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This Time the Daily Planet Has Really Gone Nuts

The East Bay Council of Rabbis voted unanimously to send a letter to the Daily Planet, in effect reprimanding that paper for its ceaseless campaign against Jews, Israel, and those, such as ourselves, who would stand up to that bully (let’s be frank here), Becky O’Malley.  The rabbis on the Council cover the gamut from left to right, and from reform to Orthodox, with all shades in between.  Getting all of them to vote unanimously for anything was probably no mean feat.  We were not involved in that effort.  Here is their letter in full:

We, the 40 East Bay rabbis who are members of the East Bay Council of Rabbis and serve the local Jewish community, support freedom of the press. We also support good journalism. We believe that coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be fair and honest. The Daily Planet has a right to publish its views and the views of its readers. Those who disagree have the same right. Those who have voiced their opposition to the Daily Planet’s coverage are entitled to speak and be heard. It is not accurate to label everyone who has disagreed with positions expressed in the Planet as militant right-wingers. Critics of views expressed in the Daily Planet come from a number of political perspectives. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is complex, and as rabbis who come from a variety of perspectives, we encourage people to explore many sources in learning about this important issue.

The overwhelming majority of the members of the Jewish community of the East Bay, the people we serve and represent, and of the citizens of the United States, support both Israel and the peace process. Many in the Jewish community have been vocal opponents of some Israeli government policies and are part of the community’s dialogue. The Jewish community does not censor criticism of Israel and neither its leadership nor its designated representatives are engaged in a campaign against the Daily Planet. We decry any efforts by anyone who would stifle the flow of information.

At times criticism of Israeli government policies and actions has crossed over into classically anti-Semitic expression when it targets Jewishness itself as a blameworthy status—as did the Kurosh Arianpour commentary the Daily Planet printed some years back. Disseminating hate speech against any ethnic or religious group, while it may be constitutionally legal, is not acceptable when allowed to stand on its own in a community paper and given the appearance of reasonable discourse. Hate speech against any group is unacceptable; in the same vein we would expect that the Planet would refrain from printing racist or homophobic material. The claim of freedom of the press does not excuse journalists from meeting the standards of civil discourse.

Rabbi Andrea Berlin
On behalf of the East Bay Council of Rabbis

In its August 7, 2009 lead story, Justin DeFreitas condemns Jim Sinkinson for citing just part of this document in his recent letter to advertisers.  For some reason, our editor, John Gertz, is also brought in for further condemnation, even though DPWatchDog has no input whatsoever into Sinkinson’s letters.

DeFreitas’ article is wildly misleading, for many reasons:

  1. The first sentence of DeFreitas’ article reads, “The East Bay Council of Rabbis has condemned a publicity campaign by Jim Sinkinson to intimidate Daily Planet advertisers.” We have checked and found out that this is a completely false statement. There has been no such vote taken by the Council. 

    Since first writing the above, we have been corroborated by a past president of the Council, Rabbi Jane Litman of Berkeley, in a letter published in the September 3 edition of the Daily Planet.  O’Malley responded with wily footwork that the Daily Planet never said that there was a meeting of the Council.  What is that suppose to mean?  How would the East Bay Council of Rabbis condemn Sinkinson if they never met to consider the proposition?  O’Malley believes that quoting another past president of the Council of Rabbis was sufficient to speak for the body as a whole.  Can George Bush as a past president then also speak for the United States?  If one past president can condemn Sinkinson on behalf of everyone, why cannot Jane Litman exonerate Sinkinson on behalf of everyone?

  1. DeFreitas’s chief charge against Sinkinson is that he used ellipses to leave out those sections of the Rabbis document that the Daily Planet might hide behind. However, DeFreitas, in turn, leaves out the sections of the Rabbis document that Sinkinson uses. What’s the difference?
  1. To make matters worse, the Daily Planet goes on to condemn our editor, John Gertz, for seeking the destruction of the Daily Planet, but uses the same tactic to “prove” this, namely, it radically truncates one of Gertz’s quotes, without even the courtesy of an ellipse. Here is how the DP quotes Gertz: “reform, or close, or bleed money until you are forced out of business or die broke.” By cunningly choosing where to cut Gertz’s words, DeFreitas, in effect, reverses his meaning. Here now is the full quote:

My plea again is that Plan B be reform.  As near as I can tell, it is reform, or close, or bleed money until you are forced out of business or die broke (I am to wishing you an early death, but acknowledging that you probably have enough cash to wing it for many years to come).  You really could morph into a first class local paper if you tried.  Open yourself up to the possibilities.

Even this is just a partial quote.  You can follow this link to the full text plus two similar emails to Becky O’Malley:

If this is not enough to convince DeFreitas of Gertz’s intention, here is what Gertz said to Daily Planet reporter Richard Brenneman on the matter of destroying the paper (Brenneman declined to use this quote in his June 4, 2009 article):

Brenneman: What ultimately do you want to do with the Planet?  What would you like to see, the Planet to shut down or reform.

Gertz:  A good community newspaper is a terrific asset.  It is good for the community; it’s good for business because it gives local advertisers a place to advertise.  It’s a positive thing.   All I am asking is that the newspaper reform.  I am not trying to put it out of business or anything like that.

4. DeFreitas quotes liberally from a letter written by DP reader, Bruce Joffe, who makes wild and libelous allegations that the DP either knows to be false or should know to be false. For example, Gertz is named as an associate of Sinkinson, despite the fact that DeFreitas knows quite well that this is not the case. Sinkinson and his alleged associates (i.e., Gertz) are accused of stealing newspapers from DP news racks. This is the height of irresponsibility and pure libel! No evidence for this outrageous charge is given. In fact, there is not one scintilla of evidence provided that there has been any newspaper theft, much less that Sinkinson and/or Gertz are the culprits. See here.

5. Gertz is condemned for informing the DP that he would be launching an ad campaign to increase the readership of DPWatchDog. We have made no secret of our desire to eventually grow into a competing source of local news. Why shouldn’t we advertise? In fact, our first ad was placed in the Daily Planet itself. They accepted our good money. Does the Daily Planet, with its emphasis on free speech, wish to deny us our First Amendment rights?



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