As a liberal Jewish UC Berkeley alumnus who was very involved in student group life and the Jewish community, I am heartened to see your response to the wholly inappropriate and grotesque anti-Semitic cartoon the paper recently ran.
It is quite disappointing that an easily preventable incident like this had to happen to educate the paper and the wider campus community on the history and contemporary manifestations of anti-Semitism. The fact that this cartoon was drawn and made it through to publication demonstrates the profound lack of understanding of anti-Semitism and the plague of disproportionate and unfair anti-Israel attacks on the only Jewish nation in the world. To reduce the very complicated decadeslong conflict into this disgusting cartoon is both offensive and absurd.
Also to reduce Alan Dershowitz, one of the foremost legal minds and liberal voices in America for many decades, into an anti-Semitic stereotype is not only highly inappropriate and unproductive, but also a prime example of criticism of Israel treading into anti-Semitic waters. Simply put, this cartoon, or really any cartoon attacking Dershowitz for his Israel stance, could not adequately address any legitimate criticism on Israel policy while avoiding anti-Semitic territory. Legitimate criticism of Israeli government is welcomed and certainly happens within the Jewish community and Israel, but far too often, it veers into anti-Semitic hate rather than proportional, rational criticism. If the creator of the cartoon and the paper’s editors bothered to do their research, they would know how inappropriate and unfair this imagery is.
Political cartoons certainly have their place in public discourse, but this particular subject involving Dershowitz is bound to fail, alienate and greatly offend while producing more animosity than incisive criticism. This is yet another example of intersectionality failing to include Jews, the single most persecuted minority in the history of civilization, who ironically have been at the forefront of every major civil rights and social justice movement in U.S. history — literally giving our lives for the cause. Did you know that Jews played significant roles in the foundings of the NAACP and ACLU? Did you know numerous civil rights workers in the 1950s and ‘60s were Jewish? And that the two of the three civil rights activists murdered in Mississippi were Jewish? Or that women’s rights and LGBT rights movements have been led by Jews?
When you say, “we appreciate those who have reached out offering to help us better our understanding of these issues. We will be taking them up on the offer,” what and when specifically will you be doing this? As the newspaper of record for the city of Berkeley, it is critical that you responsibly represent and respect all members of the campus community and do not let your biases and subjectivity cloud your judgment as you produce this paper.
I am tired of defending UC Berkeley from ridiculous critics, who know nothing of our school and wider campus community, from claims of anti-Semitism, bigotry, hate and sheer ignorance. I know UC Berkeley is not some hateful bastion of anti-Semites run amok, but far too many wrongly think this; the campus and all those associated with it suffer accordingly. So please consider your responsibility to all UC Berkeley community members as you helm this paper that has far reach and impact outside of Berkeley.
David Denney is a UC Berkeley alumnus.