Letters for the week of June 9-15 

Anneli Rufus' story on anti-Semitism generated more letters than any story in years; here are a few.

"Berkeley Intifada," Feature, 5/19

Selective memory
Anneli Rufus' article completely mischaracterizes the state of pro-Palestinian activism at UC Berkeley, which she bases entirely on the actions of two infamous and slightly deranged protesters. She fails to condemn Daniel Pipes' intolerance and the many racial epithets hurled at Moslem students by pro-Israeli attendees the night of the speech, which I, a UC Berkeley junior, attended. Does Rufus remember the frequent Berkeley attacks on women wearing headscarves (during which their hijabs were forcibly removed), the assaults on Sikh students mistaken for Muslims or, most importantly, the graffiti at the RSF sports complex stating that "All people named Mohammed must die"? Perhaps Rufus has selective memory in addition to selective liberalism.
Mehammed Mack, Berkeley

Free speech is alive
I'd like to comment on the article about intolerance at UC Berkeley in relation to Middle East issues. I decline from contending whether there is or is not a climate of anti-Semitism on campus because I only know my own experiences. No individual could claim that racism doesn't exist because they don't personally see it.

What I'd like to critique in the article is how a few standout protesters at the Daniel Pipes talk who clearly were not students were pointed to as examples of anti-Semitism, implying that they are representative of campus Palestine groups. The guy dressed as Uncle Sam with swastikas drawn on an Israeli flag, Joe Webb, is a Palo Alto therapist who persistently shows up at nearly every local antiwar event. While one couldn't write off each racist as an isolated case, this handful of extremist nuts present the more moderate pro-Palestinian students with a catch-22 situation. In order to create a tolerant atmosphere on campus and to save their group's reputation, should they resort to intolerant methods of censorship or violence to silence these damaging individuals? Disagreement and debate are not going to drive them away. The principles from the Free Speech Movement on campus tend to work against policing of fringe people.
Christine Petersen, Berkeley

Pro-Israeli activists share the blame
While anti-Semitic slurs that condone violence and blame Jews for 9/11 are reprehensible and counterproductive, pro-Israel student activists like Micki Weinberg are not immune to their share of hostility, hatred, and hyperbole.

Nowhere in her eleven-page article does Anneli Rufus ever mention Micki Weinberg's ill-fated run for the Berkeley City Council in 2002. In that race, Weinberg hurled accusations of anti-Semitism against incumbent Kriss Worthington, despite the fact that Worthington voted against the city council resolution to divest from Israel and had actively commemorated Holocaust Remembrance Day for the last 25 years.

The venom spewed from Weinberg in that campaign was hurtful to all of us who have worked closely with Worthington over the years, and know him to be a compassionate champion of all people. According to Weinberg, one cannot be critical of extreme Zionists nor supportive of the civil liberties of pro-Palestine students without being "anti-Semitic." Even rational attempts by some Cal students to approach Weinberg during the campaign and discuss the Israel/Palestine situation -- in a constructive manner that promotes, rather than restricts, free speech -- were rebuffed by Weinberg's childish rants that you must be anti-Semitic.

Our community should condemn hyperbole and epithets from both sides of the debate -- whether they come from pro-Israel or pro-Palestine activists. Rufus' article was extremely one-sided, wholly subjective, and uncritically biased.
Paul Hogarth, Berkeley Rent Board commissioner, Berkeley

Out of context
In the article "Berkeley Intifada," there is one glaring omission in terms of context that I believe warrants a correction.

Toward the end of the article, I am quoted as stating "Why don't you go to Iran; I hear it is nice this time of year." This quote makes me out to be a bigot and racist, which I am not. In context, per our interview, I described to the writer my conversation with a man outside the Pipes lecture and told him that he was lucky to be in a country where he had the right to dissent and protest as he was doing. I then proceeded to tell him that if he were in a place such as Iran, he would not have this luxury. I further told him that I thought he should be careful who and what he chooses to defend because if he hates America so much, and loves Iran, then maybe he should just go there. That is what I said. I am taking a lot of heat for a comment that was printed out of context.
Daniel Frankenstein, Berkeley

See their Experience
Kudos to Anneli Rufus for writing the story no one has dared to tell. It's the story I've been wanting to see since the day I stepped onto Cal's campus two years ago. In the name of liberalism and left thinking, this place is the most closed-minded, judgmental school and city I've seen. It's a shame this story didn't run until after school was out, and I can't help but wonder why this was the case. For those who will have the knee-jerk response to dismiss or attack the piece, I hope you can maybe, just maybe, allow yourselves to absorb the other side's experience, even if only for a moment.
J.R., Berkeley

What happened to tolerance?
Yes, UC Berkeley has lost its tolerance. Last time I walked on campus with a Palestinian flag on my T-shirt, I was screamed at, "You fucking anti-Semite," "whore," and spit at. I have been told, "The problem is, we haven't killed enough of you terrorists." I have been threatened with death and blowing up my family. Which is exactly what Israel does every day to Palestinians -- it's called "ethnic cleansing," and it's why I will wear my T-shirt with a Palestinian flag. What happened to tolerance in the Express?
Karen Maleski, San Jose


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