The Demise of the Berkeley Daily Planet
The Planet did find one other group to serve as an outlet for an irrational and vicious attack, the Oakland Police Department. When four Oakland police officers were gunned down in a shootout, O’Malley published a letter blaming the Oakland police officers for their own tragedy.
One of O’Malley’s contributors, Joanna Graham, herself Jewish, wrote some of the pieces most demeaning of Jews. Berkeley is flush with self-hating Jews caught between their ultra-leftist politics and their Jewish background, a conflict reconciled in favor of their politics. And O’Malley seemed only too eager to give Graham an outlet for her anti-Semitism. When Gertz asked O’Malley why she would provide a forum for Graham’s rancid pieces, O’Malley dismissively responded that Graham was a good writer.
As Gertz’s well-documented website was calling into question O’Malley’s claim of not being an anti-Semite, Jim Sinkinson and Dan Spitzer, as well as other members of the Jewish community, all acting independently, were showing local businessmen what their ads in the Planet were supporting, with the strongest indictments coming from the pages of the Planet itself. O’Malley’s advertisers began to leave.
To the extent that the Planet did fall because of its anti-Semitism, it was due to the spontaneous actions of individuals who put an inordinate amount of time and energy into defeating hatred and intolerance. With the exception of signing a few petitions, the leaders of the organized Jewish community were conspicuous by their absence from this conflict. O’Malley inadvertently exposed what many Bay Area Jews already perceive: that our leadership is next to useless. Some arrived on the scene of the conflict as the Planet was going into cardiac arrest and then showed sufficient concern to put a few nails into an already sealed coffin.
More than this, the inability of the organized Jewish community to seriously act in the face of obvious and vicious anti-Semitism has resulted in the creation of a number of underground Jewish “groups” that see their mission as stepping into the defense vacuum the organized community continues to create. Such groups now exist in various parts of our geographically dispersed community. These collections of individuals are amorphous, loosely associated, and function more in the mode of cells than in any strict organizational hierarchy.
The Planet has folded, but O’Malley’s legacy continues. O’Malley has become an inspiration to Jewish activists, who have learned that being self-reliant in challenging the growing anti-Semitism of the far left is vital to Jewish security. This is not the legacy O’Malley intended to create. It is, nonetheless, the one for which many of us will remember her.