For Whom This Bell Tolls

By Becky O'Malley
Tuesday May 11, 2010 - 11:22:00 AM

Anyone who’s interested in the truth had better read the latest discharge from the seemingly bottomless sewer which calls itself FLAME ( “Facts and Logic About the Middle East”). Prudence would suggest that we should just ignore this garbage, but the serious accusations that the author makes which sully the good name of the Jewish community of the Bay Area can’t go unchallenged. 

Jim Sinkinson, the author of the diatribe reproduced on this web site , claims credit for depriving the people of Berkeley of the print edition of the Berkeley Daily Planet, a dubious distinction which he freely shares with John Gertz, not named, but the putative proprietor of the slimy dpwatch.com web site which is mentioned. That’s bad enough, but the outrageous libel Sinkinson adds is this: thanks for“the encouragement by members of our local Jewish community, most of whom overwhelmingly supported our efforts.”  

This is simply a lie. It is grossly unfair to blame most of the Jews of the Bay Area for his own vicious behavior, when many of them to their eternal credit rose to defend the Planet from the attacks of Sinkinson, Gertz and their colleague Dan Spitzer. Even today, I can’t go to any public gathering in Berkeley without some Jewish person making a point of coming up to me and apologizing for the behavior of this unholy trinity. We appreciate the support, but no one should ever think for one minute that Jews as a group are to be blamed for our financial difficulties.  

That honor actually goes to our crooked payroll preparer, whose disgruntled former employees have told us he is an adherent of some sort of peculiar Christian sect in the Phillipines. (And while we’re on the subject of religious charges by disgruntled employees, one of Sinkinson’s former employees told us that he was originally a evangelical Christian fundamentalist who converted to Judaism, but we have no proof of that allegation.) 

Sinkison’s latest attack on the Planet in today’s posting is used as fodder for an unashamed fundraising pitch: 

“ If you agree that FLAME's outspoken brand of public relations on Israel's behalf is critical, I urge you to support us. I hope you'll consider giving a donation now, as you're able---with $500, $250, $100, or even $18. (Remember, your donation to FLAME is tax deductible.) To donate online, just go to http://www.factsandlogic.org/make_a_donation.html. Now more than ever we need your support to ensure that Israel gets the support it needs---from the U.S. Congress, from President Obama, and from the American people.”

That’s the story in a nutshell: Sinkinson and his cronies at FLAME are playing on the very real anxieties of people concerned about Israel to line their own pockets. He’s asking for money to support his operation and he admits that whatever he doesn’t skim off for himself will be used to lobby Congress and the President. And it’s even tax deductible ? Something’s badly wrong with this picture.  

Sinkinson does make one claim in this letter which would be easily verifiable, if he could in fact verify it. He says that “Our concerted campaign against the Planet's anti-Semitism lasted about a year, and we convinced at least a dozen—virtually all—of its largest advertisers to cease spending with the paper.”  

Who were these advertisers? Can Sinkinson provide a list of them, so that concerned citizens might inquire? Or perhaps so that anyone who doesn’t agree with their political decisions could have an equal opportunity to shop elsewhere? We’ll eagerly await publication of the list. 

We’re tired, desperately tired, of this whole topic. But we’re encouraged by the many voices, both Jewish and non-Jewish, which have just in the last couple of months spoken up for an honest look at what the government of Israel is doing. We’re proud of the students at UC Berkeley who have put the topic on the table for the first time—of those students, faculty and friends, on all sides of the question, who were able to start a much-needed discussion in a civil and respectful way. Those who supported pulling back investment funds from arms suppliers lost this round, but they’ll be back.  

We’re proud that we’ve been able to publish statements from various points of view, both pro and con the divestment campaign. 

.It’s not our fight, really, except as enunciated by John Donne in our own tradition: ” any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde”.; All people of good will need to be concerned about the fate of the Palestinians in Israel, as well as about the fate of the Israelis of Jewish origin. Jackals like Sinkinson, feeding on the misery which this longstanding conflict has inflicted on both sides, are a disgrace to any cause which they claim to be supporting.