Public Comment

More Letters to thte Editor

Friday May 05, 2006

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following letters from frequent correspondents on the topic of the Middle East appear only on our website. 


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Johanna Graham and I are actually moving toward an understanding. First, she seems to acknowledge that my personal net worth is an irrelevance. No one individual can buy a Berkeley election with his or her paltry $250. I certainly admit that when a DP reporter called me I said that Worthington or Maio would be toast if they ran for mayor. Hey, if the Daily Planet were to ask my opinion of Republican prospects in the midterm election I would say the same thing. It’s one thing for me to opine that the Republicans will lose the next election, and even to work toward that goal as an individual, and quite another to be some kind of Rasputin who can make it all happen by my lonesome. If Worthington and Maio are toasted for bringing their support of Hamas into Berkeley, it will take many more people than me to do so. Graham thinks it unfair that they take the hit for their pro-Hamas stand, calling this a fringe issue, which Berkeley voters “know little about.” Well, in part, Graham is correct. This should be a fringe issue in Berkeley. In fact, it should not be an issue at all in a local election. But then Worthington and Maio made it so by insisting that Berkeley have a pro-Hamas foreign policy. At least 25 percent of the Berkeley electorate is Jewish, and the vast majority of these stand with Israel, and know more than a little about the issues involved. And the vast majority of the remaining 75 percent of Berkeley voters may not know much about the Israel/Palestine conflict, but they know enough to know that they don’t want their prospective mayor entangling his or herself in it. By prostrating themselves before a vociferous but tiny pro-Palestinian minority in Berkeley, Worthington and Maio totally alienated many of the rest of us. What if the issue were Darfur and the City Council voted to support Arab claims to that land. Would they not expect Berkeley’s blacks and Jews to be outraged (yes, Jews, since Jewish groups are at the forefront of the campaign against genocide in Darfur)?  

I agree that Graham correctly discerns an apparent contradiction in my writings. In the April 7 DP, I made a throwaway remark to the effect that perhaps P&J and City Council should call the Palestinians to task for electing Hamas. I wrongly denied that because I was traveling at the time, trying to meet Daily Planet’s deadline, and, not having access to my papers, was working from faulty memory. I apologize. But my earlier statement was meant facetiously. If I actually meant that P&J or City Council should busy itself with anti-Palestinian resolutions, I would certainly be working the phones lobbying members of City Council and P&J to accomplish this. After all, according to Graham, I have most of P&J, if not the city council, eating from hand. In fact, if I ever hear of an anti-Palestinian resolution coming before P&J or City Council, I will probably lobby against it. The Palestine/Israel conflict has unnecessarily divided this town for too many years. Worthington and Maio threw gasoline on that fire, and that’s why neither should become mayor.  

So now that Graham and I are largely in agreement, I offer this olive branch. I am ready to move on to Darfur if Graham and the rest of the pro-Palestinian community in this town is also. Then, perhaps, we can work together, building alliances instead of walls of mistrust. Z  

John Gertz 


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Talk about the pot calling the kettle... 

Joanna Graham accuses John Gertz of failing to remember what he wrote. But those of us who regularly read these pages in the Daily Planet are all too aware of that which Ms. Graham would doubtless like us to forget—her own words. 

Let’s start with Graham’s absurd allegation that a “Jewish lobby” headed by Gertz has taken control of local political proceedings. In the Daily Planet’s April 14 edition, Graham wrote: “A small, unelected Group is distorting city policy by exerting undue influence and would do so no matter who is in office.” While Graham eschews the more obvious terms like “cabal” penned by fellow pro-Palestinian advocate R.W. Davis ( April 7), readers with any sense of history understand fullwell the dark place from which Ms. Graham is coming...  

Moreover, remember when Ms. Graham exhorted Berkeleyans to make this the “Year of Talking About Palestine/Israel"? Ever wonder why she has been so silent ever since the Palestinians she champions overwhelmingly elected those honorable merchants of genocide, Hamas? Come on, Joanna--if you wish to make this the “Year of Talking About Palestine,” do please show us how you and your fellow propagandists spin this prominent move which has finally propelled Palestinian society out of the closet. 

Of course Graham criticizes Mr. Gertz’s suggestion that literature be sent to our electorate showing that infamous picture of the less-than-innocent Rachael Corrie burning an American flag in front of scores of Palestinian pre-schoolers. Why shouldn’t Gertz help make voters aware that certain “convenient idiots” for the Palestinian cause on the City Council wasted the council’s time attempting to turn Corrie into a most undeserved martyr-figure?  

In fact, such literature would serve an important educative function for our electorate and hopefully make voters think twice before returning to office such ideological simpletons. After all, Corrie contributed to the sort of indoctrination of children which has metastasized into the sociopathology that is Palestine today, as reflected by the election of a party whose primary claim to fame is the destruction of innocent lives—with the promise of more mayhem to come. 

Dan Spitzer 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

Two weeks ago John Gertz wrote, “perhaps Berkeley’s Peace and Justice Commission and City Council should call the Palestinians to task for [electing Hamas]” (Daily Planet, April 7). Now he claims he said no such thing.  

Perhaps sharing Bush’s touching faith that no one can remember anything, he goes on to assert in his most recent op-ed that he never packed the Peace and Justice Commission nor threatened Linda Maio. 

Let’s review the record. Last summer, when the Peace and Justice controversy surfaced, a Daily Planet reporter asked Gertz about his alleged involvement. “Corrie was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Gertz said. “What I have observed is that a lot of people were sick of the commission being run by the lunatic left and some brave people came forward to put a stop to it.” Gertz added, “The real political objective is that Maio is going down and so is Worthington. They refused to rescind their vote on Corrie. That’s it for them. They’re toast.” (Daily Planet, July 22, 2005). 

The reporter mentioned that Gertz had not specified how he would ensure Maio’s (or Worthington’s) defeat, so Gertz obligingly wrote to the Planet to lay his strategy out (July 29, 2005). “I predict,” he wrote, “that [Maio’s] anti-Israel record will bring a lot of cash and a lot of volunteers to the cause of her more moderate opponent. Can’t she imagine the literature that will surely be mailed to Berkeley voters showing her picture right next to that now famous picture of Corrie’s contorted face burning the American flag? Does she think that only Berkeley’s Jewish community will care about this?” 

Dan Spitzer has called me a “pro-Palestinian propagandist” and John Gertz wants me to address my “Palestinian friends.” Actually, I have never spoken either for or against the Palestinian people in this paper, which I understand to address itself primarily to local concerns. My local concern has been and continues to be whether a small well-heeled pressure group fixed on a single issue of little moment to most Berkeleyans has seriously interfered with city governance and the range of choices available to us all. That is, was the John Gertz of last summer a blowhard we can safely forget about (as he would like us to) or did he actually accomplish what he said then he would? 

To put it another way, I wouldn’t dream of running for mayor unless I had an enormous war chest, because I assume that Gertz et alia on the basis of their opinion of me would want to and could defeat me. Have Linda Maio, Kris Worthington, and/or Dona Spring, all specifically targeted by Gertz at various times, made the same calculation? If so, the people of Berkeley may have been deprived of experienced candidates representing a range of views on development, neighborhoods, schools, downtown, UCB relations, crime, police, budget priorities, open government, and so on—all the urgent issues facing our city—for the appalling reason that they’ve failed to pass the Zionists‚ litmus test on the fringe issue of Israel. 

None of the above council members is likely to confirm or deny this speculation, so it must remain tantalizingly unproved. There is, however, another simple test of the power of the Israel lobby in Berkeley—the one to which Becky O’Malley referred in her editorial of April 11, that is, the one-woman play, My Name is Rachel Corrie. 

In 1989, after Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa against Salman Rushdie for his portrayal of Mohammed in The Satanic Verses, I remember well that Berkeley joined a world community of publishers, writers, booksellers, and readers who rushed to support not only the beleaguered novelist, but the principle of free speech. Such support was accompanied by a great deal of well-justified fear, for it was truly dangerous. In Japan, Italy, Norway, and Turkey, for example, translators and publishers were injured or killed. 

Contrast to this the stunning silence in the aftermath of the New York Theatre Workshop’s egregious last-minute cancellation of a well-received London play, due, by its director’s admission, to Jewish pressure. So far, after a staged reading at Riverside Church in New York, there has been just one known performance on this continent: a reading at the University of Toronto before fifty invited guests at an undisclosed location! Why is it possible to stand up to Muslim fundamentalists, even when death by violence is a credible consequence of doing so, and not to Jewish Zionists, who (usually, though not always) threaten only to withhold funding? 

Whether My Name is Rachel Corrie is a good play or a bad one; whether we agree or disagree with its viewpoint; whether we love or detest our experience of it—these are beside the point, which is that in a free society no words are too dangerous to be heard. Therefore, let us perform together the civic duties of speaking aloud in public and hearing that which has been banned. If there’s no pressure, this will pose no problem. If there is a problem, we’ll know for certain that there’s pressure—and whence it comes. Then, for the common good, we can end it, and with it, the deformation of our public life. 

Joanna Graham