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Daily Californian: How can they possibly justify publishing defamatory letters against me and not publish my letter in response?

Alison Weir is the President of the Council for the National Interest (CNI) and Executive Director of If Americans Knew.


Alison Weir
Council for the National Interest
June 6, 2012

In late May the Daily Californian, the UC Berkeley campus newspaper, published letters to the editor defaming If Americans Knew and me personally.

As soon as I became aware of these letters, online, I phoned the person responsible for the letters section, Jonathan Kuperberg, to ask if they had also been published in the print newspaper. I did not reach Kuperberg but left him a voicemail politely asking this question. Kuperberg did not return my call, but I have since learned that they were also in the print publication distributed all over the campus (and probably beyond).

I then wrote a letter to the editor (see below) and sent it to the Daily Calearly the next morning, May 30th. The following day, when I again had received no response, I re-sent the letter and copied other Daily Caleditors.

The managing editor sent a short reply email saying that the opinion editor (Kuperberg) would be considering my letter and told me that in the summer they only print letters once a week.

The Daily Cal has now printed the next week's letters to the editor and did not include my letter. In fact, although I know personally of at least four additional letters sent to them on this topic, they printed none of them.

Meanwhile, oddly, the defamatory letter against me remains at the top of their letters section.

It doesn't take an expert to know that such behavior is unconscionable. Newspaper ethics codes – and normal concepts of fairness – affirm the right of a person accused of wrongdoing to respond. The American Society of Newspaper Editors Statement of Principles, for example, decrees: "Persons publicly accused should be given the earliest opportunity to respond."

In addition, letters containing factual errors should also be corrected.

My letter, and at least one other, should have been published. Last night I emailed the editors asking when they are going to print my letter. None has yet replied. I have now phoned the office and finally reached an editor in person. She said that staff members were talking about this and that Kuperberg would get back me today. I thanked her and said I look forward to hearing from him.

I truly hope that this doesn't turn into another Michigan Radio situation, in which the Ann Arbor NPR affiliate under director Steve Schram refused to run our announcement, refused to return email and phone calls, lied about their behavior to the public, and only finally aired our announcement over a year later following public pressure.

It would be nice if Kuperberg and the Daily Cal would simply do the right thing.

Below is my letter:

Commissioner pushes pro-Israel pro-war falsehoods

To the Editor:

I was saddened that an ad about Israel-Palestine in the Daily Californian (now posted on our website) elicited vitriolic, nonfactual letters attacking me personally and our organization, If Americans Knew.

It is particularly troubling to see such a letter by a City of Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission member, Thyme Siegel (“Anti-Israel ad breaks trust, propagates lies,? May 21-27).

In her letter, Ms. Siegel claims that in 1967 Israel was "attacked by all its neighbors." However, even Israel discarded this initial falsehood many years ago. In reality, Israel perpetrated a sneak attack on Egypt that wiped out most of the Egyptian Air Force on the ground, launching what is called the Six Day war.

During that very rapid war of conquest, Israel also attacked a US Navy ship, killing or injuring 200+ Americans and destroying a $40 million ship (they eventually gave us $6 million compensation for the ship).

Even more disturbing than Ms. Siegel's misrepresentation of history are her claims about Iran, in which she uses the same kind of inflammatory, inaccurate rhetoric that was used against Iraq, another perceived Israeli adversary.

Such mendacious rhetoric led to a tragic, unnecessary American war; the deaths of millions of Iraqi men, women, and children and thousands of Americans (many more left permanently maimed); and triggered a financial meltdown that cost multitudes of Americans their jobs, businesses, homes, and happiness.

It is time to expose and oppose the manipulation that has created war and misery for over 60 years. Americans give Israel over $8 million per day; we have the power to end the carnage. May this generation of college students be the ones to do it.

Sincerely,

Alison Weir

Executive Director, If Americans Knew, and President, Council for the National Interest

Update on Wednesday, June 6, 2012 at 06:23AM by Alison Weir

Last night I finally received a response from the Daily Cal:

Hi Alison,

We have decided not to publish your letter to the editor. Please direct any further questions to me or Stephanie Baer, our Editor and Chief and President (editor@dailycal.org), and not to any of the other editors.

Jonathan Kuperberg

It's interesting that Kuperberg and Baer don't wish the other editors involved. I would like to hope that some of them may have a sense of the extremely unethical stance their newspaper is taking and may not be happy about it.

I remember being a student editor many years ago on the Michigan Daily. It's hard to believe that I would have gone along with such a blatant abuse of journalistic power. It would be wonderful if some of the staff would be sufficiently ethical, fair-minded, and courageous to speak out about it.

I'll now try to meet with the staff to discuss this situation. Having published a highly defamatory, personal attack against me, they at least have the obligation to meet with me and explain why they feel they are justified in refusing to publish my response.

Apart from the importance of the principles involved, I have strong connections to UC Berkeley. I used to have an office in Berkeley and have many friends there. All three of my children graduated from Berkeley (with honors!) and one received a Master's degree from it. My former husband was on the faculty of its journalism school.

While the Daily Cal is a very small, largely student newspaper, it is significant in that it is one of the few ways to reach students and faculty at this major American university (Berkeley is often listed as the top public university in the country and rivals far more expensive places like Stanford, Harvard, and Yale in the excellence of its academics).

I'm reminded of the AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) official awhile ago who proclaimed their plans for Berkeley – and beyond (watch video here). In reference to a divestment resolution on Israel that the majority of the UC Berkeley student senate had endorsed, AIPAC'S Director of Leadership Development Jonathan Kessler announced:

"How are we going to beat back the anti-Israel divestment resolution at Berkeley? We’re going to make certain that pro-Israel students take over the student government and reverse the vote. That is how AIPAC operates in our nation’s capitol. This is how AIPAC must operate on our nation’s campuses."

How dangerous that this tiny, powerful special interest group is targeting our universities – and that this has been going on for so many years (see "Pressure on Campus: Interest groups successfully stifling academic discourse," published 27 years ago).

More people need to learn about what's going on and, in the parlance of Paul Findley's seminal book, join those who dare to speak out about it. The soul of our country and millions of lives depend on it.

* * *

By the way, regarding the ad that was published: While I'm extremely pleased that this excellent ad contained information and images from our website and cards, our organization can in no way take credit for the ad. If Americans Knew did not create it, place it, or sponsor it (although, given sufficient financial resources, we would be pleased to place and sponsor such ads in other newspapers in the future). As we stated in the post about the ad on our website, this was done by a Rhode Island based foundation, Justice First Foundation. The ad did not mention me.

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