Students for Justice in Palestine at UC Berkeley is deeply dismayed by the Daily Cal’s decision to publish a libelous op-ed by conservative commentator David Horowitz.
Horowitz conflated criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism (a conflation that the Department of Education has clearly ruled against), characterizing the members of Students for Justice in Palestine as “Jew-haters,” and as part of a wave of anti-Semitism “not seen since the 1930s, when Hitler was laying plans for the final solution—the physical extermination of European Jewry.” He claimed that SJP “supports ethnic cleansing” and that our goal is the “destruction of the Jews”. He said SJP is an “active abettor of a war against the Jews.” Truth be told, this despicable rhetoric was to be expected of Horowitz, who simply did what he has always done best: spread hateful lies, inflected with his brand of blatant and unapologetic Islamophobia, none of which could have survived even the most lax fact checking, let alone the strict standard Daily Cal applies to submissions by SJP members. The article’s racist statements add little to Horowitz’s notorious repertoire: for decades, he has advocated against reparations for slavery in the U.S., against left-leaning U.S. academics (whom he characterizes as “dangerous”), and against Islam and Muslims. The latter have been his favorite targets: visiting UC Santa Barbara in 2008, Horowitz said that the traditional Arab keffiyeh is a symbol of terrorism and that the Muslim Student Association seeks “to bring the jihad into the heart of American higher education.” In addition to his own horrific writings, Horowitz funds right-wing extremists like Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch, a man cited 162 times in the manifesto of terrorist Anders Breivik, whose hatred of Muslims led him to murder 77 people in Norway in 2011.
Racist hate speech cannot be tolerated in a diverse campus community that aspires to be welcoming and inclusive, but this is exactly what the Daily Cal chose to print. To add insult to injury, the Daily Cal attached an illustration featuring Horowitz holding a leaflet with a crossed-out Star of David (a reference to one of our recent direct actions, falsely implying that we targeted Jewish students), and a note saying “Evict SJP.” This cartoon is itself a shameful statement, giving Daily Cal’s implicit endorsement of Horowitz’s lies as well as his ignorant and hate-mongering conflation of criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism.
Students for Justice in Palestine is a diverse group of students, staff, faculty, and community members of multiple nationalities and faiths. We have Muslim, Christian, Jewish, atheist, and other members; we are Palestinian, Israeli, and members of other nationalities; we have African, American, Asian, and European members; and we have members of a variety of ethnic, racial, and gender identities. Our constitution explicitly states, “SJP rejects any form of hatred or discrimination against any religious, racial, or ethnic group” and goes further to mention that SJP’s “strength is in the great diversity of its membership.” We welcome any person who shares our goal “to promote justice, human rights, liberation, and self-determination for the Palestinian people.” We believe that our diversity is exactly what threatens the likes of Horowitz – bigots who find it confusing that people of multiple backgrounds can cooperate and mobilize together for human rights and against Israel’s apartheid regime in Palestine. Overwhelmed by the impossible mission of legitimizing the Israeli occupation, the Horowitzes of the world have little to do but to allege that we are terrorists and compare us to Nazis, with plenty of help from the Daily Cal.
Where were the Daily Cal’s editors? What happened to the newspaper’s journalistic standards and the most basic ethical common sense? How did students on this campus reach the point of publishing a defamatory rant that would make even conservative news outlets scratch their heads in embarrassment? If Daily Cal editors had done their due diligence, they would have realized that their predecessors made a similar mistake before with Horowitz, and had been forced to apologize for it.
We are concerned that the decision to print Horowitz’s column did not stem from a momentary lapse of reason, but from the editors’ wish to counter a letter to the editor that criticized the Daily Cal for ignoring incidents in which Muslim and pro-Palestine activists were targeted on our campus. Indeed, we were told that five people at the Daily Cal read the piece and found nothing wrong with the final published version. According to Daily Cal editors, Horowitz’s suggested title was “Why I target Students for Justice in Palestine,” which they changed to “Reasons for targeting Students for Justice in Palestine.” It is hard to see how either of these titles could not be taken as a threat; it is hard to see how unbalanced readers were not to understand it as a threat, and accordingly, we take it as a threat. The Daily Cal editors seem to have exercised exceptionally poor judgment, which they began to acknowledge yesterday by quietly changing the title of the piece to something slightly less likely to incite violence against students.
We call on the campus community to stand in solidarity with SJP by unequivocally condemning both Horowitz’s column, the Daily Cal’s decision to publish it, and the Daily Cal’s failure to fact-check. Defamatory hate speech should not be tolerated, regardless of whom it targets, and the ability of Horowitz’s false, libelous, and racist claims to pass through the fact-checking process of the Daily Cal is perhaps the largest indictment of the Daily Cal.
We thank the following people and organizations for taking a stance and/or issuing statements against Horowitz’s article (list being updated):
Also check out reporting by Ben Norton in Mondoweiss about the Daily Cal’s shame.