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Becky O'Malley Does Some Explaining

On December 3, 2009 the Daily Planet published its latest overtly anti-Semitic offering.  It was a letter claiming that Zionists colluded with Eichmann to produce the Holocaust (full text below).  This was duly condemned by various community leaders, who denounced O’Malley not just for this one instance of anti-Semitism, but for persistent anti-Semitism.  As we document elsewhere, O’Malley tried very hard to deep six this condemnation by the Anti-Defamation League, East Bay Jewish Federation, two Berkeley rabbis, and a member of the City Council. See here. Realizing that she had created yet another disaster for herself, O’Malley finally issued something vaguely akin to an apology five weeks after the fact in her January 7, 2010 issue.  This document is reprinted at the bottom of this article in its entirety.   In our view, O’Malley accomplished little more than to twist herself up into knots of fabrications.

Let’s take O’Malley’s excuses one by one:

1)  O’Malley states that the Daily Planet’s core indiscretion was to publish something that was “intemperate.”  Intemperate?   O’Malley is so tone deaf to anti-Semitism that she actually may believe that the calumny that Jews conspired with Eichmann to create the Holocaust is merely intemperate.    Was Mein Kampf merely intemperate?  Or, perhaps O’Malley is not even referring to the author’s anti-Semitism as the intemperate utterance, but rather his use of the word, “scum,” to describe the Daily Planet’s detractors.  O’Malley is utterly silent as to which it is, so perhaps his anti-Semitism is not the issue at all.  Moreover, just when has the Daily Planet refused to run a piece simply because it was intemperate?  For example, we have been called twerps, liars, racists, crackpots, wingnuts, and Nazis by O’Malley herself, never mind what her employees and outside letter writers have called us in her paper. See here.  In O’Malley’s defense, what O’Malley and her staff have called us is not much worse than what the various KPFA camps routinely call one another (e.g., rats) in the pages of the Daily Planet.  Intemperance?  That’s the Daily Planet’s middle name.

2)  O’Malley regrets publishing Jersawitz because he is not local, but this is nonsense.  O’Malley regularly publishes anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli pieces from everywhere.  For example, look at the same December 3 issue in which the Jersawitz letter appeared and you will find many nonlocal letters condemning this website.  But we ask how would O’Malley have known that the letter was not local?  Again, looking at the December 3 issue, in every nonlocal case but Jersawitz, the place of origin was printed.  However, Jersawitz’s letter gave no indication of its point of origin, implying a local origin. See here. It was DPWatchDog that uncovered the fact that Jersawitz is from Atlanta.  The Daily Planet’s letters policy states that every submission must contain an address and phone number.  The area code alone should have indicated that this was not a local letter.  Since O’Malley now admits that she knew all along that the letter was not local, this must mean that Daily Planet tried to suppress this fact at the time of its publication.  Was this O’Malley’s doing, or the act, as she suggests, of the “layout person”?  Who exactly is this layout person anyway?  The Daily Planet has so few employees, so which one was it?  Was it Justin DeFreitas, or was it Michael Howerton?   This is important, for if O’Malley is pointing the finger at one of her employees, we would like to know which one, and what was his or her motivation?  O’Malley also refers to a misunderstood oral communication.  What exactly was it?  O’Malley has a history of making similar dubious shrug-off pronouncements when busted for anti-Israel or anti-Jewish activity.  For example, she once declared that she would never publish an unsigned letter, but then several weeks later did just that.  Wouldn’t you know it, the letter in question wasn’t about the school board or something else local, it just happened to be an anti-Israel diatribe.  When busted for this, she again claimed it was a copyist’s error.

3)  O’Malley regretted publishing the Jersawitz letter because it was said to be a copy of a letter sent to DPWatchDog.  However, nowhere does Jersawitz say that he sent his letter to this website, but merely to “your Zionist detractors.”  Neither DPWatchDog nor any of its employees ever received this letter.  We saw it for the first and only time in the Daily Planet.  O’Malley knows how to contact us to fact check, but she made no such effort before making her false claim.

4)  O’Malley somehow thinks that it means something exculpatory that the author claims to be Jewish.  Looking closely at the letter, though, Jersawitz does not actually make this claim, but only vaguely points to his name as though we are to infer he might be Jewish.  The reason for his obtuseness may be that he is not Jewish.  We believe he may be a Marxist who may have had some Jewish ancestry that disaffiliated several generations back.  Or, he may be Polish rather than Jewish.  A check of several genealogical websites indicates that his name, if Jewish, is quite rare.  O’Malley, having been once burned, should have been twice wise.  After all, DPWatchDog already exposed her in a similar case when her own employee, Richard Brenneman, claimed to be Jewish for the sole purpose of stating that he therefore was in a position to defend O’Malley against a charge of anti-Semitism.  DPWatchDog then discovered that Brenneman was born to Mennonites, became a Hindu, converted to Christian Science, and now, on his blog, claims to being an atheist. See here.  His only tenuous claim on Judaism is that, if he is to be believed, his first wife was born Jewish.  He boldy states that this makes him so Jewish that even Israel would accept him for immigration, showing only that he misunderstands Israeli immigration law.  Brenneman probably thought he was doing O’Malley a favor with this ruse, but she rewarded him by showing him the door.  Actually, we concede that O’Malley probably terminated Brenneman for reasons other than his journalistic malfeasance, which, sadly, does not appear to give sufficient cause for termination at the Daily Planet.  Returning to Jersawitz, crucially, whether his name is Jewish or not does not change the anti-Semitic nature of his conspiracy theories.

5)  O’Malley claims that she caught the error of her ways in publishing Jersawitz immediately after she went to press when her own friends called to complain.  She says that she had meant to run her apology (or excuses) in the next issue, namely December 10, but was delayed for five weeks (i.e., only after a firestorm had ensued) because she suddenly fell ill and had to be hospitalized.  Regrettably, this does not wash.  In the same January 7 issue O’Malley states in her weekly editorial that “right after finishing an editorial for the Dec. 17 paper I went off to Kaiser…” That would put the date of her medical emergency sometime after December 10. 

Let’s be frank.  Becky O’Malley seems to be particularly plagued by an inability to tell the simple truth.  We have caught her in many such instances over the years, many or most of which we have yet to catalog on this website.  Judith Scherr specifically cited O’Malley’s chronic lying as a reason for her resignation as executive editor of the Daily Planet. See here.   We have mostly not dwelt on this human foible, maintaining a “yea without sin…” desire to stick to the high road.  After all, we have enough malfeasance to track at the Daily Planet without getting personal.  Nevertheless, fibbing does not mix well with journalism.  Maybe this little old lady from Pasadena might have chosen a more suitable hobby for her golden years.  More seriously, we have to ask, after how many excuses do we the public have a right to say, enough of your excuses already?  When do we the public finally get to demand that O’Malley get out of the dark business of anti-Semitism? 

Jersawitz Letter

Editors, Daily Planet:

   Just thought you all might like to have a copy below, of my letter just sent to your Zionist detractors:

   As you to can see from my name that if I had ever bought into that background I would be offended by allegedly being represented by scum like you and the Zionist movement of Jewish Fascism.

   What I always find interesting is that in being attacked for your Zionism, i.e., Jewish nationalist adherents to the idea of a Jewish State whose ideas--those of Jewish nationalism, not of all Jews--are akin to the ideas of Adolf Hitler and his organizer to the solution of the 'Jewish Problem' Adolph Eichmann with whom you Zionists collaborated in sending the bulk of Hungary's Jews to the gas chambers in exchange for allowing your relatives and a few rich Jews to leave and go to Palestine as the basis for a Zionist state, you always accuse the attackers of Zionism as anti-semites or folks like me who profess no belief or cultural connection self-hating, as though all Jews are proponents and supporters of Zionism.

  There is of course plenty of evidence to this Zionist fascism, the Rudolf Kastner trial in Jerusalem, and the books of Hannah Arendt describing that trial and Kastner's dealings, as a representative of the Zionist movement, with Hitler's Adolph Eichmann.

  Indeed, anyone who digs into that history must realize, the Holocaust on which Zionism bases its accusations of anti-semitism was in fact as much a product of Zionist collaboration, similar to the Vichy French collaboration, which served, save for one or two heroic exceptions, to cause Jews to go quietly and peacefully to their deaths instead of fight as at Warsaw.

   Now you seek to silence the Berkeley Daily Planet. I can think of nothing more emblematic of Zionist fascism than attempting to silence a paper whose editor, whatever her personal views, publishes whatever is offered without censorship and in response to criticism of some states clearly the answer to objectionable speech is more speech.

   You can of course publish my name and my e-mail address since I have no fear of open discussion. You might also note in considering not publishing this to your online rag or other form, that a copy is going to the Daily Planet.

Jack Jersawitz

O’Malley’s Apology or Excuse or Whatever It Is

Editor's Note: I agree with Mr. Mayeri that the letter in question should not have been published in these pages. Including it violated several guidelines for Planet opinion pages. First, it was not from an identifiable local writer, and we try to prioritize local writing as much as possible. Second, it was not addressed to the Planet, but to a third party—the anti-Planet website dpwatchdog—and we prefer to run only letters addressed to our paper. Also, the writer's language and rhetoric were unusually intemperate, perhaps in part because the anti-Planet website to which the letter was addressed is couched in even more intemperate language. Finally, though his point was a bit hard to follow because of the florid writing, the writer, who identified himself as being Jewish, seemed to be making factual assertions regarding historical questions about Zionism and Israel which were at best questionable, probably were untrue and certainly would be hurtful to many because of the extreme way they were expressed.

For all of these reasons, I did not approve this letter for publication. However, because of a mistake based on misunderstanding a verbal instruction, an overworked layout person copied it into the paper on a back page at the end of the letters column late on deadline night. I didn't see this page before it was sent to the printer, so I didn't know the letter had been included. Several friends and family members called me after the issue came out to say that they thought the letter was quite inappropriate and should not have been used. I agreed and immediately removed it from the online version of the paper.

I drafted an “editor's note” like this one, apologizing for the mistake, which was intended to run in the next issue of the paper alongside Mr. Mayeri's commentary. But because I ended up in the hospital that day, neither his complaint nor my note ever made it into print. Another letter which voiced similar objections, signed by several Jewish community members, did appear in the paper while I was out sick.

We regret the error.

—Becky O’Malley


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