Public Comment

Commentary: Sunshine is the Best Antidote for Bigotry

By Zoia Horn
Friday September 08, 2006

My profound respect and admiration for Executive Editor Becky O’Malley for opening wide a door for so many people to speak up, write letters, discuss important controversial subjects some of which rarely are touched upon, let alone, discussed. She has shown her commitment to the First Amendment of the Constitution and its protection of freedom of speech and the press.  

Criticism and dissent are essential elements of those freedoms. They provide opinions, facts and analyses on difficult, often, sensitive, uncomfortable subjects. In the 8/8–10/06 edition of the Planet, two letters appeared next to each other: one lambasted Editor Becky O’Malley for publishing an editorial that was critical of Israel’s attacks on Lebanon, a second one, a vituperative letter against “Zionist crimes in Lebanon.” Both were angry and nasty. 

Howard Glickman vented his anger against O’Malley, accusing her of being “viciously slanted” toward “murderers and terrorists” who would “destroy a sovereign state and its inhabitants.” In his estimation she has joined the “Arab-European ‘blame Israel first’ school of journalism.”  

It is difficult to accept the boundless defense of Israel as an innocent, when that country has the fourth most powerful military in the world, is a nuclear power, and has now invaded and occupied part of Lebanon for the second time, the first time for 18 years before it “pulled out” because of a UN Resolution #1559. The comparative numbers of Israelis and Lebanese killed and wounded also show the enormous disparity of military power. But the issue the letter seems to limit itself to is O’Malley’s editorial criticizing Israel. Information, criticism and discussion/debate is essential to the maintenance of a democratic society. Although Mr. Glickman does not use the anti-Semite epithet in his letter, others have in the letters that followed thus making criticism of Israel an anti-Semitic act. No nation should have that kind of immunity. 

Mr.Kurosh Arianpour’s target for his anger is much larger in scope. He decries the meager reporting of the protests and demonstrations against the “genocide of civilians and children ... committed in Lebanon,” He believes that the U.S. has been complicit in Israel’s actions, having supplied military aid and voted “full support of the Zionist regime and killing of more Lebanese civilians” (his words). He then blames Jewish people for their history as victims of dicrimination, enslavement, genocide because of their claim to be the “Chosen people.” That for him explains the anti-Semitism that followed whether from actions or attitudes. 

Arianpour’s letter was like a dive into ice-cold water. He was baldly arguing his historical explanation and justification for anti-Semitism! I suddenly realized with shock that this was the first time I had read such a viewpoint in the press. There are many people who harbor such attitudes, but after the horrors of the Holocaust, the pogroms and other milder discriminations, the world has denounced such vicious, unreasonable behavior. But, why this hatred? Unless we understand the “why’s” of such behavior and explore its sources we will continue to walk the treadmill.  

I question and decry the rationale offered by Arianpour, but, as a librarian committed to people’s right to know, to read, to speak, to discuss and to ask “Why” as well as “What” in all subjects, I commend Editor O’Malley for providing the opportunity to read a straight “in your face” piece on a subject that is deplored, but not explored 


Zoia Horn is an Oakland resident.