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Letters for the Week of April 27

Readers sound off on the Israel-Palestine conflict, taxing the rich, and Oakland trees.


"The Uncivil Debate," News, 4/13

The Right to Speak Up

Well, the Bay Area defenders and enablers of Zionist exceptionalism and race-based privilege in Israel have done it again. Congratulations! This time they've once more revealed their true colors, in terms of tactics: 

Violent intimidation of Jews of conscience: i.e., recent third round of death threats, and recent third instance of house vandalism, against the prominent Berkeley Rabbi Michael Lerner, who publicly opposes the tactic of dehumanizing the colonized indigenous Palestinians as genetic Jew haters;  

Endlessly playing the victim card: i.e., arguing that past victimhood of a people morally and eternally exempts them from ever having to comply with international law, therefore justifying their state-sponsored illegal occupation over an indigenous people, their state-sponsored illegal Jewish-only settlements on legally indigenous land including East Jerusalem, and their state-sponsored illegal collective punishment of an entire indigenous civilian population as determined by the 2009 UN report of Zionist Jew Richard Goldstone (despite his recent retraction on a separate issue); and

Verbal maneuvers that are designed merely to stifle debate: because if the American news media (including the East Bay Express and reporter Judith Scherr) actually did their job and exposed the real issues — Israel's decades-long apartheid and decades-long violations of international law regarding human rights, settlements, occupation, and the Right of Return, all of which trigger terrorist retaliation — US lawmakers would finally wake up, threaten to withhold foreign aid contingent on Israel's compliance with international laws, and the conflict would be closer not to the hegemonic so-called "peace" that hawkish blind defenders of Israel claim to want, but closer to a true and lasting "just peace" for all of Israel's citizens — Jews, and their Semitic neighbors, the Palestinian Arabs.

What are these tired debate-stifling verbal maneuvers? Smearing all Gentile critics of Israeli apartheid (including South African anti-apartheid crusader Archbishop Desmond Tutu) as "anti-Semites." Smearing all Jewish critics of Israeli apartheid (including some Holocaust victims and their children) as "self-hating Jews." And, when all else fails, characterizing the very existence of any conceivable moral criticism of Israeli apartheid as inherently "one-sided," conveniently ignoring the fact that we US taxpayers have a very special and singularly unique stake in how the Number One foreign recipient of our tax dollars — Israel — spends our hard-earned money. Hey, Israel, if you don't want to deserve my special criticism, stop being the fattest taker of my taxes! I work hard for that money, I have a right to my opinion how it's spent! How dare any American try to diminish that right! 

I don't oppose Israel's existence within its legal pre-June 1967 borders. But in my opinion a country that gets away with murdering young unarmed US citizens engaged in non-violent protest like 23-year-old Rachel Corrie and 19-year-old Furkan Dogan, or that gets away with shooting tear-gas canisters into the faces of young unarmed US citizens engaged in nonviolent protest like 21-year-old Jewish-American Emily Henochowicz or Oakland resident Tristan Anderson (why didn't you mention this local man, Ms. Scherr?), doesn't deserve the Number One slot for my money. FYI, I also oppose my own country's oppression of other peoples in the Middle East, and have been an anti-war activist over the past ten years, so at least for me, the "one-sided" verbal maneuver just doesn't cut it. Sorry! Nice try. 

East Bay Express: Please be on the right side of history and write a real story about the Israel-Palestine conflict, one that actually focuses on the international law issues that the blind defenders of Israel have successfully kept hidden and incomprehensible to the American taxpayer for decades. Please be a pioneer instead of repeating the typical fearful US media capitulation to the intimidation tactics of the defenders and enablers of Zionist exceptionalism and race-based privilege in Israel. That story wouldn't be about a local soap opera called "The Uncivil Debate" (it seemed to me that only one side is behaving in an uncivil and violent way, Ms. Scherr); it would be a law-based hard news story about "An Uncivil US Ally."

Concerned Americans: Get past the smokescreen and check out web sites of American Jews of conscience (Jewish Voice for Peace, Democracy Now), other Americans of conscience (, and the peaceful nonviolent BDS Movement which successfully blocked an Israeli commercial ship from unloading in Oakland in 2010 with the help of organized labor and people of color.

I'd like to close with a May 9, 2007, quote by Oxford professor Avi Shlaim, a Jew and former member of the Israeli Defense Forces:

"We must be very careful to separate questions of anti-Semitism from critique of Israel.  I'm critical of Israel as a scholar, and anti-Semitism just doesn't come into it. And my view is that the blind supporters of Israel — and there are many of them in America in particular — use the charge of 'anti-Semitism' to try and silence legitimate criticism of Israeli practices. I regard this as moral blackmail. Israel has no moral immunity to criticism because of the Holocaust. Israel is a sovereign nation-state, and it should be judged by the same standards as any other state."

Clarito Aradanas, Berkeley

No Room for Criticism

Perhaps the most relevant aspect of the article is the fact that it uses the words "Jew" and "Jewish" profusely, which means that the author must be a Jew for if anybody else uses these words the accusation of anti-Semitism immediately follows.

I've paraded at many demonstrations with my sign reading "Smash the Jewish State" and, in a smaller square, "It's the Jews, Stupid." This sign drives crazy the so-called "progressive" Jews, not to mention the fascist Jews. They immediately come to me in an aggressive manner. My first question to them is, "Are you here to support the Palestinian people or to defend the Jewish State?"

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