Public Comment

Commentary: Don’t Assume He’s Pro-Israel

By Joel Tranter
Tuesday May 22, 2007

I should disclose up front that I do not generally agree with the points of view of the Daily Planet’s editorials. I find many of the editorials offensive, frankly. I was not surprised, therefore, as I read through the May 18 editorial (“Rude, Crude and in Your Face”), to find myself thinking: “What planet is Mrs. O’Malley living on?”  

For example: “The British (my own ancestors) have always counted a fair number of bigots among their number ... .” The qualification that the British are Mrs. O’Malley’s “own ancestors” does not excuse the ignorance or offensiveness of that comment. First of all, unless she is British, she does not have the authority to make such a comment. Second, even if she were British, it’s an ignorant comment. Putting aside the definition of “a fair number,” I’m reasonably certain you could say the same thing of any group. Berkeley residents, to name but one, not to mention every nation on the planet. (No offense intended to the planet’s other nations.)  

Then there was this: “People my age with white Anglo-Saxon Protestant names like my birth name grew up hearing disparaging references to all kinds of people, Jews and ‘Ay-rabs’ among them, often lumped together, with African-Americans called by a name too rude to repeat here.” Once again, I am at a loss about where to begin. First of all, why not leave it at “I grew up hearing disparaging references about various ethnic, religious and racial minorities”? I think most of us can guess which groups she is referring to. Why inflame the situation by repeating the specific disparaging comments, eg, “Ay-rabs,” instead of saying that she heard disparaging comments about Arabs? Why try to be obsequious, eg, by referencing “a name too rude to repeat here,” instead of saying that people used the N-word?  

Beyond all that, I would point out that everyone of her age grew up hearing these disparaging references, most importantly, the people about whom the disparaging references were made. Does the fact that she heard the disparaging references somehow create solidarity between her and the folks to whom the references were directed? I note, by the way, that she did not include people with white Anglo-Saxon Protestant names among those who were referred to disparagingly. And who was making these comments, anyway? Was this her coy way of saying that people her age with white Anglo-Saxon Protestant names grew up in families that made these disparaging references? If so, why not just say so?  

As offensive as I found all of this, I would probably have shrugged, said “there she goes again,” and moved on, had it not been for the editorial’s final sentence: “Uncivilized behavior, whether or not it’s legal, is not good PR for either Israel or bicylists.”  

What?! That’s funny, I thought, I don’t remember anything in the editorial about Israel. Sure, she discussed Critical Mass, so I understand the reference to bicyclists, but Israel? And she referenced Jews when she spoke about the disparaged minority groups of her youth, although of course we know that Jews and Israel are not one and the same. Then I re-read the piece and found the word “Zionists,” which was used incidentally in a somewhat ranting letter from Peace and Justice Commissioner Jonathan Wornick that she quoted. But that was it. There were no references to the State of Israel in the entire editorial.  

Please correct me if I am wrong, but I believe I have found the connection. Mrs. O’Malley cited the “appalling anti-Islam video” that Mr. Wornick circulated to his commission. I just watched the video. It is indeed offensive. Mrs. O’Malley then tells us, towards the end of the editorial, that Mr. Wornick is “doing harm to” the cause that he “claim[s] to espouse." She doesn’t say what this cause is, but, two sentences later comes the comment about Israel. So that’s it, then. Mr. Wornick must be “pro-Israel,” to use that offensive phrase. But where is the evidence?  

According to an article in the same edition of the Planet, Mr. Wornick forwarded the video “in an honest attempt to bring dialogue.” I’ll admit that I don’t see how viewing this video could bring any useful dialogue, but that’s not my point. Let’s say, only for the sake of argument, that Mr. Wornick explicitly said he was forwarding the video to remind people that Muslims are bad people, and Muslims hate Israel, and that everyone should therefore support Israel. He didn’t, but let’s say that he did. I’d say that was “pro-Israel.” I’d also say it was bad PR . . . for Mr. Wornick. Why, though, would it be bad PR for Israel? As far as I know, Mr. Wornick is not an official of the Israeli government, nor an official spokesman for Israel. He is a private citizen who happens to be Jewish. Apparently Mrs. O’Malley and the Planet need reminding that not everything that a Jewish person does is automatically attributed to and associated with Israel. It strikes me as the height of hypocrisy for you to decry the “disparaging references” about other people that you heard as a child, then to make your own disparaging reference by lumping together one particular Jewish person and all of “Israel.” I would love to hear your explanation. And yes—before you make an offensive insinuation—I am Jewish.  


Joel Tranter is a Berkeley resident.