Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Orange County: A Tragicomedy in Three Acts

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Orange County: A Tragicomedy in Three Acts

Article excerpt

Act I

The article, which appeared in the Dec. 7 edition of the Lariat, student newspaper of Orange County's Saddleback Community College, was by Michael Boren, the newspaper's art director. It was written to explain Boren's anti-nuclear mock greeting card design, a menorah featuring nine nuclear warheads singing, "We wish you a happy holocaust."

The text protested "holy war," nuclear proliferation and Israeli suppression of the Palestinian intifada. There was no mention of Judaism, Zionism, American Jews or even US government support of Israel's occupation of Palestinian lands.

The "controversial" text came right after Boren's expression of concern over "a weapon of ultimate destruction in the hands of a fanatical government." He wrote:

"The Israelis claim that they have a divine right to Palestine. If they are indeed God's chosen people, though, it would seem that God might have made a better choice."

Act II

The reaction, printed in the Lariat's letters column, was astonishing, not for its vehemence but for its irrelevance to what Boren had drawn and written.

Wrote Rabbi Allen Krause, Temple Beth El, Mission Viejo: "Is Boren aware that Jews are the only indigenous people in 3,000 years to have an independent state in that land?...There is no room for bigotry in the Lariat, even when it is disguised as self-righteous indignation."

Frieda Gelber, secretary, Emeritus Institute, Saddleback College, wrote: "Boren's immature degradation of God's Chosen People is very distasteful, hateful, vicious and sadistic. The transformation of a Chanukah menorah into a rocket-launching pad is sacrilegious."

The Saddleback Community College Chancellor, Richard Sneed, wrote: "While it may be appropriate to attack the foreign policy of the state of Israel, it is entirely unacceptable to misuse the sacred symbols of Judaism or to totally misrepresent the relationship of the state of Israel to the religion of the Jewish people or to have the temerity to make light of fundamental beliefs."

President Joan Hueter of the Saddleback Community College District Board of Trustees called on behalf of "my fellow board members" for an apology and retraction and explained,"An article which is based on ethnic slurs and religious bigotry has no place in a newspaper, especially not in a college newspaper which is supported by public funds."

Printed along with these objections in the Lariat's letters page was one letter from Michael Bryant, a facilities and maintenance department employee, asking: "Aren't we supposed to have the right, not just the privilege, to have our own opinion, even if it is wrong, or right? By the way, who made up the `right' things and `wrong' things?" He called on the Lariat staff to "Keep up the good work (be it right or wrong)."

The Lariat injected its own editor's note that "Boren's intent was not anti-Semitic nor to offend any religious sect or to diminish the significance of the Holocaust, but to express his concern with Israel's possession of nuclear arms and the volatility of the Mideast situation. The Lariat supports Boren's First Amendment right to express his opinion, however we regret any emotional distress his commentary and illustration have caused."

Act III

By this time the uproar had overflowed into the news and letters columns of the Southern California press.

"I think this piece showed extremely poor taste and we were extremely offended by it," Elizabeth Gale, Orange County director of the B'nai B'rith Anti-Defamation League, told the Los Angeles Times, "It's disturbing to see a student publish something that is full of inaccuracy. …

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