As detailed elsewhere on this website, Elisabeth Warren Peters (now known as Becky O’Malley) is of blue-blood WASP origins. Her immediate forebears were members of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), claiming descent from General Joseph Warren, the hero of Bunker Hill. She was brought up in a highly privileged and very anti-Semitic environment. Realtors would not sell Jews homes in her neighborhood. Not one Jew was allowed to belong to her family’s exclusive country club, the Valley Hunt Club of Pasadena. No Jews attended her private girls’ school. Her father attended Princeton at a time when Jews where almost entirely denied entry from that University in favor of blue-blooded WASPs, whose attendance was considered a birthright.
Here is what we think happened. We are speculating, but believe we are on to something real. Because Elisabeth Warren Peters was a second rate intellect she was not able to attend any of the best Ivy League schools. Unfortunately for her, the system had changed in the era between her father’s admission to Princeton in 1930 and her admission to college in 1957. Slots in the best Ivy League schools that had been assumed would go to good girls from good families were now being granted on the basis of merit to upstart and swarthy Jews from unwashed immigrant families. She did manage to get into Smith, one of the lesser of the high society Seven Sisters schools, with a dark past, including many connections with Nazis in the pre war era, and with a very strict limit on Jewish admission. However, this also may have been too difficult for the ungifted Elisabeth Warren Peters, because she ended up at a public university in Berkeley, which at the time was rather easy to get into. Making matters worse, when she graduated from UCB, showing no intellectual promise, she was not able to get into a top law school (she graduated from Golden State law school but never practiced law, as far as we know). Once again, places assumed to be the birthright of Peters’ gentle class were now usurped by uppity Jews.
In the meantime, Peters radicalized in her new home of Berkeley, and assumed the name, Becky O’Malley, a good faux working class name. But the toxin of anti-Semitism was irreversibly flowing through her veins.
The status quo has long been the battle cry of her privileged class. She made her name in Berkeley fighting every form of development and progress. As a member of the Landmarks Commission, in particular, she most vehemently fought against the building if a synagogue, Beth El. The Northern California Jewish Weekly, the “J” reported how she fought the synagogue in this way in its January 19, 2001 issue:
Although the hearing proceeded, much of the time it was less than orderly. O'Malley continually interrupted, spoke over other commissioners and had to be told repeatedly by Edwards that she was out of order. She passed notes to commissioners who were not disqualified, made faces, shook her head and, at one point, left her seat, walked in front of the commissioners' table and got a speaker's card.
This is how the old Daily Planet reported O’Malley’s opposition to the synagogue in its January 10, 2001 issue:
Before the commission opened the public hearing on the 2526 Dwight Way project, an obviously uncomfortable Edwards asked the four commissioners to leave the dais. Commissioner O’Malley asked Vivian Khan, the interim deputy director of the Planning and Development Department, what would happen if they refused to leave.
Kahn was explaining that they had never been faced with that situation when O’Malley said “Well you’re faced with it now.”
The four remained at the dais and Burton proceeded with the meeting while the disqualified commissioners sat back with their arms folded.
O’Malley continued to interrupt the hearing during discussions of protocol. A frustrated Burton twice threatened to adjourn the meeting. “You’re out of order,” Burton said repeatedly. “This is exactly why you were asked to step down from the dais.”
O’Malley responded that the whole meeting was “null and void anyway so we might as well go home and get some sleep.”
Commissioner Richard Dishnica said O’Malley comments were inappropriate. “I find it disrespectful not only to us but to the members of the public.” he said. “Especially the constant and belligerent attitude towards the chairman.”
Do these two newspaper accounts of her opposition to the building of a Jewish synagogue sound like someone who is merely concerned about zoning, setbacks or the placement of a culvert? No, her opposition to a synagogue is clearly emotional, even hysterical, beyond anything the situation could have warranted.
When her means allowed, she bought the very newspaper that had previously panned her boorish behavior. She would use her acquisition to try to tilt Berkeley toward her anti-progress and anti-Semitic points of view. She herself would profess that some of her best friends are Jews. She would tell us of the tears she sheds at the thought of the Holocaust. All the while, she would allow outsiders to write overtly anti-Semitic pieces for her newspaper, feigning First Amendment absolutism, while she and her staff would expend their direct efforts castigating Israel on mostly trumped up charges, an acceptable stand in for the Jews. Look closely at O’Malley’s writings, as we have. Mostly, she just flails irrationally at Israel throwing out venomous epithets, but when she does occasionally stray into details, she almost always is dead wrong on her facts. The truth is that, even allowing for her limited intellect, she actually seems to know next to nothing about the Middle East conflict.
Don’t take our word for it. Look yourself at the two dozen (to date) articles that Becky O’Malley has written about Israel and/or Jews. They are listed by date elsewhere. See if you can detect any sign that she knows anything about the Palestine/Israel conflict. The Israel/Palestine conflict does lend itself to the taking of sides. Many intellectuals pick their facts to bolster an innate preference for either the Palestinian narrative or the Israeli narrative. But we do not complain that O’Malley has chosen the Palestinian narrative over the Israeli narrative. With O’Malley it is something altogether more sinister, for she shows not the slightest evidence that she has ever attempted to learn about and understand either narrative. While lashing out at Israel, nowhere does she show any real interest in, knowledge about, or genuine care for the Palestinians. Instead, she heaps contentless epithets on Israel as an apparent stand in for those uppity Jews she would prefer to thrash with her own riding whip if she but could.
Enough polemics and speculation. Let’s examine some evidence, starting with the proposition that O’Malley may not be an anti-Semite. There is evidence for this. O’Malley denies that she is an anti-Semite. This is important. Anti-Semites sometimes admit outright that they hate Jews, as one can readily determine by visiting some of the many skinhead and neo-Nazi Internet sites. If O’Malley is an anti-Semite, she is of the “some-of-my-best-friends-are-Jews” country club type.
In an October 9, 2008 editorial, O’Malley insisted, “we [the Berkeley Daily Planet] don’t publish unsigned or anti-Semitic letters.” Of course, this is false, but just possibly O’Malley really believes this, and exists in a mental fantasy of self-absolution.
On the other hand, and in utter contradiction to her statement that she would never publish anti-Semitic pieces, O’Malley also believes that hate speech needs to be printed, lest it build pressure underground. This was her defense for publishing the now infamous anti-Semitic screed by Arianpour.
However, it is very troubling that, apart from a diatribe exonerating the killing of Oakland police officers, we have not found a single case where O’Malley has published hate speech directed against any group other than Jews or Israelis. On the contrary, O’Malley wrote on March 26, 2004 that she would decline to publish defenses of Israel if they came from outside of her paper’s distribution area. But a hateful piece of anti-Semitism written from India was given the status of Commentary (and not just a letter to the editor). In her May 14, 2004 editorial O’Malley brags that she refused to publish something she had received that she regarded as Islamophobic, admitting, in effect, that the only allowable target in her newspaper will be Jews and Israelis.
She once called Binyamin Netanyahu “odious” and encouraged her readers to heckle such figures when they come to Berkeley (October 5, 2004). At the time, Netanyahu was a former prime minister of Israel. Then, as now, he headed the Likud party, roughly equivalent to the American Republican Party. The Likud, under Menachem Begin, negotiated the Camp David Accords which returned all of Sinai to Egypt, and Begin received a Nobel Peace Prize for this. As Prime Minister, Netanyahu tended to talk to the right, but govern from the middle, being responsible for returning sovereignty to Palestinians in parts of the West Bank, and he is known to have secretly offered the entire Golan Heights to Syria in exchange for a peace treaty. As of this writing, Netanyahu has recently returned to power. “Odious” is a word normally reserved for figures like David Duke, Ahmadinejad, Robert Mugabe, or Slobodan Miloševic', not for the duly elected head of a vibrant democracy such as Israel. When Netanyahu came to Berkeley to speak pro-Palestinians “hecklers” made it so dangerous that his talk had to be cancelled, a clear case in which hate speech was allowed to trump free speech. “Free Speech absolutist,” Becky O’Malley, was unbothered.
On May 19, 2004 the East Bay Express ran a front page article entitled “Berkeley Intifada: As students embrace the Palestinian cause, UC Berkeley has lost whatever reputation it may once have had for tolerance.” The article documented cases of anti-Semitism on the UC Berkeley campus. O‘Malley immediately rushed to print two front-page stories attempting to counter this claim. The first appeared on May 25, 2004 under the headline “UC Lecturer’s ‘Intifada’ Comment Brings Death Threats.” This article gave a clean bill of health to an Arab professor who called for an intifada in and against the United States. The Berkeley Daily Planet accepted at face value the professor’s claims that he had received 1000 critical emails, 9 voice mail death threats, and had been mistreated by Bill O’Reilly. Oddly, the reporter never asked to see the emails, never listened to the death threats or checked with the police department to determine whether a proper report had been filed (who among us would not report 9 death threats to the police), nor even bothered to watch a tape of the O’Reilly show in question. But this was just a warm up for a June 8, 2004 front page Daily Planet article that examined the thesis directly as to whether there is anti-Semitism on the UC Berkeley campus. The clear slant was to argue that there is no such thing, though the Berkeley Daily Planet found that there is anti-Arab discrimination. To make its case, the Berkeley Daily Planet selectively interviewed an atypical Jew who happened to be prominent in the pro-Palestinian cause. Obviously, such a person would feel no anti-Semitism coming from her Arab colleagues.
In her March 26, 2004 editorial, O’Malley condemns Israel’s targeted killings of Hamas leaders. O’Malley has thrown a protective cloak over Hamas on other occasions as well. For example, in the August 13, 2009 issue, she deleted a direct quotation from the Hamas Charter calling for death to Jews from a letter that she otherwise published. See here.
In her March 26, 2004 editorial O’Malley goes on to say that she had received many letters in support of Israel from outside the East Bay but she would not publish them for that reason. She did admit to receiving a few letters in support of Israel’s policy of killing Hamas leaders from the Berkeley area that she said she would publish. But then, true to form, she never did. Refusing to publish letters from out of the area would be a reasonable policy, except that it only seems to apply to Israel’s supporters. Please recall that the most infamous anti-Semitic screed published by the Berkeley Daily Planet was penned by an “Iranian student living in India.” More recently, an anti-Israel article by O’Malley’s Middle East advisor, Annette Herskovits (February 12, 2009), elicited a veritable storm of letters in support. These letters came from all over the country (so much for that O’Malley argument that she only publishing local writers), were very similar in content, and were obviously the result of an orchestrated campaign. Nevertheless, O’Malley published them anyway. Three articulate Berkeleyans have shown us pro-Israel articles that were submitted to the Berkeley Daily Planet but rejected, the last as recently as August 2009.
In an April 11, 2006 editorial O’Malley wrote that she publishes a handful of pro-Israel writers, but she is afraid that they are “boring” her audience. Apparently, she doesn’t find her stable of pro-Palestinian writers boring at all.
The headlines that O’Malley chooses sometimes speak volumes about her prejudices. In the August 8, 2006 edition there appear two op-eds. The first, written by Howard Glickman, argues persuasively (though not without some misstatements of fact) that O’Malley has uncritically embraced Hizbollah propaganda. This was not an unfair thesis. Glickman goes on to point out that O’Malley appeared to know little about the American Revolution when she insisted that, like Hizbollah, American troops hid among civilians (they did not), and that the British did not, however, bombard civilians (they did). Somehow, O’Malley chose the curious headline for this article, “Criticizing Israel = Anti-Semitism.” This would seem an odd choice, since Glickman did not accuse O’Malley or the Berkeley Daily Planet of anti-Semitism. In fact, the term appears nowhere in Glickman’s article. It was merely a point-by-point refutation of O’Malley’s recent anti-Israel editorial. O’Malley’s headline was apparently meant to discredit the author by this logic: All of Israel’s supporters believe that anyone who criticizes anything about Israel must be driven by anti-Semitism (this is totally untrue). Reasonable people know that criticism of Israel is not always anti-Semitic. Therefore, anyone who criticizes someone who criticizes Israel must be a paranoid Zionist, and reasonable people should not listen to him or her. O’Malley thus inoculates herself. After a number of people pointed this out to O’Malley she answered that it was all a mistake--that this headline was actually meant for some different article. However, no such article to which the headline might reasonably have been applied was published by the Berkeley Daily Planet in that issue or in any immediately preceding or later issue. Would O’Malley lie to us?
The following headline graced an anti-Israel article in the September 23, 2005 issue: “A Scholar Asks: Who Speaks for the Jews.” The fine print at the end of the article indicated that the author, H. Scott Prosterman, has a master’s degree. A master’s degree does not usually qualify one to be deemed a scholar in bold print. All but one person in this office has at least that but the Daily Planet still does not refer to DPWatchDog as “scholarly.” Who needs a matchbook cover degree. All one needs to become a “scholar” is to write an anti-Israel piece for the pages of the Berkeley Daily Planet. On December 17, 2009, the Daily Planet featured a commentary entitled, “Jesus, the Palestinian” (the headline says it all). The author was editorial described at the end not in normal and simple terms, such as a Berkeley or Oakland resident, or the like, but with this loving ode:
Jack D. Forbes is a retired professor of Native American Studies at UC Davis and has for many years studied about Yehoshu’a [Hebrew for Jesus] and the Palestinian-Israeli issue since both topics are very relevant to Native American religious beliefs and struggles for self-determination.
O’Malley in her editorials often returns to the theme of the “good Jews” and the “bad Jews.” Naturally, some of her best friends are Jews, but they are all of the “good Jew” variety that hates Israel. Anti-Israel Jews exist, but are extremely rare. Even in far left Berkeley, they number in the hundreds, not thousands (there are approximately 25,000 Jews in Berkeley). O’Malley also claims to adore Holocaust victims (August 6, 2009). A reader sent us a fascinating analysis of a remarkably similar British newspaper that published in much the same vein during the 1920’s, maintaining that it was not anti-Semitic, while all the while expending gallons of ink on conspiratorial theories centered on Jews. See here.
In O’Malley’s editorial of May 4, 2004 she may have hit the lowest blow of all. There she cunningly and falsely linked Israel to the Abu Ghraib torture scandal. Here is the passage (the brackets are O’Malley’s):
Seymour Hersch in the May 10 New Yorker article quotes a February report on the allegations of torture in an Iraq prison: ‘I suspect,’ [General] Taquba concluded, that [army intelligence officers] Pappas, Jordan, [and CAIC International, Inc. employees] Stephanowicz and Israel ‘were either directly or indirectly responsible for the use at Abu Ghraib.’
This was a very, very odd choice for a quote from Seymour Hirsch’s long article. We urge you to look at the original 10-page article and attempt to figure out why O’Malley chose to quote this short passage from among all others:
We submit that there may have been no other reason, save that the casual reader might assume from this passage that Israel was somehow tied up in the whole Abu Ghraib mess (it was not). Reading the full article, you will find that the “Israel” referred to was one, “John Israel,” that is, someone who just happened to bear the last name of “Israel.” We believe that it may well be a blind hatred of Israel and of Jews that caused O’Malley to do this. We cannot say whether this was a conscious or a sub-conscious act, but it could not be more telling.
Does all of this add up to a charge of anti-Semitism? If an irrational and unyielding hatred of Israel is anti-Semitic, then O’Malley would appear to be guilty (see Sharansky’s definition of anti-Semitism). But let’s give O’Malley the last word. In her July 20, 2004 editorial she actually wrote a love note to Israel:
For most of us around here, Israel is not ‘everyone else.’ Our expectations are simply higher for Israel, and that’s a mark of respect for Israel’s history and its meaning for Jews, and not disrespect or anti-Semitic prejudice. Why do some of us criticize Israel? For the same reason we tell our kids when we think they’ve made a mistake: because we care about you.
O’Malley loves Israel just like it were her own child. Like an overbearing parent she expects only perfection from it. In her desire for Israel’s perfection, O’Malley eagerly ignores even the worst possible behavior from Israel’s neighbors, such as honor killings, the indiscriminate bombings of civilians in Israel, the use of human shields, the murder of gays and Christians, kleptocracy from Fatah, theocracy from Hamas, the stoning of rape victims ostensibly for causing their own rapes, summary executions of “collaborators,” civil war between Hamas and Fatah, and on and on. When a letter writer quoted from Hamas’ genocidal Charter she deleted the quote. But it is not hard to see that she herself is pleased to contemplate the destruction of Israel. See here.
From the way that O’Malley willfully ignores every glimmer of Arab wrongdoing it might reasonably be surmised that O’Malley is actually a racist. Taken to its fair conclusion, O’Malley is arguing that Jews must act at all times in a fashion that is demonstrably superior to those pathetic little brown people that surround Israel, from whom every manner of benighted behavior is merely to be expected. In other words, she is going right back to her WASP origins with logic like this: Jews are well beneath us, but at least they are white.
So, what is Becky O’Malley: an anti-Semite, an anti-Arab racist, both or neither?
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Anti-Semitic writings in the Berkeley Daily Planet sorted by theme
Is the Berkeley Daily Planet in its totality an anti-Semitic newspaper?