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The Berkeley Daily Planet's Cowardly Attack Upon this Website

In an extraordinary display of journalistic cowardice, the Berkeley Daily Planet has launched an attack upon this website and its editor, combining half-truths with complete fabrications (March 9, 2009).  Under the title, “Open Letter to Our Advertisers and Readers,” the Berkeley Daily Planet attacks a letter apparently written by Jim Sinkinson.  As of this date (March 23, 2009), we have not seen that letter and only know of its contents from the polemics written against it in the Berkeley Daily Planet, so we have no comment on that.  However, here is the attack upon us in full followed by my rebuttal:

The reality is that Mr. Sinkinson speaks for, as best we can tell, three or four locally based extremists who are eager to shut down the debate and the paper. His letter to our advertisers references a website that claims to document the paper’s anti-Semitism. This website is run by local businessman John Gertz, who makes his living by licensing the Zorro trademark. Mr. Gertz has used these pages on many occasions to accuse others of anti-Semitism. When readers, after four or five years worth of such accusations from Mr. Gertz, called him on it, he threatened to sue the paper for libel, though he later backed off after consulting his attorney. Informed that we would no longer publish him under the circumstances, Mr. Gertz launched a website of his own which Mr. Sinkinson is now using in his effort to see that the paper closes.

First, the cowardice.  Notice that the Berkeley Daily Planet refers to this website, without giving readers the URL, so that they might judge for themselves the relative merits of our case versus theirs.  O’Malley says that we wish to “shut down the debate,” but then she would deny readers an opportunity to hear those opposed to her own extreme views. The Berkeley Daily Planet even went so far as to redact the name of our website from a letter written by Van Deventer.

Folks, however you found your way here, know that this is the website that O’Malley desperately wants to prevent you from seeing.

Am I one of a handful of extremists that O’Malley points to?  O’Malley knows well from my writings that although I am a Zionist, I identify with the left side of the Israeli body politic.  This can easily be corroborated by a review of my writings in the Berkeley Daily Planet.  I have believed in a two-state solution since at least 1970, that is, long before it was fashionable.  For example, I was and still am thrilled that Israel has left Gaza, even though this inevitably led to a Hamas takeover and daily rocket attacks on Israel.  I look forward to the day when Israel will leave substantially all of the West Bank.  Were I living in Israel, I would have voted for one of the center left parties, Labor or Kadima, in the recent election.  O’Malley once called the head of Israel’s center right party,  Benjamin Netanyahu, “odious,” which I reckon is worse than being an extremist.  So, by O’Malley’s standards, anyone on Israel’s left is an extremist, and anyone on its right is “odious.”

Did I use the Berkeley Daily Planet to call people anti-Semites?  If so, just who would that be?  This is a complete fabrication.  As editor of this website, I have allowed this space to be used for the purpose of exploring the Berkeley Daily Planet’s links to anti-Semitism.  I have also raised the issue of anti-Semitism in private email correspondence with O’Malley.  I did not, however, use the Daily Planet for that purpose.  Here is the Berkeley Daily Planet’s website:  Go there and type my name into its Google search engine.  Apart from one reference to the now infamous Arianpour piece, which everyone, including O’Malley, concedes was an anti-Semitic canard, plus a passing reference to a DeFreitas cartoon which employed classic anti-Semitic iconography (DeFreitas is not an anti-Semite), I have never accused anyone of anti-Semitism in the Berkeley Daily Planet.  Except for the above, I never even used the word in any of my pieces.  This is hardly the first time that O’Malley has falsely claimed that a Jew has cried “wolf” over anti-Semitism.  We document such cases of false accusations in other sections of this website.

Did I threaten to sue O’Malley for libel?  Yes.  I was labeled a racist in her paper on the basis of fabricated evidence, and O’Malley refused to publish my response.  Contrary to O’Malley, and as the email chain between us corroborates, O’Malley was notified that this website was in the works one month before the incident of alleged libel.  If anything, O’Malley may have relished the idea of letting her hate filled readers strike at me libelously precisely because she knew this website was in development.  Seeking legal advice, I determined that I would probably win a suit, but at great financial expense for little financial gain.  The State of California makes it very difficult to sue a newspaper for libel, and we agree that on balance this is a good thing, even if a paper like the Daily Planet abuses that privilege.  O’Malley, in a January 30, 2009 email, issued her own slightly veiled threat to sue us over the establishment of this website.  The threat and counter-threat were issued in private email correspondence. Since O’Malley has violated that confidentiality, we are publishing here the entire email chain to allow the readers of this website the opportunity to judge this matter for themselves.
However, O’Malley has written to us, claiming copyrights in her emails and insisting that we either censor them or face a lawsuit.  We have therefore complied with her demand for the moment, and merely summarized the content of her emails.

Is Sinkinson a right wing extremist as implied by the Berkeley Daily Planet in its editorial and the companion piece on the facing page by the Berkeley Daily Planet’s most pernicious and frequent anti-Zionist writer, Joanna Graham?  Sinkinson appears to be an editor of FLAME, whose pro-Israel advertisements have been spotted by Graham in some right wing publication, perhaps belonging to the John Birch Society called, The Nation. Wait a second, The Nation?  That’s not a journal of fascism!  It is America’s leading progressive journal.  I regularly see FLAME’s ads in The New Republic, a bastion of American liberalism.  Why can’t The Nation and The New Republic see that they are being duped by a right wing fanatic like Sinkinson?  Maybe it is because FLAME is not an extremist organization at all.  Their ads are pretty much standard Zionist fare.  It would appear that being a Zionist is all the evidence that the Berkeley Daily Planet requires to label someone an extremist, odious, or worse.

Does Sinkinson speak for only a small handful of extremists?  O’Malley knows very well that vast swaths of Berkeley’s Jews have been outraged by the Berkeley Daily Planet’s association with anti-Semitism.  She knows, and the email record between us can corroborate this also, that when I attempted to organize a meeting between her and the organized Jewish community, the latter balked, reasoning that she would use such a meeting to further the Berkeley Daily Planet’s anti-Israel and possibly anti-Semitic goals.  For example, they feared that the next issue’s lead editorial might be titled something like “Berkeley’s Jews Attempt to Control the Planet” (double entendre intended).  For some time, I willingly served O’Malley’s interest as her court Jew, the one pro-Israel voice she would consistently publish.  But I was always outgunned by at least 10 to one by word count, and O’Malley only published about half of my pieces, typically leaving aside those most critical of the Berkeley Daily Planet.  I received a good deal of criticism for this from local Jews, typically along these lines: “O’Malley is a sick and angry woman.  Why are you helping her ‘sell’ her filth?”  While acknowledging that this argument may have had some merit, I have always felt that if you let the little lies stand they eventually metastasize into the BIG LIE.   If it is true that she receives for publication vastly more anti-Israel material than pro-Israel material, it is only because the pro-Israel community (which is much larger than the anti-Israel community even in left leaning Berkeley) long ago walked away from the Berkeley Daily Planet holding its nose.

In a final act of cowardice, after spreading condemnation of Sinkinson over two full pages of the Berkeley Daily Planet Op-ed and Commentary pages, the Berkeley Daily Planet relegated Sinkinson’s response to the back pages Letters section.  It is there, but you will definitely need your reading glasses.  For that reason, we will publish it again here.

John Gertz

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