Public Comment

Readers Respond to Middle East Commentaries

Friday August 11, 2006


The Daily Planet will be taking some time off from Middle East letters and commentary. 



Editors, Daily Planet:  

The Berkeley Daily Planet have finally gone too far when it published the blatantly anti-Semitic diatribe by Kuosh Arianpour “Zionist Crimes in Lebanon,” His “commentary” hardly requires refutation. It is replete with all the catch words currently in vogue by Israel/Jew haters: “Zionist” instead of Israel, “genocide,” “chosen people,” etc.  

By publishing this piece, is the Planet trying to show the extent to which Jew haters will go to spew their venom? Are you trying to teach some important lesson here to the liberal progressive Berkeley community about the depth of Jew-hatred in the world? If so, a disclaimer was necessary to distance the Planet from anti-Semitism. Otherwise, one can only conclude that you share the writer’s hateful opinions and our community would know clearly where you stand on the issue of tolerance.  

Dr. Hilda Kessler 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

With a free press comes responsibility. We must recognize that words can be more than words—especially when they justify or condone violence.  

ADL has seen time and time again how hateful words can lead to ugly, violent acts. We saw it less than a year ago in San Francisco where several men making anti-Semitic jokes ended with two young men being brutally beaten. We saw it in Rwanda where hateful propaganda on the radio stations and in the newspapers led to genocide.  

Finally, we saw it just two weeks ago when a self-identified angry Muslim man walked in to the lobby of the Seattle Jewish Federation with a gun to the head of a 14-year old girl. He was disgruntled over the conflict in the Middle East and decided the employees of the Federation were an appropriate target for his rage. One woman was killed, four others were seriously injured and an entire community was left shocked, confused, and terrified. Time and time again we have seen rhetoric and speech galvanize people to action and even violence. 

Kurosh Arinapour is not merely offering thoughts on the current conflict or showing support for the Palestinian and Lebanese people, he is justifying slavery, hatred, and genocide by engaging in scapegoating and blaming the victim. Speech like Mr. Arinapour’s is dangerous and hateful and can lead to acts of discrimination and violence. Sadly, we saw that two weeks ago in Seattle. Does Mr. Arinapour think the staff at the Jewish Federation deserved or even earned their fate just like the slaves in Babylonia or the six million Jews in the Holocaust? We have a free press to encourage discourse and share ideas, but spreading hatred is not the job of the press or the Berkeley Daily Planet. 

Tami Holzman  

Assistant Director, Anti-Defamation League,  

San Francisco 

Oakland resident 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

There are any number of people that conflate criticism of Israeli policy and practice with an anti-Israel attitude. Indeed, they usually call us Israel haters, if not downright anti-Semitic. Thus, Leon Mayeri’s letter in a recent edition of your paper. Were that true, those of us who criticize the Iraq war would be anti-American, and not the loyal opposition we surely are.  

Indeed, to criticize the Israeli war on Lebanon is to argue for the safety and long range security of the state of Israel, for surely it can be readily seen that the conduct of this war, with its devastating loss of civilian life, is the best recruiting device that Hezbollah (and Hamas) could devise. 

Malcolm Burnstein 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

I would like to thank you for printing my letter. It would seem that events of the past several weeks have borne out my assertions that Ms. O’Malley has been a victim of the Hezbollah PR machine, including Human Rights Watch’s downward revisions of the casualties at Quana, as well as the Lebanese government’s continual downward revision of initial reports of so-called massacres, in one recent case from twenty casualties down to one. It has also been widely reported that the Reuters photographer who was responsible for most of the photos from Quana has been fired for multiple instances of altering photos to make the devastation from the conflict seem greater than it actually is. However, I object strenuously to the title you placed above my letter. I do not think that anywhere in my letter I made the assertion, either explicitly or implicitly, that criticizing Israel is anti-Semitic. I made no mention of Judaism or anti-Semitism, and in fact, I find the argument that criticism of Israel to be equivalent to anti-Semitism to be a knee-jerk reaction. I understand that Ms. O’Malley has been facing this accusation lately, as she indicated in her editorial, but it did not come from me.  

Howard Glickman 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

Israel created Hezbollah through its unjustified 1982 invasion of Lebanon. After experiencing quiet on their northern border for a years, they went into Lebanon specifically to destroy the PLO as a political organization. The PLO was never a military threat to Israel, rather the reverse has been true since 1948. Israel’s response to attacks on its soldiers has been to kill hundreds of civilians and displace at least half a million people in southern Lebanon. If I was the victim of a criminal attack in my neighborhood, would I then have the right to level the surrounding area plus half the city ? Please, Glickman, spare us the quotes from the IDF code. Why not quote the former Soviet Constitution? It is about as meaningful. Since all Arabs are Semites, it is more reasonable to label Israeli apologists as anti-Semitic. Israel has always spelled peace, p-i-e-c-e. Until that changes nothing else will in that region. 

Michael Hardesty 





Editors, Daily Planet:  

The two side-by-side commentaries in Tuesday’s Planet certainly caught my eye. The first one had a rather provocative title: “Criticizing Israel = Anti Semitism,” by Howard Glickman of Berkeley. I’ve never heard anyone actually make that equation, but I’ve certainly heard people accuse Israel’s supporters of making it. Had the Planet actually found someone willing to equate criticizing Israel with hating the Jews? 

I read the article. Then I read the article again. Then I read the article very carefully a third time. Then I went to the Planet’s website, downloaded the text of the article, and searched it for the strings “Jew” and “semit.” Those strings to not appear anywhere in the article, and I don’t see the author in any way making the equation alleged in the title. 

I’m curious, where did the title of the article come from? Is that what the author called it, or was the title added by someone at the Planet? If the latter, that person might want to consider a career other than journalism. 

After puzzling over that for a while, I went on to the second commentary piece entitled “Zionist Crimes in Lebanon,” by Kurosh Arianpour of Iran. That one was less interesting, but I thought I’d quote from it: 

“Also, one can ask why Jews had problem with Egyptians, with Jesus, with Europeans, and in modern times with Germans? The answer, among other things, is their racist attitude that they are the Chosen People. Because of this attitude, they do wrong to other people to the point that others turn against them, namely, become anti-Semite if you will.” 

It is a mystery why the Planet thought this clumsy propaganda was worthy of publication. Was it to remind us that there are many people in this world with an irrational hatred for Jews? Thanks, but we already knew that. 

Jef Poskanzer 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

Kurosh Arianpour, in his “Zionist Crimes in Lebanon,” was wrong on many points. Let me start with a particularly galling one. Quoting Mr. Arianpour: “Also, one can ask why Jews had problem with Egyptians, with Jesus, with Europeans, and in modern times with Germans? The answer, among other things, is their racist attitude that they are the ‘Chosen People.’” 

The belief (not exclusive to Jews) that Jews are, “chosen,” refers (loosely) to having been selected to communicate to all people that there is a divine being who wants us to obey his laws, and in return for doing so, will bless us with peace, security, bounty, and contentment, for all eternity.  

Mr. Arianpour’s assertions that Jews consider themselves to be in possession of license to pillage and plunder are misguided, at best. 

The perfunctory dismissal by Mr. Arianpour, and his fellow travelers, of all possibility that the unfolding tragedy in Lebanon is due to Hezbollah aggression, demonstrates the bias of these individuals. 

It matters not a whit, how many times they are confronted with the inescapable twin truths: 

Israel withdrew from Lebanon (certified by the Jihadist-friendly United Nations) in 2000. Hezbollah has chosen to remain belligerent. 

Hezbollah declares that Shebaa is Lebanese territory and Hezbollah elects to start a war over this small patch of land. The Shebaa Farms region, an area the size of Denver International Airport, is Syrian Territory. This was certified by the United Nations, which is decidedly not Israel-friendly.  

Let’s face it: It’s not about Zionism. It’s not about “Occupation.” It is about Jihadist intentions to kill as many Jews as they can. 

Ira Berkowitz 





Editors, Daily Planet:  

I have held myself back until now, but I feel compelled to write this letter. I am, personally, disgusted with the uproar that occurs when anybody criticizes Israel. If you criticize Israel, you get called the most rotten names, you get accused of being anti-Semitic, etc. This is utterly ridiculous. I happen to be Jewish, but I do not completely agree with the actions and policies of Israel. Am I going to get accused of being a self-hating Jew? Stop the accusations and grow up. 

Rio Bauce 





Editors, Daily Planet:  

With superb artistry the fourth estate manages to do what no person worthy of inherent rational human DNA can do – use words of equivalence to describe the violent clash between Israel and Hezbollah. The most popular are “crisis” and “conflict” and “calamity.” 

It is one thing to maintain that a state’s right to exist carries the right to defend itself. It is quite another to seize lands, build walls, invade and destroy everything, human and human-made, that is remotely associated with an ancient enemy all in the name of security. 

The basic fact that the military forces of Israel are mobile whereas Hezbollah’s are fixed may or may not denote aggression but any fair-minded observer must, at the very least, see imbalance. Add to that the overwhelming superiority in military hardware and any suggestion of equivalence is ludicrous. 

The fourth estate will have lost all respect for the nexus between words and facts if it fails to label as disingenuous the U.N. cease-fire resolution drafted by the U.S.A. and France in consultation with Israel.  

It is super-ludicrous to think the world does not see savagery in this one-sided clash.  

Marvin Chachere 

San Pablo 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

I have been an avid reader of the Berkeley Daily Planet in both incarnations for several years, and repeatedly recommended your articles to my friends and colleagues. I have read your editorials, commentaries, and letters to the editor over the years in some disbelief as Israel and Jewish people that support Israel have been maligned and characterized as right-wing wackos in support of a “military state,” but I believe in the idea that all opinions should be put out on the table and discussed so that we can all use our critical thinking skills and make our own decisions.  

I personally feel that Jews have been targeted unprovoked by anti-Semitism for nearly two millennia and were nearly wiped off the planet 60 years ago, had it not been for the Allied victories and the Germans’ mistake of taking on the Soviet Union. I thank God every day that Israel exists as a relative “safe haven” and homeland for the Jewish people. Now that I have read the Aug. 8 commentary by Kurosh Arianpour, I have personally reached my limit with your paper. I thought some of the previously published material was somewhat offensive, but this article is really garbage. I can assure you that this kind of hate message would never have been printed had it targeted any other racial or cultural group. I believe in freedom of speech, but I don’t have to subject myself to this drivel. I don’t expect any kind of apology. I just wanted you to know that you have lost a loyal reader. 

Allen Nudel 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

In the latest edition you ran a commentary by Howard Glickman under the headline “Criticism of Israel = Anti-Semitism.” Nowhere in the piece could I find any such assertion, and I looked for it. The author, while clearly an unabashed apologist for Israel, doesn’t seem to be making a case about anti-Semitism—rather, he suggests that the Planet didn’t get the facts right, and may have been misled by the propaganda of Israel’s enemies. What is the Planet’s reason for using such an inaccurate and inflammatory headline? I think you owe Mr. Glickman an apology. 

David Coolidge 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

While in America we do not believe in censorship, we do expect that published materials are written with accuracy and in an attempt to convey the truth. 

Your paper disregarded both of these guidelines, when it published “Zionist Crimes in Lebanon,” a racist diatribe by Kuros Arianpour, an Iranian student studying in India. This self-appointed expert of theology, Jewish history and international relations indicates that “among other things” Jews have been the root cause of anti-Semitism and even brought the Holocaust upon themselves. 

He shamelessly says “…one can ask why Jews had problem with Egyptians, with Jesus, with Europeans, and in modern times with Germans? The answer, among other things, is their racist attitude that they are the ‘Chosen People’. Because of this attitude, they do wrong to other people to the point that others turn against them, namely, become anti-Semite if you will.” 

Mr. Arianpour clearly does not understand the real meaning of the Jewish concept of “chosenness” that does not imply superiority nor promises privileges. Rather it obligates the members of the Jewish community to work towards “Tikkun Olam,” mending our imperfect world. Before I earned my Ph.D. in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies from Brandeis University, I majored in Iranian Studies at the University of Budapest and at Columbia University. However, you do not need any academic knowledge to realize and recognize the ignorance and sheer hatred that comes from Kuros Arianpour, apparently a faithful spiritual disciple of Adolf Hitler and Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. 

Ferenc Raj, Rabbi