Catching up on my summer reading, I was shocked to read an editorial by Kurosh Arianpour titled “Commentary: Zionist Crimes in Lebanon” in the Aug. 8 edition of the Berkeley Daily Planet. While people of good will can debate vigorously over the conflicts between Israel and her neighbors, there is no place for the sickening level of anti-Semitic discourse in Mr. Arianpour’s writing. The commentary in question is a classic example of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories that have left a stain on the conscience of the world and sadly continue to have life today. Mr. Arianpour seeks to pin the blame of the problems of Jewish people on the Jews themselves, calling them not the “Chosen People” but the “Chosen Murderers.” The hateful and theologically and historically mistaken depictions of the Jewish people Mr. Arianpour presents is a classic expression of the most virulent, and destructive brands of anti-Semitic ideology. His claims for a far-reaching, even global, conspiracy in service of Jewish interests are direct descendents of the blueprint for modern anti-Semitism, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Despite having been conclusively identified as a forgery, The Protocols have inspired both popular and state sanctioned violence and murder against Jews in Tsarist Russia and Nazi Germany. Sadly, the influence of The Protocols is found in anti-Semitic organizations and publications around the globe, from America to South Africa to Egypt, and apparently even to India, from where Mr. Arianpour hails. Although Mr. Arianpour has the right to express his views, I am deeply distressed that the editors of the Berkeley Daily Planet lacked the common sense to refuse to publish what was a patently anti-Semitic diatribe. I seriously question the decisionmaking skills of the editors and their priorities.
The language Mr. Arianpour uses and the discourses he engages in only can lead to hate and violence and death. We all have had enough of the destruction of life on all sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and we need no more fuel added to that pyre. As a progressive Christian and a professor at a seminary in Berkeley, I cannot allow the words of Mr. Arianpour to go by without comment. I refuse to participate in the silence that has too often accompanied attacks on the Jewish people. I condemn in the strongest terms the sentiments Mr. Arianpour aimed at the Jewish people. I urge instead concerted efforts by all people and nations to work together for a just and equitable world both in the Middle East and elsewhere.
Daniel Joslyn-Siemiatkoski is assistant professor of church history at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley.