Silencing free speech

Regarding “Arab speakers upset film fest viewers” (Aug. 13 j.), for almost 25 years the Jewish Film Festival has had Palestinian (not to mention Israeli) speakers who say things about Israel that are often difficult for American Jews to hear.

At no time have any of them ever said anything anti-Semitic or anything that denies Israel’s right to exist.

At this point, for some festival viewers to say they are “shocked” or disappointed by Palestinians’ sharp criticism of Israeli policy sounds a little like the “shocked” reaction to Janet Jackson’s nipple at the Super Bowl — disingenuous and motivated by a political agenda that’s about silencing free expression, which, no matter how tacky, impolitic or oppositional, is still, fortunately, protected speech in this country.

The Israel Center, JCRC and others might find their disappointment and criticisms more appreciated and respected if they showed as much leadership as the Jewish Film Festival in creating challenging, provocative, and serious cultural and political dialogue.

It is from this basis that civil discourse and successful diplomatic initiatives may emerge.

Sadly, that still appears to be beyond the provincial imaginations of those festival critics.

Deborah Kaufman | Berkeley
founding director
Jewish film festival

Constant intimidation

Regarding Alexandra J. Wall Aug. 13 j. story “Arab speakers upset film fest viewers,” when are the Peter Steins and Michael Lerners of the world going to realize there’s no such thing as “Arab moderation” and “Arab understanding”?

Imagine the disgust and uproar if two Jewish people at an Arab/Palestinian film festival chose to make inflaming remarks regarding Israeli policy? I just wonder what the reaction would be?

Furthermore, would they even be invited?

The fact that Stein was hissed by audience members further illustrates a situation in which Israel’s existence is frowned upon by its critics.

It’s time Jewish people remember their origin and end the constant intimidation tactics by our enemies.

Richard Lieberman | Oakland

Avoiding squabbles

If North/South Korea can march arm in arm into the Olympic stadium in Athens, one would hope that at least for two weeks we could avoid the political squabbles that have hurt and killed so many.

Tehran’s cowardly decision to have Iranian judoka and world champion Arash Miresmaeili forfeit his match rather than compete against his Israeli opponent for what the Iranian regime calls its “policy to avoid competition with athletes from the Zionist entity” shattered that illusion.

Tehran is one of the prime exporters of terror through Hezbollah and its proxies. They insist on developing a nuclear program while disingenuously claiming it is for peaceful purposes. The mullahs praise Miresmaeili and call him a “hero of the revolution” for showing up for his weigh-in 2 kg overweight to avoid international sanctions.

In the grand scheme of things, the Earth will continue to rotate on its axis, and there are more important things than judo matches, but is it too much to hope that the arena of sport that brought rapprochement between the United States and China through “Ping Pong diplomacy” would succeed where peacemakers have failed in the Middle East?

Steve Lipman | Foster City

Desecration deplored

I read with interest your Aug. 13 article concerning the desecration of Jewish graves in New Zealand. I’d like to assure your readers that the New Zealand government has strongly condemned that desecration.

The acting prime minister, Michael Cullen, released a statement Aug. 6 in which he deplored the act of vandalism, saying it was “totally unacceptable.” He also commented that “racism of any sort is ugly and unforgivable and has no place in New Zealand.”

The New Zealand Parliament also unanimously passed a resolution strongly deploring the attacks; recalling the terrible history of anti-Semitism stretching over many centuries, culminating in the Holocaust under Nazi rule; and expressing Parliament’s unequivocal condemnation of anti-Semitism, violence directed against Jews and Jewish religious and cultural institutions, and all forms of racial and ethnic hatred, persecution and discrimination.

The leaders of all parties in the New Zealand Parliament expressed their repugnance at the acts of desecration. The Speaker of the House has sent the motion, and the statements made by members of parliament, to the Speaker of the Knesset in Israel.

New Zealand police are investigating the attacks vigorously and thoroughly to ensure that the perpetrators are bought to justice.

Rob Taylor | Los Angeles
consul general of New Zealand

Pleasant surprise?

Readers of Steve Friedman’s otherwise excellent Aug. 6 article on teen education might be misled into thinking outstanding Jewish education for teenagers is only provided by the BJE-run Havurot in San Francisco and on the Peninsula, and in the East Bay by the CJLL.

In fact, there are a number of synagogue-based Hebrew high schools that provide first-rate Jewish education with the added advantage of creating a vibrant youth community with strong connections to their own synagogue.

The Marin Jewish community, which I know best, boasts two such excellent programs, one at Congregation Rodef Sholom (Reform) and one at Congregation Kol Shofar (Conservative).

Similar programs exist on the Peninsula.

At Kol Shofar, over 100 teenagers, grades 8-12, enjoy a sophisticated program of elective study ranging from Talmud and Israeli politics to meditation and social action. Our program, like others, is also open to the community.

Synagogues have always been the foundation of Jewish education, and have been — and continue to be — the leaders and innovators in both formal and informal teen education. People looking for a Jewish education for their teen should not forget to call their synagogue. They might be pleasantly surprised.

Rabbi Lavey Derby | Mill Valley

Kudos on article

I wanted to compliment and thank Dan Pine (“Challenging the mentally challenged,” July 16 j.) for his excellent article exploring the social and spiritual lives of adults with developmental disabilities.

Much credit goes also to the organizers and social workers who have developed the JFS Chaverim program. They coordinated with family members and the participants to make it all the success it is — and, hopefully, will continue to be.

And, incidentally, that was a great picture of my brother, Ron Fruman. Many of the regular customers at Lunardi’s market, where he works in Walnut Creek, have already complimented him, much to his glee.

Neil Fruman | Lafayette

Low-carb craze

I read with interest Jennifer Liss’ Aug. 6 article “Low-carb challah?” As the owner of a new business that currently sells challah exclusively, Irving’s Premium Challah, I can assure you that we have not seen any negative effects of the current low-carb diet craze. In fact, we have gone from cooking a few loaves for friends in my kitchen to selling challah in almost 30 locations in the Bay Area, including most of the local Jewish community centers.

If the low-carb craze has made people buy fewer challah, we have to admit that we haven’t noticed it. Is this because we started selling after the craze had peaked? Is it because we sell to those who eat challah for religious and not fad dietary reasons?

In the end, we believe that there are as many reasons as there are people, and we’re pleased that those who enjoy our challah tell us they do so to celebrate good food and tradition with their family and friends and not to chase a fad.

Irving Greisman | San Francisco

Israel’s only hope

Had Dennis Ross (July 6 j.) understood the nature of modern political armed revolution against democratic states, Yasser Arafat’s betrayals would be no surprise.

The most successful revolutionary strategy is to wear out democratic electorates by alternating open warfare with cease-fire negotiations which go nowhere, or, when apparently successful, the revolutionaries fail to keep commitments.

The power of revolutionaries is greatly magnified by post-World War II democratic governments’ slavish devotion to international laws.

They were never intended to deal with non-state terrorism intended to bring down Western civilization.

These laws preclude winning a definitive military victory. They prevent us from aggressively interrogating a “ticking bomb” suspect who knows of plans for a WMD attack on America.

American slavery might still exist without the Confederacy’s unconditional surrender. Hence, Lincoln unleashed William Tecumseh Sherman to burn and loot everything of value from Atlanta to the sea to send a message that without complete capitulation, the Confederacy would be turned to ashes.

Israel’s only hope for a real settlement with the Palestinians depends upon completely defeating and disarming the Palestinian enemy — regardless of the very large number of insurgent and civilian casualties likely to be inflicted. Anything less is like praying for rain.

Mark Klein | Oakland

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