Monthly Archives: June 2009

Anthony Lowenstein: Long Overdue Debate Taking Shape

Journalist Anthony Lowenstein has writen a good column for Haaretz documenting emerging fissures in American Jewish tolerance of Israel’s Occupation policies. It should be noted, though, that Lowenstein asks the wrong question: “Why aren’t Jews outraged by Israeli occupation?” Since Jews, like all groups of people, fall along a spectrum of political views and personality types, then of course some Jews are outraged by the Occupation and others aren’t.  A better question, and one we ask here at Muzzlewatch, is: “Why is the Occupation debate off limits in certain circles?” Lowenstein examines how that taboo is developing cracks in the face of “a global wave of Jewish unease over Israel’s future and the Diaspora’s relationship to the self-described Jewish state. It’s a debate that is long overdue.”

Daily Planet Foes: “Bleed Money, Die Broke”

The Berkeley Daily Planet is facing a malicious effort by three of its long time critics to scare away its advertisers and shut it down for good.  According to an extraordinarily detailed piece by the Planet’s Richard Brenneman,

The expressed goal, in the words of an April 21 e-mail from [anti-Planet campaign strategist John Gertz] to the Planet’s executive editor, is to make the Daily Planet “reform, or close, or bleed money until you are forced out of business or die broke.”

Gertz and his peers allege that the Daily Planet operates with a deviant foundational bias against Jews. An infamous commentary from 2006 by reader Kurosh Arianpour indeed professed a variety of idiotic beliefs about Jews, and about how communities of people function in general.  Arianpour -and in many cases, the Planet’s decision to print his piece- received widespread condemnation on the Planet’s own pages and in the broader community, even by some of the Planet’s most ardent supporters.

But Gertz and Co. know that this questionable editorial decision from three years ago would not alone merit an attack on the paper.  An important aspect of their campaign is therefore the projection of Arianpour’s views -which are about groups of people- onto readers who write letters critical of Israeli policies -and whose views are about politics.  Thanks to this type of conflation, letters which advocate policy changes (many of them, of course, written by Jews) become vicious attacks on the Jewish community, and letters written in the spirit of peace can be dismissed as perfidious lies, tainted by Arianpour’s omnipresent and sinister shadow.  The Daily Planet becomes an evil threat which must be shut down.

But this cartoonish narrative does not hold up to scrutiny.  Just as the Daily Planet publishes letters critical of Israel’s policies, it prints contributions in defense of the same policies.  These are letters from the public which the Planet prints, and they logically reflect the community’s diversity of views, including, routinely through the years, the views of Mr. Gertz.

Some letters are well-reasoned, some are poorly reasoned; but few, if any, are motivated by readers’ attitudes toward Jews.  The section for readers’ letters typically extends for several pages, and in this context resembles a real public debate. This is precisely what frightens Gertz, et. al. Public debate.  Real debate, in which all ideas can be vigorously challenged.

Why are these fearless warriors so threatened by debate? Check out the Planet’s extensive coverage of their defamatory campaign here. Learn more about who’s running it and why.  A very clear picture emerges of a coordinated right-wing effort to suppress free speech. What’s even more crucial is that the Daily Planet focuses primarily on local issues that aren’t covered anywhere else: board meetings, public safety, public schools.  And the Planet has always been available for no charge, both online and in print.  For this reason, we at Muzzlewatch urge you to take a stand and let the Daily Planet know that you support it.