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Letters for March 24

Readers sound off on our profile of Dr. Assad, Berkeley Daily Planet reporter Richard Brenneman, and Burmese refugees.

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He accuses me of "demonizing" Israel and American Zionists on my blog. If that's the case, Gertz has more than demonized me. My concerns are with the policies of the Israeli government. That doesn't make me a "demonizer" of Israel any more than my criticism of the Vietnam War made me a demonizer of the United States.

I never said John was a Republican, though he has given money to Republican candidates known for their strong support of Israel. Consider Wally Herger, a Republican congressional representative from up north. Why does Gertz, a "liberal," support an incumbent who thinks a public option health care plan is a threat to democracy (see http://www.mtshastanews.com/news/x769902147/Congressman-Herger-calls-Obama-plan-threat-to-democracy)? Just throw his name plus "Israel" into Google and the answer is apparent.

I used the term "Ziocon" to describe the critics because their aims regarding the shaping of America's foreign policy in the Mideast differ not in the slightest from those of the Neocons.

And a call to do him violence? I published his business address, just as the Planet's business address is published, and just as my own home address is freely available to anyone who wants it. And the "thinly veiled call to do violence?" That implies a criminal conspiracy and is libelous on its face. There was no such intent, but the truth seems to matter little to John Gertz, who has demonstrated his willingness to say anything in support of his cause. And my "radical minions? Sorry, but I don't have any minions, radical or otherwise.

And the eight articles he mentioned, which appeared in the June 4, 2009, issue of the Daily Planet (http://www.berkeleydailyPlanet.com/issue/2009-06-04) were all written by me alone. A separate editorial was written by Becky.

I was never Becky's hatchet man. And Mr. Sinkinson is the man who made "blatantly ad hominem attacks" in his letters to the advertisers about me, accusing me of omitting facts which were right there in the articles I had written. (See here for details: http://www.berkeleydailyPlanet.com/issue/2009-08-06/article/33470). And cowardly? Really. But, oh wait, isn't that an ad hominem attack?

As for Mr. Spitzer, it's hard to know where to begin. While he impugns my journalistic integrity and implies I left every previous employer of journalistic misdeeds, I've been given job recommendations from every newspaper where I've ever worked. I've also won awards from the State Bar of California, the American Bar Association, the California Newspaper Publishers Association, the Nevada State Press Association, the Greater Los Angeles Press Club (then the nation's largest), and other organizations.

And the blog post he labels "repugnant fiction" is historically accurate, which is why he applies a broad brush about my "unveiled biases." I oppose the violent eviction of people from their homes, whether it's done by G.I.s in Vietnam or by the IDF in the West Bank. I apply no criticism to Israel that I don't apply to my own country. As for the Red-baiting, sheesh. And I'm no Mel Gibson, either; if so, I could afford to have my teeth fixed. Oh, and just for the record, I've never worked for a paper that fact-checks in the way magazines do (and, among other papers, I've worked for the Sacramento Bee and the Las Vegas Review-Journal).

The accusation of lies and "venemous smears against Israel and, correspondingly Jews" may be actionable libel, and by lumping me in with Mel Gibson, he's effectively labeled me an anti-Semite — which would come as a great surprise to my Jewish ex-wives and my two Jewish daughters, who seem think their old man's a bit of alright.

But the accusation of antisemitism is easy to hurl, and done with hope that it sticks.

And Spitzer's visits to advertisers? He just didn't point to articles. He told merchants that if they continued, they'd be boycotted. Or so at least three merchants he visited have told me and cited as the reason they dropped their ads.

For my stories for the Planet on their campaign, I made calls to all three individuals, seeking interviews. Only Gertz accepted.

All three critics neglect to mention that many if not most of the criticisms of Israel published in the paper were written by fellow Jews.

Sinkinson has repeatedly claimed in his mailings that letters to the editor and reader-submitted op-ed pieces critical of Israel were "editorials." They were not, and as a publicist for one pro-Israel lobby (FLAME), he knows that quite well.

I did not agree with the paper in the matter of publishing the two letters which could be considered antisemitic. But I saw them after the fact, and I had no role in shaping editorial policy, as my article made clear.

There was much about the Planet's news policies I disagreed with, which was stated in the article. But the paper did provide the base for some very solid reporting along the way. I stand by the journalism I did for the paper, including the articles I wrote about its critics. My article for the East Bay Express was, as clearly stated, a personal reflection, and I stand by it.

Sad to See It Downsize

I, too, am very sad to see this and other papers disappear or downsize although I was not a regular reader of the Berkeley Daily Planet. I was grateful for the paper's coverage of some Oakland issues (I live in Oakland). I thought the article was well balanced. 

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