Public Comment

Letters to the Editor: What Opinions Belong in an Open Press?

Tuesday August 29, 2006

EDITOR’S NOTE: We got a lot of letters about our decision to print an anti-Jewish letter on our opinion pages, and about the letters we ran last Tuesday from some Jewish leaders and some politicians denouncing that decision. Many of our readers are tired of hearing about this topic and would like us to get back to other matters. In these pages we attempt to run most of the comments which came in before our deadline at one time and be done with it. We’re holding letters on other matters until Friday to make space. 

In these pages we are also experimenting with the idea of making short editor’s comments on individual opinions, a la the Anderson Valley Advertiser.  

Readers of our opinion pages (letters and commentary) should be aware of these disclaimers: the owners, management and staff of the Berkeley Daily Planet do not agree with everything printed in our opinion section even when we don’t say explicitly that we disagree. Editorials are the opinion of the owners of the paper unless otherwise stated. By-lined columns and cartoons in the rest of the paper are the opinion of the authors, not necessarily those of the paper. The editors decide which opinions are most likely to interest our readers, and they are published on a space-available basis, with overflow on our website.  



Editors, Daily Planet:  

In her Aug. 22 editorial, Ms. O’Malley denied that she turned down a request to meet with representatives of the Jewish community about what they saw as a blatantly anti-Semitic commentary printed in the Daily Planet on Aug. 8. 

Ms. O’Malley, did, in fact, refuse such a meeting. That is an indisputable fact. How do I know? I know because I am the representative from the Jewish community who called her asking for the meeting. She even mentions me by name in the Aug. 11 issue of the Daily Planet: 

“We also got a call from a young sounding woman with a San Francisco number who said she was ‘Tami from the ADL.’ I expected that meant she represented the Anti-defamation League. When I called her back, she said, ‘We’d like to meet with you.’ I’d just fielded a similar request for a meeting from the manager of a political candidate. In both cases, I’m assuming they hoped to affect the way the paper covers stories and issues that they care about, and frankly, the answer to both has to be sorry, no dice. 

“I told Tami that if she was hoping to persuade us to self-censor our opinion coverage, a meeting would be a waste of time for both parties (italics added), but if her organization wanted to submit a commentary, we’d be happy to print it.” 

Ms. O’Malley told me, in a clear unmistakable way, that she was unwilling to meet. She even published her reaction in her own paper. 

Tami Holzman 

Assistant Director, Anti-Defamation League 



I sent the following e-mail over the weekend replying to Ms. Holzman and the two rabbis who forwarded last Tuesday’s two letters from Jewish leaders and politicians: 


Dear Rabbi Brandt, Rabbi Raj and Ms. Holzman, 

You have taken part, perhaps unknowingly, in an unjust act.  

As Ms. Holzman knows and can tell you if she thinks about it, in our brief conversation I did not say that I refused to meet with all leaders of the Jewish community. What I did say is that it was unlikely that a meeting with people she represented only as “we” (by which I assumed she meant Anti-Defamation League members and/or staff) would change my mind regarding the propriety of printing admittedly racist and unkind letters. I did say I thought it would be a waste of time, but that’s not a refusal, just an opinion. I was then, and am still, willing to meet with anyone to discuss the topic. Ms. Holzman, if she thinks back on the conversation, will I’m sure acknowledge that she might have misinterpreted my words. As I said in my editorial last Tuesday, which I hope you all have read by now, I offered her space in the paper, she wrote a letter which was published, and I assumed that she (and her principals, whoever they were) were satisfied, that they agreed with me that a meeting would be a waste of time for all concerned.  

I am still ready to meet. 

Regarding a public or private meeting: you may or may not be aware that the reputation of the Anti-Defamation League is not the same as it was when I was growing up in University City, Missouri, in the ’50s. If you look it up on Wikipedia, you can find reproduced some of the criticisms it has received in the last few years—that’s what caused me to feel apprehensive about a closed-door meeting with today’s ADL.  

I don’t have the same apprehension about everyone who signed your two letters, however. I am ready to meet with any or all of those who signed the letters you transmitted. I would prefer to meet in front of witnesses, as I said in the editorial, but I’d even be willing to meet behind closed doors with designated representatives of the whole Jewish community if there’s some reason they’re apprehensive about expressing their views in public.  

Any or all of you or your signers could have checked with me on this matter before signing a letter denouncing me. My office phone number and e-mail addresses are printed in every issue of the paper, and my home phone number has been listed in every Berkeley phone book since 1973. I don’t know any of the religious leaders, but I do know most of the politicians, and (whether or not they like me or what the paper has reported about them) they know I’m not afraid of controversy. Most of them have called me when they wanted something from me, and they could have called me to ask if it was true that I refused to meet with the religious leaders.  

But even after the letters were published last Tuesday along with my response none of the signers has seen fit to get in touch with me regarding my offer to meet. I would like to believe that their expressed desire for a meeting was a good faith offer. Please forward this letter to all signers of both letters.  

Becky O’Malley 

Executive Editor 

Berkeley Daily Planet 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As I read your editorial, “It’s Time for a Meeting,” I began to realize it was mostly a bunch of words. Well-written as usual, but still a lot of words. Under all the sophisticated phrasing (except maybe for “put up or shut up”), a few major things caught my attention. 

One is the idea that you, Becky O’Malley, are a victim being picked on by the big bad people who are simply asking you to clean up the mess you helped make (“I was being set up” “I don’t like to be bullied”). This is not only wrong, but also irrelevant, as the real issue is not about ego. Second, all those intellectual rationalizations for allowing the letter to be printed strike me as little more than noise. The simple, undeniable fact is that a piece of blatant religious/ethnic bigotry has been allowed in this newspaper. 

But the thing that surprises and saddens me the most, as I read through your editorial, is what seems like a near-complete lack of empathy for the people who have been hurt (never mind the couple of gee-I’m-sorry-you-feel-that-way-but statements). In the mass of words, I could find nothing that sounded like a true apology. Your one “personal opinion,” in which you state that you found the Arianpour letter “very nasty,” is quickly followed up with more rationalizing. Echoing a previous writer, I have to ask: Would you use all these words to justify printing a similar letter that pushed blatant racial stereotypes about blacks? On the heels of that: If not, why not? 

Alexis Johnson 



Ms. Johnson’s point was also made to me in a somewhat different way by an African-American friend who asked to meet with me shortly after the Arianpour letter appeared. He felt required in good conscience as a member of another often-discriminated-against minority to point out that generalizations attributing bad behaviors to large groups and saying that evil done to them is their own fault are both untrue and hurtful, and that therefore they shouldn’t be given space in the paper. It’s a good point, which deserves serious consideration, but having thought about it, I respectfully disagree. Racist generalizations about blacks, Jews and other groups will be made behind closed doors no matter what we do in the press, but if they’re put on the table they can at least be refuted. See the next letter. 




To Don Perata et al: 

I write, as a Jew, to protest strongly the letter to which you signed your name calling on Becky O’Malley, executive editor of the Berkeley Daily Planet, to “apologize to the community” for printing the anti-Semitic Arianpour op-ed on Aug. 8. 

O’Malley made an editorial decision with which you may or may not agree but to call for an apology is equivalent to imposing censorship ex post facto. Shall we have the newspaper police sitting in the Planet offices henceforward, making sure this never happens again? Hey, if you didn’t like something you read, write in and say so—Kris Worthington did—or stop reading the paper (duh) but don’t “call for” an act of public abasement to the “community,” whatever that is. 

Context rules. All kinds of racist nonsense gets printed in the Planet all the time—and for good reason, since racist thinking pervades American culture. My favorite is the letter last year following the incident in which a good Samaritan rescued a young African-American woman who was giving premature birth to triplets on the steps of the downtown BART station. Sure enough, someone actually went to the trouble of writing in to point out that these babies were going to be a burden on the public (Eisenman, Oct. 11, 2005). Should they have been left to die? Is this racist enough for you? Or did the same nasty thought briefly flash through your mind when you read the original item?  

Or consider the story, not letter, that appeared in the Aug. 18 Planet, in which first-time Berkeley School Board candidate David Baggins explained that he was running to address “violence in the schools,” “under-enforcement of residency” and “not holding back” the “bright youths.” Since my child went through Berkeley schools not long ago, I immediately recognized this platform as barely veiled code for “Berkeley High would be a great school if we could just get the black kids out of my kid’s classes and out of the hallways, where they jack him for his lunch money.” I also know that if I were an African-American parent or grandparent struggling to shepherd my child through a school system run by white people for white people and essentially indifferent to my child’s well-being, I would feel as if a knife had gone through my heart when I read this, particularly because, not only is it not recognized as racism, but, on the contrary, exemplifies mainstream thinking and acceptable discourse. And then I would toss the paper in the trash and get on with my day because this would be my reality in America. 

On the other hand, twice in the last year or so I have sat in a roomful of middle-class Jews while an “anti-racism/anti-anti-Semitism activist” urged us to seek in our hearts for the anti-Semitism we must surely be experiencing. One woman in one group had escaped the Holocaust, the worst outbreak of anti-Semitism in history, and I had been frightened or discomforted a few times, mostly during my childhood, but no one else could think of any actual instances! Yet everyone present was convinced that he or she was surrounded by a pervasive anti-Semitism which could reach threat level at any moment if ever our vigilance fails. 

Why is it that African-Americans, for whom racism, embedded as it is in our culture, is ubiquitous in daily life, do not demand “apologies,” whereas Jews, the most successful minority in U.S. history, any cross-section of whom can’t at any particular moment think of actual experiences of oppression, do so at the drop of a hat? 

Ladies and gentlemen, you’ve been had. Neither Rabbi Raj nor any of the other people who may possibly have contacted you in an effort to obtain your signature felt either fear or shame (the key effects of racism) as a result of Mr. Arianpour’s diatribe, but rather that agreeably triumphal feeling of a-ha, the moment has come to get Becky. 

It turns out that Lebanon War II had been planned for over a year, the border incident of July 12 merely providing a pretext. Mr. Arianpour’s op-ed is the border incident of the long-planned Daily Planet campaign. O’Malley’s sin is giving folks like me, who criticize Israel, a platform. The apology which you demand has nothing to do with anti-Semitism and everything to do with the hyper-vigilant Zionist lobby, which will not permit any narrative contrary to the Zionist narrative to see the light of day. 

Twice in the past two weeks, because of the Lebanon war, I argued about Israel with two people with whom I had never before discussed it: an old friend of my husband’s and my sister-in-law. Both are middle-class, mainstream, non-Jewish Americans of rather conservative opinion and both of them told me fervently that Israel is a tiny beleaguered country surrounded by barbarian Arab terrorists who want only to push it into the sea. Neither understands that there are millions of displaced and/or occupied Palestinians, let alone has the slightest clue as to their plight. 

When I think of those Palestinians, nearly all of them in straits of dire poverty and oppression and hopelessness, and know that, not only did people from my tribe, the Jews, cause their situation to begin with (and deliberately and continually worsen their situation and refuse to address their situation), but also that people from my tribe, the Jews, work overtime to ensure that their situation will be erased from human discourse, erased from the minds of living people, and ultimately erased from history, then I understand that I’m back in 1930s Germany, but this time, maybe because there is a God who wants us to learn compassion, I’m on the other side. It is this reversal of roles that Zionists (successfully, as the above paragraph illustrates) do not want Americans to comprehend. Thus, the calls for apologies at every ridiculous hint of “anti-Semitism” form a part of the ongoing project of keeping the Jews, in their own minds as well as the minds of others, essential and eternal victims—the archetype of victimization. 

I will keep doing what I can to fix an historic wrong—one that, I might mention just in passing, with its constant threat of wider war such as we have just now seen, poses a grave danger to the United States as well as to the region and the world. What you need to do is write a letter of apology to Becky O’Malley for interfering with the way she does her job. I bet she doesn’t interfere with yours. 

Joanna Graham 


Well, I do try to influence the way elected officials do their jobs, but then taxpayers like me pay their salary, while they don’t pay mine. 


We’ve received a letter in response to our last editorial on the Berkeley schools from a parent who says that his kids did get a good education in Berkeley schools, but his daughter also had her nose broken by an African-American girl. And therefore…??? Is this an unintentionally racist letter, because it invites generalizations about a large group of people from the bad behavior of one member of the group? Should we print it on Friday? Should we point out what we think is wrong with his reasoning? 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

All the East Bay mayors and the conservative wing of the Berkeley City Council who signed the letter excoriating Daily Planet editor Becky O’Malley must be quite busy now, and using a ton of soap washing the egg off their faces. 

Their letter lambasted Becky for printing a vile hate letter and failing to meet with pro-Israeli supporters. Yet Becky in her Aug. 22 editorial showed that she wasn’t taken up on her offer to meet in a public venue with any or all of them. I guess the public venue thing was a bit too challenging. 

All this sound and fury points to the long unaddressed need in Berkeley to hold town hall meetings to air all sides over hot issues. The town hall meeting used to be a standard democratic practice in the U.S. of A. 

How about it, Mayor Tom? He has some democratic dues to pay to Berkeley. Holding a public meeting on the Middle East mess would be a good start. 

And to Becky, hold on to your ideals of free speech as your policy. It is that policy that makes the Daily Planet one of the few facets of Berkeley political life I’m proud of. 

Maris Arnold 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Becky O’Malley’s defense of her decision to publish the commentary by Mr. Arianpour, which contained blatant anti-Semitic remarks, rests on weak reasoning. She wrote that keeping sentiments like his out of the Daily Planet won’t make him or people like him go away. The same could be said for the racist and anti-female sentiments that are standard fare on American “hate” radio. 

Absolute free speech exists only in the privacy of one’s home (and not always there). An editor of any media outlet is always a gatekeeper. Some kinds of speech are outside the bounds of what any given community feels is tolerable. It’s fine for an editor to push the edges, lest the community become too smug. But an editor who wants to keep a community’s respect must also recognize when she has gone too far. And in this case, Ms. O’Malley did. 

Steve Meyers 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I support your decision to publish letters from your readers. I support your right to use your judgment in deciding which letters to publish. I felt moved to let you know that you have my support after reading the letter from a reader who found it necessary to marshal the support of a number of rabbis, heads of Jewish organizations, and publicly elected officials to denounce your decision to print a letter from another of your readers whose opinion was found objectionable. 

Within a few days the letter to which there was objection appearing in the Daily Planet, this person was able to contact numerous heads of organizations and publicly elected officials to sanction his rejoinder. To me that is power. I am reminded of the many publicly elected officials and business owners who cower at the mention of certain political action committees. And I am reminded of those who refuse to be cowered. You are of the latter.  

Thank you for a publication that I look forward to reading. I have been involved in Berkeley life since 1959. Your commitment to fairness is why I enjoy and appreciated living in Berkeley. 

James L. Lacy 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

While not questioning the Daily Planet’s right to publish vulgar, hate-filled statements, local political leaders question the propriety of publishing them in a community newspaper (letters, Aug. 22). As disturbing as it may be to read such venom, and realizing that in war the first casualty is truth, we need to be exposed to views held by many as a result of U.S. policy and realize what hatred has been generated. Rather than being disturbed at the Daily Planet for publishing these words, we should be asking why there is such hatred generated, and what we can do about it. 

Tom Miller 

Miller & Ngo, PLC 

Attorneys at Law 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Despite publisher/editor Becky O’Malley’s hiding her true intent behind the facade of free speech, she chose to print the anti-Semitic tract by Kurosh Arianpour. And she knows full well that she would never print similar commentary from the hate groups like the KKK about blacks or any other minority. 

Let there be no mistake about it, the fact that O’Malley decided to publish such garbage—a missive of astounding bigotry which would never be printed in any other American journals save neo-Nazi rags—reflects her own pronounced anti-Semitism. 

Unfortunately, O’Malley has used her money to create a publication, passing for a community newspaper, which regurgitates such unmitigated prejudice in our community. Correspondingly her newspaper, always less than professional, has become something far darker. 

Dan Spitzer 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

These self-styled Jewish leaders need to get their own newspaper if they dislike the Daily Planet. They don’t get to set the parameters or decide what’s politically correct. 

The Iranian was crude and he did generalize, as if your Israeli apologists’ letter writers don’t do that every day about “Arabs”! 

I disagree more often than not with your editorials but it’s your paper and your money and you, properly, get to call the shots. 

People who don’t like that, for any reason, need to be told to take a long walk off a short pier. 

Michael Hardesty 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a determined advocate of the First Amendment and no fan of hate speech legislation, I was unimpressed by Becky O’Malley’s disingenuous defense of the Planet’s decision to publish Kurosh Arianpour’s bigoted and unenlightening commentary in the Aug. 8 edition. 

O’Malley’s editorial suggests that running Arianpour’s piece was an act of integrity, or even of public service. It contends that beyond simply offering up equal space for the battle of ideas, the Planet did readers a favor by educating us on the insidiousness of extremist thought. 

Nonsense. By this logic, it is the Planet’s editorial duty to publish in every issue a racist, sexist, or homophobic diatribe. Reasoned arguments need not apply; only the basest bigotry can enlighten the audience as to hate’s myriad forms. 

O’Malley’s piece relies on what is known in the magic business as “misdirection”: I’ll wave a hand over here, defending free speech, so that the audience misses what is actually happening over there: the Planet’s attempt to evade responsibility for its editorial decisions. 

The editors might easily have found an anti-war Israeli, a Lebanese, or a Palestinian to offer their impassioned criticism of Israeli military action in Lebanon. Such a piece could have offered a useful counterpoint to Mr. Glickman’s defense of Israel. Instead, the editors chose—and I emphasize the verb “to choose”—a philippic that Ehud Appel, quoting Halper, aptly summarized as “plain old-fashioned stupid racism.” In making this deliberate selection the Planet most certainly sought to either paint all defenders of Israel as racists equal in bigotry to Mr. Arianpour, or to legitimize Arianpour’s tired blame-the-victim logic. 

Planet editors should take care not to confuse their constitutional precepts. The freedoms of speech and of the press are called out individually in the First Amendment because they are distinct rights with different obligations. I support absolutely the right of people like Mr. Arianpour to shout their ideas from a soapbox, publish a blog, or print up pamphlets, however odious I may find such expression. 

But the press is not a purely public space, and the Planet doesn’t publish every commentary it receives. It intentionally selected Arianpour’s essay from among many. (Of course, the decision to run an inflammatory, misleading headline (“Criticizing Israel = Anti-Semitism”) atop Mr. Glickman’s commentary was also deliberate.) Ms. O’Malley claims independence from those who would use any “form of persuasion to suppress speech you don’t like” but then waves the grand banner of free expression to “misdirect” readers from the fact that the paper most recently demonstrated that same independence by choosing to publish unvarnished (if unoriginal) racism. 

Adam F. Block 


The headline over Mr. Glickman’s commentary was a mistake—it was intended for another letter which came in at the same time. We ran his letter pointing out the error. 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

To all those honorable religious and political leaders who are named in a collective condemnation of this paper’s approval of free speech (Aug. 22): Your cries of anti-Semitism do not turn our eyes away from the truth. You join the ignorant anti-Semites in their waste of precious words and paper.  

If you are defending Jewish people then you must include the millions of us Jews who are horrified by Israel’s slaughter of innocents! I am distressed and shocked to assume that you, who have signed this complaint to the editor, are by your silences, approving of these atrocities. 

While you argue the danger of language, there are, to this day, universal reports by “Human Rights Watch” on the continuous use of thousands of illegal cluster bombs and land mines, in the killing and maiming of civilians in Lebanan. 

Please use Editor O’Malley’s invitation to defend your attacks. This is one paper that is not putting truth on a “back page”! 

Gerta Farber 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In regards to Kurosh Arianpour’s comment about the Jews: “....they do wrong to other people to the point that others turn against them.” Like all half-truths, this statement is baldly false at face value. But speaking of half-truths, here’s something else for Rabbi James Brandt to consider: During the Jews’ long, and often tragic history, the Jews have had trouble get along with many, many different tribes, during many, many different times and many, many different places. A fact that nobody disputes. In regards to this, there are entire libraries of Jewish-written books on the subject of “anti-Semitism", almost all of which can be summed up in six little words: “Its all the other person’s fault.” This is possible, but highly unlikely. As shocking as this notion might be for certain people in certain circles to consider, perhaps there really is two sides to the story.  

Peter Labriola 

P.S.: I hope my many, clear-thinking Jewish friends will consider what I’ve written here, as opposed to just attacking me out of hand. For I’ve written it for your benefit not mine.  

P.P.S.: The Berkeley Daily Planet should be commended for printing a wide and divergent spectrum of opinions, as opposed to just the politically correct version of reality. This is an almost unprecedented example of journalistic integrity among Bay Area publications. And if you don’t think so, just look at all the knee-jerk liberal pablum spewing out of virtually every other Bay Area publication in the guise of journalism. 


See above comments re: problems with generalizations. Everyone has always had trouble getting along with their neighbors, unfortunately—recent examples are ex-Yugoslavia and many in Africa. Jews are no different from the rest of humanity in this respect. 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thanks for having the guts to print diverse opinions. Keep the First Amendment alive, 

Daryl Lura 

El Cerrito 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’d like to applaud Kriss Worthington for his tempered criticism of the anti-Semitic commentary by Kurosh Arianpour in your Aug. 8 edition. Instead of attacking the Planet, as did a small group which professes to speak “on behalf of the Berkeley Jewish community” and another small group of pro-development politicians eager, no doubt, to get their licks in, Councilmember Worthington criticized the source, not our free-speech newspaper. There have been countless letters from Israel-right-or-wrong supporters that have been printed in the Planet, with a lesser number of brave souls supporting the Palestinians’ right to a free state of their own, not a land that is occupied or fenced or bantustaned. This Jewish community of rabbis and professionals does not speak for me or many other Jewish people I know in Berkeley and the Bay Area who support a two state solution and do not think that any criticism of Israel is anti-Semitism. I do not hold with Mr. Arianpour’s views, but now we have a very concrete example of what others think of Israel and Jews and why we have to work even harder to change U.S. and Israeli policies. Both these elite groups in Berkeley are the ones who owe Becky O’Malley and the Planet an apology for attacking her and its integrity and their great service to our community. 

Estelle Jelinek 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Who would disagree with the importance of decrying and exposing racist remarks (including anti-Semitic remarks) and behaviors whenever and wherever they appear? I found myself in strong agreement with those sentiments as I read them in letters printed in the Planet. I’m pleased that the earlier article’s author was taken to task for his inappropriate and inaccurate remarks about Jews. However, a question or two for the rabbis and self-righteous politicos who signed those two letters. Tell us, the public, if and how you have used the weight of your positions and your public and private voices to declaim against Israel’s destruction of Lebanon and her people, against the systematic decimation and dehumanization of the Palestinian people? As far as I can tell almost all U.S. politicians jumped to defend Israel’s behavior, which Amnesty International claims amounted to war crimes against an entire nation. Can you be unaware that Israel’s disrespect for the lives of millions of others (unlike the fraud of historical revisionism) is providing documentable evidence for the rise of yet another round of the scourge of anti-Semitism?  

I find the rabbis and politicos finger wagging at the Planet and its editor misplaced and self-serving. And there is a hidden warning. I have no doubt that Becky O’Malley will continue to run a free press, printing your opinions as well as mine. But if the Planet were to attempt to censor all inaccurate stereotypes and potential hate-speech, you know, the Planet would be unable to print many of the remarks of this nation’s highest officials; and would have to hire a team of censors.  

Some years ago a group called the Network against Disinformation picketed the Chronicle based on its censorship. We had Alison Weir’s ( ) research proving that U.S. media consistently failed to cover the Palestinian plight, while giving overwhelming attention to Israel’s views and personal losses. By chance, Phil Bronstein, the editor, entered the building through our line and we engaged him. If you want us to pay attention to what you are saying, he said in a moment of frankness, bring down 1,500 people and threaten to boycott us like Zionist organizations can and do do.  

Reflect on that idea of an open society, suggesting the truth isn’t important. People who do believe in real democracy ought to be quite pleased with the Planet for not emulating that cowardly view of journalism and the free press. 

Marc Sapir 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Becky O’Malley says that she is willing to meet with Jewish community so long as it is in a public forum. She names me as the one member of the organized Jewish community with whom she has already met. Although I hold no formal position in the Jewish community, Becky did agree to accept my invitation to take her to lunch. I wanted to discuss a cartoon that she published. O’Malley characterizes this as a cartoon with which I did not agree. In fact, this was the now infamous cartoon depicting Jews as being in control of the United States. To say, blandly, that I disagreed with it, is not the point. It, like the Iranian commentary she has published, was an overt call to anti-Semitism. This goes beyond just disagreement. It was as if she had published the statement, “blacks are sub-human.” This is not a proposition open to debate, only to profound repudiation. Similarly, the most recent hatred published by the Planet to the effect that Jews have caused their own misery because they are inherently racists, is not a proposition anyone should have to debate in public. What happened at our lunch maybe instructive to the Jewish community at large as it weighs O’Malley’s invitation to an open public meeting. O’Malley came to the lunch with a guest. Remember, I was buying, which normally means that I am at least informed in advance of the added freight. She introduced her guest, Anita, as her Middle East expert. I didn’t even sit down before this guest launched into an invective that did not stop, at times screaming, and was comprised of most every piece of information and misinformation in the Hamas textbook. It got so bad, that O’Malley took to apologizing for her guest’s behavior, and offered that she in fact had herself just met this woman and didn’t really know her all that well.  

I presume the public forum O’Malley seeks will be stacked with every radical lunatic in Berkeley, and maybe some out of town skin heads and neo-Nazis to boot, ready to debate the Daily Planet’s proposition that Jews have brought their historical persecution upon themselves. At a minimum, the audience will be filled with Berkeley’s anti-Israel community, even though the topic is not or should not be Israel, pro or con, but the Planet’s publication of ani-Semitic garbage. That O’Malley is ready to stack the audience is apparent by her recent behavior in these pages, where, when faced with a blizzard of letters protesting the use of the Planet for the propagation of anti-Semitism, she actually published a letter in her defense by Rio Bauce, one of her own reporters (the letters section in any reputable paper is off limits to staff), while failing even to identify him as such. In any event, such a public meeting would almost certainly devolve quickly into a shouting match, leaving O’Malley to smugly lean back and take in the fun. 

Finally, I have no personal knowledge of who in the Jewish community did or did not recently ask O’Malley for a meeting. However, I do know that Councilmember Linda Maio, was explicitly asked to sign the letter denouncing anti-Semitism which appeared in the Aug. 22 Planet and pointedly refused to do so. She defended O’Malley’s right to be a purveyor of hate in Berkeley. Recall, that Maio supported the Corrie Resolution, in support of Hamas, which has been so divisive in this community. The Jewish community and other fair-minded citizens of Berkeley will remember this if and when Maio runs for mayor. 

John Gertz 



Much in this letter, right down to the name of the friend, a Holocaust survivor active in reconciliation activities who generously offered to accompany me to lunch with Gertz, is wrong. We do allow our staff writers, even high school interns like Rio, to write signed opinions, and yes, I do know that other papers don’t. They also don’t usually print letters like Gertz’s. Neither the paper nor the cartoonist believes that Jews control the United States, or has ever said or implied that. Gertz has admitted on at least one occasion that he does not know the events which inspired the cartoon (it was published early in April of 2004, if he’d like to do some research). The cartoon used three national flags to depict the three nations involved and was a criticism of the Bush administration’s hypocrisy in posing as a mediator while expressing unquestioning and unconditional support for one side. No stereotypes or generalizations were involved, just flags. Incidentally, Gertz has never taken into account the cartoonist’s other work, offering up nary a word when we ran three consecutive cartoons condemning the election of Hamas and branding it a terrorist organization. See the “International” category at  

And I don’t sell myself for the price of lunch. I don’t remember who paid the tab, but if it really bothers Gertz I’ll send him a twenty if he’ll give me his mailing address. 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Though I’m reluctant to invite more hate-filled rants from the Daily Planet’s most prolific letter writers, I’d be interested to know how Gertz, Spitzer, Altschul, et al would respond to the recent news that the invasion of Lebanon was in fact planned much earlier, and in partnership with the United States. These letter writers are forever lecturing others for not placing events in context, yet in this instance they insisted that the war was simply sparked by Hezbollah’s kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers. Now that Seymour Hersh has revealed the context, it would seem that the rather moderate points made over the years in Planet editorials, columns and cartoons—that Israel is not entirely free from blame, that the situation is not black and white, good vs. evil, and that U.S. involvement is at best disingenuous and at worst wildly destructive—have been confirmed as accurate. And not for the first time, I might add. 

I’d also be curious to know what these writers think of A Jewish Voice For Peace, a group whose position, as stated in one of their slogans, is that there can be no peace for Israel without justice for Palestinians. Are they also, as Spitzer is so fond of saying, victims of Hezbollah’s propaganda machine? Are they leftist Israel-hating radicals masquerading as Jews? Do they have some sort of hidden agenda? 

Again, context is everything. Yes, Editor O’Malley published a racist, anti-Semitic rant. And I cannot offer a defense of that decision. I don’t believe she is an anti-Semite herself, though I do believe she can be faulted for poor editorial judgment. But what the aforementioned letter writers fail to understand is that the same editorial policy that would ban the hate of Mr. Arianpour from getting published would likewise entail the banning of Gertz and Spitzer from these pages, for they have little to say that doesn’t involve systematically trashing those who disagree with them by painting the opposition with the broad brush of “anti-Semitism.” Can you think of any other newspaper that would allow such crass, destructive and infantile language? For or better or for worse, the Planet grants them that privilege. Frequently. 

Yet that’s not to say that these men are not intelligent, articulate people. I don’t know them, I can only judge them by their letters, and despite all the bile, they’re decent writers and more than capable of expressing their views . But just once I would like to see one of them apply his gifts to a proactive piece of writing, a clear and simple statement of his views, without personal attacks. For all I ever see of them are reactionary letters written in response to others, attacking ruthlessly and all the while accusing the Planet of not representing their views. I would argue that the Planet has always allowed them space, too much of it in fact, and that the decision to publish Arianpour’s particular brand of hate is merely the logical extension of that lax editorial policy, a policy that some would praise as open-minded, but one that I would suggest as been misguided from the start. 

That said, I admit that read the Planet in part for just this reason—that they publish views that you can’t find in the tepid, bland mainstream newspapers. That is part of their identity. And if that’s what you want, you have to take the good with the bad. And again, if the politicians and rabbis who recently lambasted the paper had taken the time to consider the context, to learn something of the Planet’s history, to ask for an explanation of editorial policy before rushing to judgment, they might have contributed something positive to the debate rather just another condemnation.  

Steve Reichner 

North Oakland 


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Amazing! Becky O’Malley has managed to turn the attack on Jews that appeared in her paper into a situation where she is somehow the aggrieved victim of a “setup.” She even denies that she ever turned down a meeting with representatives of the Jewish community to discuss the hateful commentary she published. 

Yet she admitted her refusal to meet in an Aug. 11 editorial. Here’s what she wrote: 

“We also got a call from a young-sounding woman with a San Francisco number who said she was “Tami from ADL.” I expected that meant she represented the Anti-Defamation League. When I called her back, she said “We’d like to meet with you.” I’d just fielded a similar request for a meeting from the manager of a political candidate. In both cases, I’m assuming they hope to affect the way the paper covers stories and issues that they care about, and the answer to both has to be sorry, but no dice.” 

Clearly, in her own words, Ms. O’Malley says she wouldn’t meet with anyone who “hopes to affect the way the paper covers stories and issues they care about.” The problem is that she does not understand the difference between a political candidate who wants to meet with her to spin a particular issue and a minority group that is offended by a vicious, racist attack. 

And what is her proposed solution? A public meeting. Once again, she thinks that whether or not genocide against the Jews is a good thing is a matter for public debate. She just doesn’t understand that this is not a discussion of land-marking buildings or the creek ordinance or the validity of the war in Iraq.  

This is a question of whether it is appropriate to print a commentary that singles out an ethnic group and vilifies it in the most egregious manner. The representative of the Jewish community who called Ms. O’Malley was simply asking to bring that concern to her attention and to hear her response. 

Ms. O’Malley’s reaction was to divert attention from the real question by launching yet another attack on the Jews. Even more amazing!  

Jerry Weintraub 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I just read the Aug. 8 op-ed of Kurosh Arianpour, an Iranian student studying in India. 

My reactions follow. I was not surprised to read the words of someone with education in essay composition but factually ignorant and obviously in need of an emotional spleen-venting, the cause of which I think I recognize more than many other Americans. You see, I have read Dr. Alice Miller’s “For Your Own Good,” which talks about brutalized children who are given socially acceptable targets for vilification because it was forbidden to question parents and other elders. They grow up to bigots. Most Arab governments are brutal parents. They have intentionally kept their children in poverty the way the Catholic Church kept its congregants illiterate and used the passion play for more than a thousand years to teach hate of Jesus’ brothers and sisters, with its distorted version of history. It’s important for all Americans to recognize the educational and sociological and nutritional poverty into which most of the children of the Middle East have been born and in which they have been growing to adulthood. The level of historical, academic ignorance and the mentality to blame the victim are natural products of children born into that poisonous-for-children environment. Add to it a religion that, to a great extent, forbids questioning of higher thinking on a spiritual and/or academic level. I don’t think it’s any wonder at the disparity in number of (Christian) Nobel awards given to Jews within the wide array academic fields. My heart breaks for the children born into these conditions, just as my heart bleeds for the African 6-year olds who break big rocks into little pebbles to be able to eat two meals a day. 

Another reaction I had to the op-ed is the same reaction I have when I see news films and photos of people in other countries burning American flags. I smirk. Even when I’m alone, I say out loud: “I can do that. I can burn the U.S. flag to protest a governmental act and not be imprisoned for it because I live under the U.S. Constitution that protects my right to freedom of thought and disagreeing speech. Let me see you, burner of an American flag, protest something your government does by burning your own flag and I’ll see film at 11 on your being shot on the spot or dragged away by your police.” 

Many Americans just don’t grasp the difference in environments in which we and these non-American flag-burners live. Without education about their daily lives and recognition of their abuse by their leaders, we, on both sides, are doomed to destroying the Earth’s ecosystems, one acre at a time. We who live under freedom-of-speech laws can’t build a wall high or long enough to keep them and their hate-propelled munitions on the other side. We have to use the Internet to spread the concept of exchange of ideas. 

My third reaction was to resolve to write this op-ed to make sure that, somehow, Kurosh Arianpour would became aware that photos of dead Lebanese babies with pacifiers were run in the U.S. papers as well as on local, national, and cable TV news in the United States, along with photos of dead Israeli babies with pacifiers, the latter of which I doubt are ever run in most Arabic countries. So when we talk about censorship, let’s be honest on both sides. 

Many people are aware Gold Meier said that “Arabs will make peace with Israel when they loves their children more than they hate the Jews and the State of Israel”; but are Kurosh Arianpour and others aware of what she said after that? “I can forgive you for killing my children. What I can’t forgive is your making me kill yours.” Since Arafat was a young man, enemies of Israel, have intentionally hidden munitions in families’ nurseries in hopes of the babies’ being killed. Some parents welcome those soldiers. Other parents are bullied into hosting them. Who killed the babies under whose cribs bombs are stored and next to whose cribs rockets are launched into Israel’s civilian neighborhoods with the specific purpose of having the launchers targeted while the babies are made to wait for the retaliation. 

There is currently only one state in the corner of the Middle East designated by Romans as Palestine, the State of Israel. Does Kurosh know that Arab/Moslem political and religious leaders refused a state for the Palestinian Moslems in 1947/48. Blood cousins of different faiths whose people had been in the region for what 10,000 years. There was an opportunity to live side-by-side in peace in response to Chaim Weitzman’s call that the non-Jews stay and help to make the desert bloom. Instead of the sickle, the sword was grabbed. How sad. How many children have died since the first fateful refusal of a State of Palestine? Is Kurosh allowed to ask that out loud? 

Jews were known as the Chosen People because they had a book to protect, a book, the first five sections of which are the basis of democratic law but which laws Arabic citizens either aren’t educated about or don’t comprehend because they’ve never been given the opportunity to make choices for themselves, an essential aspect of a democratic society for people who have to take responsibility for their daily decisions and governance of themselves. We have laws that aspire to equal protection and providing due process in a criminal justice system along with our civil contract and negligence laws. These are foreign concepts to most people of most of the Arabic countries. Certainly, Kurosh Arianpour is unaware of democratic political science except for the lesson received by the publication of the op-ed. 

If Kurosh Arianpour were in the US, there would be no arrest for the op-ed just as there is no arrest for the people who decided to publish the it. This is America and that is the difference between “us” and “them.” This is the biggest lesson to be taken from the publication of this hateful op-ed filled with blatant ignorance which purports to explain grounds for hate. What it clearly portrays is the impoverished life in which far too many children are born. 

I wonder whether Kurosh Arianpour is talking to anyone about the fact of the publication of the op-ed and the exchange of ideas which it precipitated. 

Is that allowed in Iran? 

C.J. Kingsley 


Wow. Too many factual errors in this one to correct in the available space. Just a couple: Iranians are not Arabs. Neither Catholics nor Moslems are illiterate. Many would disagree with most of his “history.”  





Editors, Daily Planet: 

We stand at the brink of never ending war and hate. Those who should come forward to stand against tyranny have failed to do so. 

The liberal peace movement has embraced the cause of occupation. They march together even though the occupied also advocate destruction, repression and death as legitimate tools. 

The Just moralize the destruction of the innocent and the repression of others in the name of self defense. 

We bring war and chaos to the world in the name of freedom and defeating terror. 

Where are the Martin L. Kings, the Nelson Mandelas, and the Gandhis? Where is the social outcry for peace though nonviolence? 

A man in China stands unarmed against a tank, and the world sees. A farm worker organizes and a country changes. A young student has her life crushed opposing injustice, and the world cries. 

These are the real heroes. Those who advocate and practice unrelenting non-violent social action to achieve peace and change. 

We must hold our government and ourselves accountable and stand up against all violence and hate. We must never embrace it for any reason or advantage. 

We should demand that the words “never again” be embraced by Israel’s neighbors. The peacemakers there must own this truth. And from Israel, should flow uncompromising protection of social justice for all, regardless of the cost. 

Peace and freedom of speech trump any ideology or religion. 

We are the peace makers. Who will stand up? Stop the violence, hate and injustice. 

Robert Lieber