Palestinian land?

Articles and letters to j. and elsewhere often say that Israel’s barrier fence infringes on Palestinian land.

It is my understanding that the Palestinian Arabs do not own any land on the West Bank. The West Bank was Jordanian land before the ’67 war. During the ’67 war it became Israeli land in accordance with international law, which states that if a country is invaded (as Israel was by Jordan in ’67) and it pushes back the invading country’s forces, the land it occupies becomes its land.

The West Bank was never, and is not now, Palestinian Arab land. Palestinian Arabs were permitted to live there, but they never owned the land. If, someday, by peace negotiation, a Palestinian Arab nation is born and given part of the West Bank by the Israelis, then they can claim ownership of that negotiated territory.

Edward Tamler | San Mateo

Democracy or dictatorship?

Come and witness “democracy in Israel.”

Labor favored unilateral withdrawal from Gaza during the elections. Likud did not.

Likud wins the elections the next year, Sharon “changes his mind” and favors unilateral withdrawal. The Likud Party rejects unilateral withdrawal by a 3-2 margin.

Sharon ignores the vote and goes to his Cabinet. He can’t win, so he fires two Cabinet ministers and replaces them. Sharon gets something passed but must return for another vote if he wants to uproot the Jewish settlements.

Most likely, Sharon won’t return — and plans to do whatever he wants, which includes no referendum on this subject matter either. This is not democracy, this is dictatorship.

The population has the right to decide these issues, which include a referendum on the big question: Should Israel expel its Arab population?

If the government refuses, there will be revolution because the population won’t accept constant terror forever. Arabs will be targeted. Foreigners giving aid and comfort to the enemy could be targeted. Even some Israeli officials may have to look over their shoulders.

Sharon should reconsider, and prevent a lot of headaches.

Neal Wohlmuth | San Francisco

‘Anti-Semitic anecdote’

Last week’s j. printed an old Russian anti-Semitic anecdote. The message was subtle, and the editors undoubtedly mistook it for a harmless joke. That “joke” is set just before the outbreak of World War II. It describes a Jew who is collecting food in case war breaks out. When the Jew is asked why his Russian neighbors are not also collecting food, he answers that they have no need to, since they will be going off to war and dying, whereas he will go on living.

The implication was clear: Jews didn’t sacrifice their own blood to fight the Nazis; they let the Russians do their fighting for them. To this day, this is a common stereotype in Russia.

In fact, 500,000 Jews fought against Hitler in the Soviet army. When war archives became available after the collapse of the Soviet Union, a group of dedicated Jewish veterans, determined to break that stereotype, collected over 100,000 names of Jewish soldiers who perished fighting the Nazis. Those names are memorialized in “The Book of Remembrance,” a collection of biographies published with the help of the Bay Area Council and on display at the Holocaust Center of Northern California in San Francisco.

Pnina Levermore | San Francisco
executive director
Bay Area Council for Jewish Rescue and Renewal

Not ‘Judaic’ experience

Sheli Nan’s July 23 essay (“Coming-of-age ceremony can take many forms”) on her student’s bar mitzvah was both moving and disturbing. Preparing for the “coming-out ceremony” was clearly rewarding for this admirable young adult, but why call it a “bar mitzvah”? It is true as she observes that too many forget the “mitzvah” in “bar mitzvah,” but the author seems to have forgotten that for there to be a commandment (the proper translation of mitzvah, rather than “good deed”), there logically must be a commander. When she writes that “there was no overt mention of God per se,” what makes this a “Judaic” experience? The Scouts and a variety of service organizations also have programs in which young adults can learn discipline and aid the less fortunate in their communities.

Like too many other secular Jews, the author considers the performance of good deeds as the sum total of Judaism. Can her student lead a worship service and chant the Torah and Haftarah? Is he versed in the history and traditions of his people? If these were not integral parts of the preparation for his bar mitzvah, why should he remain Jewish, since good deeds can be practiced by members of any religion or no religion alike?

Reuven Barzel | Oakland

letters policy

j. the Jewish news weekly welcomes letters to the editor, preferably typewritten. Letters must not exceed 200 words and must be dated and signed with current address and daytime telephone number. j. also reserves the right to edit letters. The deadline is noon Monday for any given week’s publication. Letters should be sent by e-mail to [email protected] or by mail to j., 225 Bush St., Suite 1480, San Francisco, CA 94104.