ATTACKS ON THE PLANET
Editors, Daily Planet:
Mr. John Gertz describes himself in the Daily Planet as a “left-wing Zionist.” I myself was a left-wing Zionist a long time ago until I became aware of the policies of the Israeli government, which former President Jimmy Carter correctly calls apartheid. Is Carter an anti-Semite? With the Likud Party—the successor of the Fascist Revisionists—in control there is little hope for an equitable solution, unless more pressure is applied by the Obama administration. I also read that Mr. Jim Sinkinson is a director of FLAME, a despicable anti-Islam and anti-Catholic hate group. These gentlemen go to the extreme in their attack against our newspaper by sending out messengers to issue warnings against advertising in the paper or “face consequences,” a technique familiar from Cosa Nostra’s protection racket.
Certainly, it is no more anti-Semitic to speak out against Israel’s attack against Gaza than it is anti-American to raise our voices against the Bush attack on Iraq and get these views published in the Daily Planet.
IN DEFENSE OF THE PLANET
Editors, Daily Planet:
I congratulate the Berkeley Daily Planet on your continued defense of the principle of having the paper be an open forum. An ad hoc group of East Bay Jews will be placing an ad in the Daily Planet in support of the paper and the rights of the Palestinian people. Anyone who would like to support or endorse this effort, please go to www.notanotherdime.net and make e-mail contact using “Daily Planet ad” in the subject line.
EAST BAY RABBIS
Editors, Daily Planet:
We, the 40 East Bay rabbis who are members of the East Bay Council of Rabbis and serve the local Jewish community, support freedom of the press. We also support good journalism. We believe that coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be fair and honest. The Daily Planet has a right to publish its views and the views of its readers. Those who disagree have the same right. Those who have voiced their opposition to the Daily Planet’s coverage are entitled to speak and be heard. It is not accurate to label everyone who has disagreed with positions expressed in the Planet as militant right-wingers. Critics of views expressed in the Daily Planet come from a number of political perspectives. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is complex, and as rabbis who come from a variety of perspectives, we encourage people to explore many sources in learning about this important issue.
The overwhelming majority of the members of the Jewish community of the East Bay, the people we serve and represent, and of the citizens of the United States, support both Israel and the peace process. Many in the Jewish community have been vocal opponents of some Israeli government policies and are part of the community’s dialogue. The Jewish community does not censor criticism of Israel and neither its leadership nor its designated representatives are engaged in a campaign against the Daily Planet. We decry any efforts by anyone who would stifle the flow of information.
At times criticism of Israeli government policies and actions has crossed over into classically anti-Semitic expression when it targets Jewishness itself as a blameworthy status—as did the Kurosh Arianpour commentary the Daily Planet printed some years back. Disseminating hate speech against any ethnic or religious group, while it may be constitutionally legal, is not acceptable when allowed to stand on its own in a community paper and given the appearance of reasonable discourse. Hate speech against any group is unacceptable; in the same vein we would expect that the Planet would refrain from printing racist or homophobic material. The claim of freedom of the press does not excuse journalists from meeting the standards of civil discourse.
Rabbi Andrea Berlin
On behalf of the East Bay Council
NOT IN MY NAME
Editors, Daily Planet:
About six months ago, a Berkeley merchant I know told me that a man named Daniel Spitzer came into her workplace. He threatened her with the loss of his business, as well as a boycott of her establishment by members of the Jewish community, unless she stopped advertising in the Berkeley Daily Planet. Since I am Jewish, she asked if I’d ever heard of this man and if I thought that other Jews would participate in such a boycott. I responded that I had never heard of Spitzer, and I’d be surprised if he spoke for many people at all. I didn’t believe—and I still don’t believe—that most Jews would want the Planet or any other newspaper to censor reader commentaries or letters that are critical of Israel. So I advised my friend to ignore Spitzer. Her establishment continues to advertise in the Planet and has not lost customers as a result. Despite the threats, I expect that the same is true for many other local businesses.
I am grateful for the Planet’s excellent coverage of local issues and the open forum that allows readers to voice a wide range of opinions. For this reason, the Planet is the only newspaper that I read in hard copy. If a business doesn’t advertise in the Planet, then I won’t see its promotions. Now that John Gertz, Jim Sinkinson, and Daniel Spitzer have made it their mission to deprive readers of this valued resource, I take it personally, and I go out of my way to patronize businesses that advertise in the Planet.
Furthermore, I cannot remain silent after reading the venomous rhetoric that these men direct towards the Planet’s executive editor, Becky O’Malley.
Ms. O’Malley is one of the most ethical people I know. The suggestion that she might be an anti-Semite is so far from the truth that it casts doubt on the veracity of anything else that Gertz, Sinkinson, and Spitzer might say. Additional questions about their credibility are raised by the pretense that they represent the Jewish community. They do not.
Gertz, Sinkinson, and Spitzer have the right to speak for themselves, but it’s cowardly to hide behind the Jewish community and tarnish other Jews as accomplices in their hateful vendetta. Maybe I have a higher opinion of Jewish people than Gertz, Sinkinson, and Spitzer do, but I don’t think that most of us are thoughtless enough to follow a few self-appointed leaders with distinctively non-Jewish values. I wouldn’t be surprised if many Jews feel as I do, that Gertz, Sinkinson, and Spitzer are an embarrassment to the Jewish community—a community that has devoted considerable literature and study to our responsibilities towards other human beings. I would hope that Gertz, Sinkinson, and Spitzer would stop their despicable conduct, but until they do, I say, “not in my name.”
DISAGREE WITH PLANET
Editors, Daily Planet:
I have been following the ongoing “campaign to destroy the DP” with much interest and strongly disagree with the Planet’s editorial position and the opinions of most of the letters the Planet chooses to publish.
You state that you publish all letters, even if you disagree with their content because you promote free speech. Excuse me? I think not. You have repeatedly published hateful letters and opinion pieces from a number of writers, most notably Arianpour, the Iranian writer living in India (local? Not!) who wrote “The Jews got what they deserved in the Holocaust.”
But you refused to re-publish the Danish cartoons critical of Islam because it was not local. You wrote that, “We have not received or printed a single letter attacking the Jewish religion.” Are you kidding? That would be funny if it weren’t so tragically and repulsively false.
Your most recent censorship is your refusal to publish any more letters from Jim Sinkinson and John Gertz, writing... “(They) also sent letters to the Planet that contain further expressions of their opinions about the paper and the story about their campaign to shut it down. Upon reflection we have decided not to provide any more free space in our opinion pages for those whose expressed intention is to destroy the forum we provide. They may, if they wish, purchase advertising space to advance their opinions.”
So, your position about publishing letters is that there is no end to the number of hate mail that is acceptable to publish that advocates the destruction of the Jewish state, untruths about Sinkinson and Gertz that call them Zio-cons, but Sinkinson and Gertz have to pay if they want their opinions known. Free Speech Berkeley style. Tolerant only of those who agree with you. Shame on you, Daily Planet.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Kurosh Arianpour was a Berkeley resident before moving to India.
John Gertz has provided the paper with only one substantive fact to correct, namely that he didn’t accurately express himself on laws governing Israeli citizenship.
Mr. Sinkinson and Mr. Spitzer both were given a chance to speak to the Planet for the article and refused to be interviewed.
Sinkinson followed with a letter riddled with claims of errors in the Planet’s reporting. He complains the paper didn’t mention the name of his organization, though it did, at the tail end of the section about him (Page 23 in the print edition).
He claims the financial numbers quoted in the story do not match up with the numbers on his own website, which is true. But Sinkinson’s numbers do not constitute legal public record. Our source does: the 990 forms filed with the Internal Revenue Service and signed under penalty of perjury.
Mr. Sinkinson says he is a publisher, not a publicist. His May 17-19 “Media Relations Summit” in New York is subtitled “Expanding the Value of PR in the Digital Age.” We’ll let the reader decide.
Mr. Sinkinson claims the story says he’s a right-wing Zionist, possibly a Likud party member. The article states that Sinkinson, Gertz and Spitzer are critical of those who criticize Israel or the political goals of that nation, which are often associated with the Likud party. But OK; we’ll concede that the sentence was badly written. We have no knowledge of Sinkinson’s politics and can only judge by his writings and by his campaign to close down a public forum in which others express views different from his own.
Sinkinson’s letter continues with a defense of FLAME and of Rev. John Hagee, accusing the Planet of distorting the record and not giving them their due.
Editors, Daily Planet:
My favorite Jews in history include Noam Chomsky, Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Emma Goldman, Rosa Luxemburg, Karl Marx, I.F. Stone and Howard Zinn.
The three sicko thugs who are trying to destroy the Daily Planet by any means necessary are not included among that august number.
MY FRIEND, DAN SPITZER
Editors, Daily Planet:
I have to question the journalistic ethics of Planet reporter Richard Brenneman’s attempt to smear someone I have known and respected for 30 years, Dan Spitzer. I was his landlord for over 20 years following his return to Berkeley. Dr. Spitzer (he does indeed hold a Ph.D. in history from the University of Michigan) is an accomplished journalist and author, and I’ve read and admired much of his work over the years.
It’s true that Spitzer has revealed to advertisers the Planet’s obsession with demonizing Israel in its editorials, op-eds and letters. He has every right to do that, in exercise of his freedom of speech. And while it’s OK for Brenneman to discuss such endeavors, it is quite below the belt to highlight some financial difficulties Spitzer experienced many years ago. Many Americans are now going through similar problems and while there clearly is no shame in it, why would Brenneman even bring such matters up? What does this have to do with Dan and his critical response to the Daily Planet?
Additionally, with absolutely no connection to Spitzer’s criticism of the paper, Brenneman cites a letter Spitzer wrote to the Chronicle concerning the burgeoning plight of teenagers having kids, a terrible problem both for them and our society at large. Because Brenneman wished to paint Dan as a strident right-winger, he truncated the letter to make it seem like Spitzer was placing the onus on the teenage mothers a la some American conservatives.
It is a frequent practice for the editorial staff of the Daily Planet to label their critics “conservative extremists” or “Zion-cons.” The very notion that Spitzer—or any concerned, informed supporter of Israel – is a conservative of any stripe is laughable. Since I’ve known Dan, he has been involved in civil rights struggles as well as support for education and immigrants’ rights. It can reasonably be said that Spitzer, on most issues, remains to the left of the Democratic Party, as do many supporters of Israel. And while he is indeed a supporter, he does favor a two state solution and does not believe Israel should maintain most of its West Bank settlements. This is not exactly the perspective of a “Zion-Con,” yet the Planet and its Israeli bashing op-ed parrots like Mark Sapir, Jim Harris, and Joanna Graham conveniently brush aside anyone who shows support for Israel as being in this alleged Neanderthal camp.
To portray Spitzer further in a negative light, Brenneman quotes Art Goldberg, someone who simply holds personal antipathy toward Dr. Spitzer. If journalists were to cite criticism based solely upon the opinion of someone whose friendship with the subject has deteriorated, we would find little real analysis of substance in our newspapers.
Brenneman and the Planet stoop pretty low to discredit Spitzer via his past economic plight, a significantly edited letter he had published in another paper, and the opinion of someone who doesn’t like him personally. But then again, this attempted defamation reflects the integrity and quality seen so regularly in the Daily Planet.
Finally, I have read many of the numerous pieces Dr. Spitzer has had published on politics, culture and environmental issues. He also wrote or co-authored nine travel guide books, and traveled to many remote regions of the world long before they became tourist destinations. The reason Brenneman couldn’t find many recent listings is no surprise: Spitzer has been editing books for much of the past decade. Of course, given the quality of the newspaper where he works, it is no shock that Brenneman may not correlate editing with journalism and creative writing, as he probably finds precious little evidence of either at the Daily Planet.