Jun 27, 2009

LETTER FROM THE EAST BAY COUNCIL OF RABBIS TO THE BERKELEY DAILY PLANET

LETTER FROM THE EAST BAY COUNCIL OF RABBIS TO THE BERKELEY DAILY PLANET
http://www.berkeleydaily.org/issue/2009-06-25/article/33213?headline=Readers-Respond-to-The-Campaign-Against-the-Daily-Planet

Editors, Daily Planet:

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