Hate, vituperation and intolerance threaten our once-tolerant region

In her book “The Haas Sisters of Franklin Street, a Look Back With Love,” my mother, Frances Bransten Rothmann, described San Francisco as a unique place in time “never lashed by hate, vituperation, or intolerance.”

Five incidents in the last few weeks have convinced me that a rising tide has overtaken those unique and special qualities in our community:

• An individual approached me to say, “I suggested you as a speaker at our Israel event but was told that you were too right wing.” I was not invited to speak at the event.

• Yossi Beilin, former minister of justice and deputy foreign minister of Israel, is invited to speak at the North Bay Israel Institute sponsored by a host of Jewish community organizations. Faxes and e-mails are received attacking Beilin as “a traitor” to Israel because of his belief in the Oslo process and for being “a left winger.”

• On the morning that an attempt was made on the life of Paul Wolfowitz, deputy secretary of defense of the United States, a caller to my talk show on KGO Radio suggested that he should have been killed and that he wished that the assassination attempt had succeeded. Even as I responded with outrage, other listeners responded that “the Jew” Wolfowitz should be killed.

• Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad told the Organization of the Islamic Conference on Oct.16 that “the Jews rule the world by proxy and get others to fight and die for them.” His speech received a standing ovation from Muslim leaders at the conference. Aside from an editorial in the San Francisco Chronicle, a deafening silence was heard in our community in response to these hate-filled words.

During the peace march on Oct. 25, no denunciation of the statement was made by speakers or organizers of the event.

• San Francisco Women Against Rape has yet to rescind its anti-Zionist position despite what the Jewish Community Relations Council has termed “a vigorous three-month campaign against their discriminatory actions and policies.” SFWAR continues to receive both public and private funding.

These are examples of “hate, vituperation and intolerance” in our midst. We must address the continuing polarization in our community. There are specific things that we can do immediately.

• This community must encourage all voices and individuals that support Israel to be active and involved in positive ways.

We need to remember and point out that Israel is a pluralistic democracy with many points of view. That is one very important fact that makes Israel unique among nations in the Middle East.

All voices and individuals that support Israel in our community, left, right and center, must be respected and heard.

• Community forums should be encouraged to include representatives of diverse opinions. By highlighting government and opposition views, we can demonstrate the democratic nature of Israel and its political process.

Debates are a terrific way to bring tough issues to public attention. Let the community identify key areas that should be debated and provide forums for them.

• Rhetoric or policies directed against Jews must be exploded and denounced immediately.

• We must immediately offer support to those on the front lines in this battle against hate, vituperation and intolerance. This must be true especially on the campuses in our community.

In these troubled and troubling times we need to be clear and we must act. We cannot afford to hesitate or delay.

John Rothmann, a KGO Radio talk-show host, is a political analyst in

San Francisco and former president of the Zionist Organization of America.