Here’s a pop quiz. From where is this quote taken:
"One should ask why anti-Semitism has persisted throughout the centuries. Let us go back to 539 BC, when Cyrus the Great, King of Persia, went to Babylonia and liberated Jews. One can ask why Jews were enslaved by Babylonians. Also, one can ask why Jews had problems with Egyptians, with Jesus, with Europeans, and in modern times with Germans? The answer, among other things, is their racist attitude that they are the 'Chosen People.' Because of this attitude, they do wrong to other people to the point that others turn against them, namely, become anti-Semite if you will."
(a) Mel Gibson’s drunk driving police report
(b) Mein Kampf
(c) The Hamas Charter
(d) The Berkeley Daily Planet
Sadly, if you guessed (d), The Berkeley Daily Planet, you would be correct. This quote, essentially blaming Jews for all that has befallen them, including the Holocaust, appeared in an August 8, 2006 Berkeley Daily Planet Commentary written by Kurosh Arianpour, an Iranian living in India.
Predictably, a hail of letters came into the Daily Planet decrying such blatant expressions of anti-Semitism, including from Jerry Brown, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, a number of city council members, and the Anti-Defamation League. Chip Johnson criticized the Daily Planet in his San Francisco Chronicle column. Dutifully, the Daily Planet owner and executive editor, Becky O’Malley, published some of the letters. However, she also published a rare letter rising to O’Malley’s defense of the indefensible by one Rio Bauce. Nowhere was Bauce identified as a reporter for the Daily Planet, which he was at the time. The letters section of a newspaper is not the place for its staff to defend it, especially without attribution.
Responding to the firestorm of criticism for her decision to publish the Arianpour piece, O’Malley refused to apologize for running the commentary, citing the First Amendment (August 11, 2006). She explained that “what you don’t know can hurt you,” apparently meaning that Berkeley’s marketplace of ideas should include a spirited debate about whether Jews are marked by characteristics which cause others to hate, expel and exterminate them.
O’Malley must have concluded that the Berkeley community would tolerate her decision to publish the anti-Semitic Arianpour piece and join her in interposing the First Amendment between the Daily Planet and those who would attack it. This conclusion is passing strange in a city whose official seal champions diversity. Indeed, an African-American minister’s condemnation of homosexuality earned a front-page denunciation in the Berkeley Daily Planet. On February 7, 2006, the Berkeley Daily Planet printed a self-congratulatory editorial praising its decision not to publish the famous Danish anti-Muslim cartoons on the grounds that they were produced by individuals outside of Berkeley. The same logic did not apply to an Iranian hurling anti-Semitic canards from India.
Of course, the specific charge of anti-Semitism would be mightily diluted if the Daily Planet treated all religions, or least some other religions, as shabbily. On the contrary, Islam, for one, is treated with kid gloves. For example, in O’Malley’s July 29, 2005 editorial, written right after the London bus bombing, she meekly concedes “that the bombers have some general connection to the Islamic religion,” but then goes on to give Islam a free pass before turning to Israel as the real culprit in the final paragraph. In listing the countries that have suffered from terrorism, she somehow overlooked Israel, which has suffered more per capita than any country other than Iraq. In O’Malley’s May 14, 2004 editorial she wrote “This week we received a particularly vicious letter attacking the Islamic religion from a correspondent who was not ashamed to sign his name and telephone number, and we are finally fed up with this discussion. We’re not going to print it, at least for now.” She never did. She also published a front-page article condemning a Peace and Justice Commissioner for disseminating a perceived Islamophobic YouTube video (May 15, 2007).