Michael Lerner

Hours after Tikkun magazine held a gathering to celebrate the magazine’s 25th anniversary, the house of the editor was vandalized.

Vandals plastered posters on the garage door of Rabbi Michael Lerner’s Cragmont Avenue home Tuesday night, according to Berkeley police.  The posters depicted pictures of a Nazi carrying away a Jew, according to a press release by Berkeley-based Tikkun Magazine.

“Lerner’s name is put on one of the Nazis and “Islamic extremists” is written on the other Nazi, and the innocent Jew is identified as the State of Israel,” said the release. “The perspective of the attackers is clear: “Rabbi Lerner is a Nazi assaulting Israel.”

This is the third incident of vandalism at Lerner’s home since March 2010.

“The police took down all the posters that had been stuck up there and we had someone come in and clean the rest,” Lerner said Thursday. “My wife is upset and scared and she didn’t want to come home and see them.”

Berkeley police are investigating the case as a possible hate crime, but there are no suspects so far, according to Sgt. Mary Kusmiss. However, Tikkun Magazine, which describes itself as a progressive magazine, has suggested the vandals are “extremist Zionist haters.”

Graphic of themes in Tikkun's current issue

Lerner and Tikkun Magazine held a celebration at UC Berkeley’s Pauley Ballroom March 14th to celebrate the publication’s 25th anniversary. As part of the event, the magazine presented South African Justice Richard Goldstone with the Tikkun Award for his 2009 report on the Israel incursion into Gaza in December 2008 and December 2009. The report concluded that both Israel and Hamas had violated the laws of war, but it went on to criticize Israel for using disproportionate force and targeting Palestinian civilians. It suggested Israel had committed war crimes.

Israel and many Jewish groups criticized the report as biased.

Lerner and Tikkun have written extensively about Israel and its use of force against Palestinians. In the press release, Tikkun criticized the vandalism as an attack against free speech.

“What ‘freedom of the press’ is there if an editor is subject to this kind of personal harassment for expressing his views in his editorials and in the gatherings sponsored by the magazine?” said the release. “Anyone concerned about civil liberties should be concerned about this pattern of attacks on the private home of a magazine editor.”

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Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California, published in November...

28 replies on “Berkeley editor’s home vandalized for third time”

  1. I can’t help but wonder why there are no photos of this “vandalism”. The fact Michael used it as an opportunity to send out a fundraising letter also makes me uncomfortable.

    “Harassment, intimidation, and petty tactics are used by BOTH sides in the Israeli/Palestinian debate.”

    Absolutely. A friend of mine active on the pro-Israel side had dry wall screws in her tires three times last year- If i had thought of it, I should have told her to send out a press release and fundraising letter. Instead she just got the flats fixed.

  2. @ Claire — To be honest, I didn’t pay much attention to the Daily Planet saga as it was happening and don’t know all the details. All I know is that from what I saw the Daily Planet turned into an extremely abrasive radical-left opinion paper that constantly trashed local politicians and had a firm anti-development slant.

    From what I saw most of what did them in was just the general demise of the print news industry and the increasingly negative tone of the paper. It didn’t feel like fun, light-hearted partisanship ala Rachael Maddow, it just felt bitter and mean.

  3. Berkeley Daily Planet ceased print publication, selling ads, and paying people because the firm that was handling their payroll for them embezzled very large amounts of payroll tax and then disappeared, leaving behind and empty office. A few other of their clients were also apparently hurt this way.

  4. sharkey, are you saying that the Daily Planet went out of business because people dislike opinionated publications in general? I look at the media landscape and see exactly the opposite. No, I think what you really mean is that they made the mistake of expressing opinions that ticked off a certain very aggressive group of people. These people then launched a campaign of harassment against their advertisers which brought the paper down. Can you at least admit that this played a part?

  5. It is terrible that Rabbi Lerner and his family are subjected to repeated threats to his safety and security. I’m posting a copy of Tikkun in our front window in a little sign of solidarity. Any other Berkeley residents want to share in this show of support?

  6. @ John Holland — What’s false about it? Both sides here in the USA resort to similar tactics of intimidation and harassment. If you want to have a serious discussion, try expressing your ideas in something more than monosyllabic exclamations.

  7. @ Faladog — Similarly, I do not think the innocent women and children who were victims of Palestinian suicide bombings were given a choice by the suicide bombers either.

    And the Daily Planet failed because newspapers everywhere are failing, and because it turned into a partisan opinion paper instead of simply reporting the news.

  8. Vlaidislav Davidzon’s courage and commitment to justice is a tribute to those Jews for whom these values find no exception even in the Middle East. I do not imagine that the Palestinians who are given the choice by the bulldozer next door of either expulsion from their land or gradual extermination find those options as “nuanced” as Sharkey would have them do.

    Though Nazi analogies have worn pretty thin, such intimidation tactics as these smack of those employed by others who wore shirts that were brown. If the Berkeley police want to find the perpetrators, a good bet would be to question those who bullied advertisers in a successful campaign to drive the local newspaper — the Berkeley Daily Planet — off of the streets.

  9. @ robert
    As opposed to broad and unsubstantiated claims made against those who are oppressed?
    (whether in israel/palestine, northern ireland, el salvador, etc. doesn’t matter). I’ve commonly heard the blanket term “terrorist” applied to all these people, non-combatants as well as combatants.

    Nice try, but you’re not fooling anyone. I don’t think people running out of a theater in a panic can be compared to pre-meditated acts like the one against Michael Lerner. Anyone who equates the two is a sicko.

    As others have said, it doesn’t matter who did this (either zionist wackos, jihadists, or neo-nazis) – there’s no excuse for this behavior. Freedom of speech means being able to present your views without getting harrassed by thugs. yelling ‘fire’ and the edificaiton of the public is not the same thing. No one is fooled by your propaganda.

  10. @ John Holland — No, children see the world in black & white, pick a favorite and follow it blindly.

    Adults realize that the situation is more nuanced, and that in many cases both sides are guilty of the same negative behavior.

  11. @Sharkey – the situation in the states is that one side is funded by the State of Israel (see recent article here on Berkeleyside about someone on the payroll of their foreign ministry suing UC Berkeley as a great example). The other side in the debate rarely if ever get any significant funding from anyone. I certainly have never taken any money for the work I’ve done, and to the best of my knowledge neither have any of the organizations with which I’ve worked.

    The profound difference in funding justifies the ants vs bulldozers analogy as that’s precisely the dynamic involved.

  12. But I was referring more to the debate here in the USA, and not the fighting in Israel. I don’t have any first-hand experience with how things are over there, but from what I see here in the USA both sides use similar tactics to make their arguments.

  13. While the military might is greatly in favor of Israel, ants and bulldozers isn’t a fair comparison since ants can’t suicide bomb or shoot rockets at bulldozers.

    A better comparison might be something like coyotes & grizzly bears. Both are capable of harming the other, but one side clearly possesses superior destructive power.

  14. @Sharkey – Shall we give ants and bulldozers equal rights to run over each other? Let’s not equate things that are hardly equal — or intentionally confuse undeniable cause and effect.

  15. Harassment, intimidation, and petty tactics are used by BOTH sides in the Israeli/Palestinian debate.

    Suggesting otherwise is intellectually dishonest.

  16. Those of us who have been engaged in the struggle for democracy and freedom in Palestine for any significant amount of time have come to just accept these tactics as just par for the course. Just last week after posting on this site, some imbecile deemed it appropriate to notify my employer of my ‘Anti-Semitic’ views (I am both Jewish and have relatives in Israel). It’s just how the game is played. The Zionist lobby in the United States is a peculiarly ugly creature.

    So for all the Zionist morons – let me be clear here – we, as a movement for peace and justice in Palestine, will NOT be intimidated. We’ve seen far too much bloodshed, and lost too many friends to really give a rat’s ass about your petty tactics — there is just too much on the line – like people’s lives. You want to attack me personally for speaking the truth — go right ahead — but your attempts will, inevitably prove futile for I will not be silenced. I didn’t blink when your friends put their guns to my head and clicked them in a mock execution at one of your illegal checkpoints in the West Bank, and I sure as hell won’t blink at your ridiculous and petty attacks.

    Your pettiness is just a result of your undeniable knowledge that you are losing. Just like South African Apartheid fell, so will the Israeli Apartheid. The Berlin wall came down, and so will yours. The question is how many more people will have to die before this insanity ends — and the sooner you come to terms with the inevitable, the fewer lives will be lost and the sooner we as a planet can move on from this dark age.

  17. Was there any property damage as a result of the way the posters were applied?
    Just curious about the extent of the damage caused by the vandals.

  18. It’s still a hate crime, even if other Jews are doing it. I hope they catch them and prosecute as fully as they would if skinheads were doing this.

  19. Such an ugly way to make a statement. May Tikkun find strength from this and continue to spread their message.

  20. Freedom of speech comes in all forms. The key to proper discourse is not to make broad unsubstantiated claims against a country (or individual). If you shout FIRE! in a theatre when you discover someone illegally smoking…..dont be surprised when a mob runs over you trying to exit.

  21. It makes me sad to hear that this kind of harrassment is going on in Berkeley. Free speech and dialogue are so important. May Tikkun continue to thrive.

  22. The personal harassment just adds fuel to the fire.

    But at the core of this whole disaster is exercising free speech.

    No matter how much vandalism occurs, please never shut up.

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