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 3 of 5

Fed up
I was ticketed by Berkeley police on March 6. My date to appear was April 10, and despite two personal visits, many calls, and several online inquiries, there was no information available. I eventually spoke to a human who informed me that "it's not in the system and therefore it doesn't exist." I thought "Hallelujah, I got lucky for once!" and assumed they lost my ticket. Chapter two: I received a courtesy notice in late April and it said I was now in the system as of April 23 and my new date to appear was May 24. Huge bummer. I went online and there it was. I applied for the extension period to see if there was any other recourse. Then I read Kara's article and the experiences of the other people she recounted were just that, or worse. Is there a good lawyer out there who wants to lead this class-action lawsuit with me? If not, I guess I'll just pay the fine and begin planning my move out of California. I've had it.
Javier Lopez, Point Richmond

"Berkeley Intifada," Feature, 5/19

A movement's ugly side
I am a 23-year-old red-blooded American Jew, indoctrinated throughout my upbringing on the importance and significance of Israel to me personally and to the Jewish people. I am also a 23-year-old political progressive who has been active in antiwar, anticorporate globalization, and antiracist activism. I consider my politics to be left-leaning in almost all aspects, but I find myself frustrated time and again by the closed-mindedness of supposedly forward-thinking activist communities when it comes to Israel and Palestine. Rufus' article dispels the myth of the paranoia of anti-Semitism. Despite the claim by many pro-Palestine activists that "anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism," Rufus blatantly describes the indisputable rise of anti-Semitic activity. It is printed in black and white why I end up feeling isolated from a community that is unwilling to even acknowledge that a cinderblock thrown through the Hillel window saying "Fuck Jews" is anti-Semitic and disturbing. Just as I try to challenge my family to be critical of Israel, I would like to challenge self-righteous activists to be thoughtful and critical of anti-Israel rhetoric, which can easily slip into anti-Semitism. Cheers to Rufus for exposing an ugly side of a supposedly noble movement.
Rebecca Poretsky, Oakland

Free speech isn't pretty
More than a taint of suspicion attaches to your reasons for publishing "The Bitter Education of Micki Weinberg." I trust it was merely an accident that Tikkun ran an ad opposite the contents page of that issue. It does Tikkun - a progressive force long needed in the Jewish community - no credit to be seen in the context of such a dishonorable hit piece on those who dare to challenge the special relationship between the United States and the State of Israel. No Arab-American group in this area could have afforded such a spread.
Garrett Lambrev, Oakland

Stunningly one-sided
Ms. Rufus fails to note that these ugly phenomena cut both ways. For every slur hurled at a Jew, there is one hurled at a Muslim. For every spitting pro-Palestinian, there is a spitting pro-Israeli (I have seen it). For every anti-Semitic speaker, there is an anti-Arab Jewish speaker. No side has the moral high ground in this sad spectacle. Ms. Rufus goes to great length in detailing anti-Semitic incidents without mentioning the flood of abuses heaped on Muslims after 9/11. When talking about the Center of Middle Eastern Studies, Ms. Rufus cannot cite any actual improper conduct, but instead writes, "It is what might [!!] go on in such classrooms that worries." This is unfounded speculation, the worst kind of journalism. Being a journalist myself, I can assure you that such a vague allegation would never make it past a decent editor.
Nicolas Gattig, San Francisco

How would he know?
Regarding Daniel Boyarin's letter to the editor, Dr. Boyarin claims that the university conducted an investigation into my letter of complaint against graduate student instructor Abbas Kadhim, and concluded that my accusations were baseless. He even went so far as to call me a "liar" in the Jewish Bulletin. I wonder how Dr. Boyarin drew his conclusions; neither he, nor any member of his department, ever contacted me regarding the charges. In fact, Dr. Boyarin was on vacation at the time at the time of the so-called "investigation." I certainly hope that his works of scholarship are not based on similar research techniques.
Susanna Amira (nee Klein), Tsfat, Israel

Allah, he is greater
In doing some linguistic research for a line of apparel I'm now selling at InfidelApparel.com, I have discovered that the definition of "Allahu Akbar" as "God is great" is inaccurate to the point of dissembling. The word "akbar" does not mean "great," it means "greater." "God is great" is a statement with which any monotheist can agree. "Allah, he is greater" as the phrase really means, is a statement of Muslim triumphalism, another way of saying the God of the Muslims is greater than that of the Jews, Christians, or any other non-Muslim faith community.
Ronnie Schreiber, Oak Park, MI

Why now?
What extraordinarily bad timing to run as your cover story yet one more portrayal of Jews as victims during the very week in which Israeli actions in Gaza earned worldwide condemnation as war crimes and crimes against humanity. Or perhaps the timing is spot on. As Adam Keller points out in the current issue of The Other Israel, "Nathan Sharansky - former Soviet dissident and ‘Minister for the Jewish Diaspora' in the Sharon cabinet - has been touring US campuses and European capitals, busily waging the ‘Campaign Against the New Anti-Semitism.'" Why "anti-Semitism" and why now? Focus groups have shown that the Holocaust no longer works to deflect criticism of Israeli policies, so a new narrative defining the most successful minority in the history of the United States as a "victim" class must be pulled out of the hat. For another, Israel has gambled that the parallels between the US invasion of Iraq and its own occupation of the Palestinian territories would work in its favor. But if, as now seems likely, public opinion in the US turns against the Iraq adventure, the obvious linkages could shine a spotlight on the Israeli occupation such as has not happened here before.

Finally, although Israel through American Jewry exerts an extraordinary control over the American government and media, critical voices are beginning to break through - mostly from college campuses. Thus Sharansky and his tour. Thus Daniel Pipes and Campus Watch, which has morphed into House Resolution 3077, a dangerous attempt to censor US academic experts on the Middle East. I'm truly sorry if Micki Weinberg, Jesse Gabriel, Susanna Klein, Daniel Frankenstein, and others unnamed have ever been made deliberately to feel intimidated or scared. As a fellow Jew, however, I'm even more sorry if they have hardened their hearts to the great wrong that Israel has committed against the Palestinian people in our name, for to do so is to fall into a moral abyss worse than discomfort, worse than fear.
Joanna Graham, Berkeley


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