Letters for the week of June 23-29, 2004 

Thoughts about the El Cerrito mural, Boots Riley sets the record straight, victims of traffic court compare notes, and more on anti-Semitism at Cal.

Page 4 of 5

All militance is not equal
Certainly there is anti-Semitism here and in Europe. That being said, militant Islam is hardly the cup of tea of any progressive I have ever met; it is the complete opposite of tolerance, logic, and compassion. As are militant Judaism, militant Catholicism, and militant any religion. But, rhetoric aside, does anyone really think we will adopt Sharia law in the West, let alone the US? We are a hell of a lot closer to adopting the militant Christian antichoice, prayer-in-the-schools, antifeminist, antigay agenda. Just listen to our current president. So why spend all the time in the article quoting the nonsensical rhetoric of the "Liberation Through Islam" conference? Even the attendees, according to your article, paid its excesses little attention.
Mal Burnstein, Berkeley

A failed gambit
Curious. For years, there was zero tolerance at UC Berkeley for discussion of the rights of the Palestinians. And now, when, after years of silencing, the rights of the Palestinian people are openly supported and Israel is openly criticized, UC has lost its reputation for tolerance - or so your article claims. Such ironies are not unfamiliar to those of us who have struggled to put the horrors of Israel's occupation on the agenda of the progressive movement. Israel's violence is always a response to terrorism, never the vicious means to an illegal end. Israel, the occupier, is the perpetual victim, and the Palestinians, the occupied, are the perpetual victimizers. All criticism of Israel is anti-Semitism. Thank goodness that gambit is losing its effectiveness.
Osha Neumann, Berkeley

The big game
Having attended the Daniel Pipes lecture, it was one of the most frightening experiences of my life. The large number of Muslim Arab students who were initially in the audience and who later waited for us outside to mock and jeer were of such a cruel and vicious nature - you could cut the hatred with a knife. I also attended a Pipes lecture at Stanford, and the Muslim Arab students there behaved in a civilized manner, posed questions, but never threatened or jeered or clicked their noisemakers.
Barbara Mortkowitz, San Jose

A chill in the movement
I'm against the war in Iraq and I'm also against the continued occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. I support a free, independent Palestinian state. Despite this, I've been feeling more and more alienated and unwelcome in various leftist movements, particularly the antiwar movement, due to this kind of anti-Semitism rearing its ugly head. You see, I believe Israel has a right to exist. That alone means that I'm called racist, colonialist, imperialist, and so forth. The Bay Area becomes a very scary place for Jews when Zionism becomes a dirty word, "Jew" is an insult, and the only tolerable Jews to the modern left are those who don't look, speak, or act Jewish. It truly saddens me to think that my Jewish and proud boyfriend is afraid to wear his Star of David around his neck in Berkeley. This is the Bay Area - it's ridiculous that we have to face this kind of Jew-hating here of all places in this day and age.
Sarah Dealy, Oakland

I smell a cat
Anneli Rufus' piece on Mideast politics at UCB is simple-minded to the point of caricature. Why are we readers supposed to view the Palestine conflict through the lens of a Beverly Hills high school graduate who came to Berkeley and found out that not everyone shares his benign view of the State of Israel? Gee, welcome to the real world, pal. It doesn't take rocket science to realize that an entire people thrown out of their land are going to view the dispossessors and those who bankroll them (US) with hatred. Frankly, the left liberal overuse of "anti-Semitism" and "racism" is parallel to the right's "communist" and "pinko" cards. It has become, like patriotism, the last refuge of the scoundrel. The Express has done some excellent reporting over the years, but this piece is not one of those. It reminds me of your inferior sister publication across the bay. I smell the pawprints of Phoenix corporate here.
Michael P. Hardesty, Oakland

The big lie
Every generation produces its movements with reasons for hating and killing Jews. At its core, each of these anti-Semitic movements is fueled by a Big Lie, a falsehood so audacious that its frequent repetition causes some to believe it must be true. The Big Lie in Nazi Germany was that Jews were destroying the economy. The Big Lie of our time is that Jews stole the land of Palestine from the Palestinians.

Big Lies give rise to cultures of hatred and victimization. They are used to justify uncontrollable rage, and eventually to rationalize the most unconscionable acts of violence, whether it be a gas chamber or the blowing up of school buses. But what is truly surprising is that today's anti-Semitic movements have been embraced by people who consider themselves to be progressive, tolerant, and nonviolent. If there is one lesson to be learned from this, it is one that we should have learned from Nazi Germany: Hatred can thrive when it is considered politically correct.
Gene Chamson, Oakland

Not much has changed
I've learned not to expect any real journalism from the Express since it became corporate, but the article "The Bitter Education of Micki Weinberg" was especially sensationalistic. It was completely disingenuous to bemoan poor Weinberg's disappointment in not finding UC Berkeley a bastion of free speech. Remember, the Free Speech Movement was a response to the lack of any voice supporting the Vietnamese freedom fighters. Sounds like not much has changed, doesn't it?
Gina Shepard, Alameda

Judaism is reactionary
Jews keep on beating the drums of the Holocaust to silence the noise of Apache helicopters, tanks, machine guns, and Caterpillar bulldozers involved in killing Palestinian men, women, and children and destroying their homes. Jews continue to claim the underdog status while holding both seats in the US Senate for California, writing most of the opinion pages in major newspapers, and on and on. They also want to control both sides of the discourse: They speak for the state of Israel and they speak for the Palestinians (KPFA, MEChA, Jewish Voice for Peace, etc.). Anybody else who ventures a critical opinion is immediately labeled "anti-Semite."

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