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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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I am grateful for the Express! Please, don't go away.    

Laurie Umeh, Oakland

Self-Protection?

A major mouthpiece of the late lamented Planet and the author of many insensitive, fictionalized police blotter reports therein, Richard Brenneman is now heard from in the East Bay Express. In this article he stops short of spreading that sort of fiction, but the very end of the piece is indicative. Glibly saying the Planet's foes considered the paper "a potent symbol onto which they could blame their own failures" reaches for a strong or juicy closing phrase, but it's a meaningless (perhaps self-protective) assumption.

Sandy Rothman, Berkeley

Critical Doesn't Spell Anti-Semite

Well, the defenders of Zionist exceptionalism and race-based privilege in Israel have done it again. Congratulations! This time they struck another un-American blow against free speech by contributing to last month's print demise of the Berkeley Daily Planet newspaper. The Planet's crime? It was the only Bay Area newspaper with genuine balance, regularly printing readers' letters-to-the-editor that humanized Palestinians and characterized what's happening to them in Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem as "genocide."

The Planet printed such views on an equal par with the usual Arab-dehumanizing views we're one-sidedly fed every day from national news organizations, from major movie and TV studios, and from 99.9 percent of our lawmakers, who fear damn well that their re-election chances would be Berkeley Daily Planet-ed if they said publicly that Palestinians — like Israeli Jews — equally have the right to defend themselves, and if they were to vote on foreign policy accordingly.

As a US taxpayer and opponent of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, I have a huge stake in knowing how the fattest foreign recipient of US money spends my tax dollars. If this recipient were my ancestral Philippines, I'd scrutinize that country's human rights policies more passionately — and criticize it more loudly — than others. (I'm actually going there in May to be an international election observer, in the wake of last November's election-related beheadings.) But to whom has this distinction belonged, for decades? Israel. If you don't want to deserve my special criticism, stop taking the lion's share of my taxes!

Even Bay Area enablers of Palestinian genocide — whose ranks distressingly include too many Berkeley folks who have the nerve to call themselves "liberals" — have every constitutional right to their views. So do I; so do you. But what's your opinion worth if you're only getting your Mid-East information from news organizations, major movie and TV studios, and politicians who fear their bottom line will suffer if they dare to humanize Palestinians on an equal basis to Israeli Jews? I found it ironic to read Richard Brenneman's thoughtful March 3 obituary for the Planet in the East Bay Express — a newspaper that, starting September 23, 2009, regularly accepted money to print ads that promoted the notion that the Planet was "hysterical, biased, and anti-Semitic."

Am I "anti-Semitic" for writing this letter? Even though I don't feel or advocate hostility toward Jews, the Jewish religion, or culture (the definition of an anti-Semite), and even though I don't advocate the end of the Israeli state within its pre-June 1967 borders, that's exactly what activist Bay Area genocide enablers would have you believe. It used to be that "anti-Semite" meant anyone that hates Jews; somehow, today "anti-Semite" means anyone that blind defenders of Israel hate.

The way out of this genocide-enabling madness begins with more informed debate, not less. To balance out the hideous one-sidedness in America over the Mid-East debate, here are some web sites that are operated and/or supported by Jews of conscience: shovrimshtika.org, btselem.org/English/, notanotherdime.net, jewishvoiceforpeace.org, ajjp.org, jewssayno.wordpress.com/about/, and democracynow.org. These folks of conscience don't try to preserve their "liberal" credentials by safely echoing the lame genocide-enabling cop-outs, "It's just too complicated" and "There's no good solution," exactly the way phony liberals justified taking no meaningful action during the Civil Rights Movement. No, in the face of intense internal community pressure they're bravely making sure they're not on the wrong side of history. Bravo to them!

And au revoir, print version of the Berkeley Daily Planet.

Clarito Aradanas, Berkeley


"Life in the Shadows," News, 2/17

Journalism or Pandering?

Thanks a heap. The story was a superb recapitulation of a very ugly stereotype — Asians as helpless victims to those wicked black people. The blurb on the cover stated that living in "inner city" Oakland is somehow even more difficult than life in a refugee camp in Thailand. Is that so? The last time I was in Thailand (Jan. 2009) the government was finally sorting out a new constitution because the chiefs of the military had invalidated an election and the previous constitution, both with the blessings of the monarch. Also, the army and oil smugglers were busy blurring the line between politics, economics, and religion in the south because the local smugglers are mostly Muslims, so the perception is that it's an Islamic insurgency. To the east of the country, the Thai and Cambodian armies were taking pot-shots at each other over, of all things, a Buddhist Temple that lay in a disputed area of the frontier. As for the very heart of the country, there are miles and miles of shanties in downtown Bangkok, made of used two-by-fours and corrugated steel, directly under the #4 turnpike. I haven't personally visited a refugee camp, but I have a vague sense that living in a tent is in fact less desirable than living even in a hard-scrabble neighborhood of Oakland. At least here the police aren't completely corrupt, and at least here the military answers to the civilian government instead of the vice versa. At least here, the situation stands a bare chance of getting better.

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