel conflict. I merely said that Berkeley’s Palestinian supporters like Graham, should have a good heart-to-heart with their Palestinian friends and let them know that their election of Hamas won’t wash even here in Berkeley. If Graham and her buddies want to stand by Hamas, fine. At least I tried to talk some sense into them. 

After Graham willfully misrepresents my position, she goes on to libel. In her paranoid worldview, I am a Jewish godfather, the Elder of Zion dispatched to Berkeley with a fist full of money to brutalize Israel’s critics into silence. She believes that I personally orchestrated a takeover of Berkeley’s P&J. This charge, which first surfaced in the Daily Planet, has been thoroughly discredited. Not one past or sitting member of P&J owes his or her seat to me in any way. All I ever did was loudly voice the not uncommon opinion that the old P&J was an oligarchic cesspool of radical lunacy. People listened because I was right, and things have now changed somewhat for the better, but not because anyone is on my payroll. 

Graham goes on to fume that, with all my money, I intend to buy the next mayoral election. Rubbish. Graham has no way of knowing my net worth, but, more importantly, Bill Gates, himself, could not buy a Berkeley election. Doesn’t Graham know that there is, as there should be, a strict limit to individual contributions in Berkeley? If I am not mistaken, that limit is currently set at $250, hardly enough to buy an election. Moreover, if she would care to go down to City Hall and check the public records, she will discover that in the more than 20 years that I have lived in Berkeley, I have contributed in total less than $1,000 to Berkeley politicians.  

The only person I know of in this town who has used her own money to significantly alter the Berkeley political landscape is Becky O’Malley. She did this when she bought the Daily Planet in order to use it as her personal mouthpiece. Though I often disagree with O’Malley, I do want to say with sincerity that I applaud her for publishing, and not suppressing, the responses of her many critics. That’s why I do not support a boycott of the Daily Planet, and, probably why the Daily Planet has not, at least yet, heeded Graham’s call for a boycott of my property, Zorro. Boycotting people in America for their beliefs smells of fascism, Ms. Graham. And here I really think you may be in a minority. The pro-Palestinian Daily Planet gave Berkeley Rep’s Zorro in Hell (which I co-commissioned, and in which I do admit having a financial interest) a very good review, and the pro-Palestinian nonprofit, MECA, actually sold tickets to Zorro in Hell as a fundraiser. I will be donating my profits from MECA’s efforts to the local non-profit, Bridges to Israel, which funnels money to Israeli victims of Palestinian terror. 

Graham goes on to contend that I have threatened local politicians, like Linda Maio or Kriss Worthington, into silence with the prospect of a smear campaign for passing a pro-Palestinian resolution. I readily admit that I have said that I will work hard to make sure that anyone who believes that Berkeley needs a pro-Palestinian foreign policy should not be mayor of this city. I will oppose them by all legal and ethical means. And, indeed, I will give $250 to their more moderate opponent. I will not smear Maio or Worthington, but to the extent anyone will listen to me, I will help make their misguided foreign policy a central issue of the campaign. That’s not nefarious, Ms. Graham, that’s democracy. And Graham intends to exercise her democratic rights as well. For in her words, if councilmembers do not pass more anti-Israel resolutions, then “we can express our disagreement with them at the polls.” You do that, Ms. Graham. You exercise your rights, and leave me to exercise mine. 


Berkeley resident John Gertz owns the Zorro trademark. ›