Celebrating partisans

Thanks to j. for a wonderful article about the film “Defiance” (Jan. 9). It shares a history that many more people ought to know.

The article rightly focused not only on the film but that among us are people like Mira Shelub and Sara Rosnow who lived the history!

In the 1980s when Mira returned to school, I had the honor of teaching a course on the Holocaust. Mira was my student! The “term paper” she delivered as a presentation to the students ended with her singing of the partisan hymn. I learned more from Mira than she might have from me. Thanks to j. and Stacey Palevsky for giving Mira and her family another opportunity to teach all of us about finding “our best selves.”

I direct Facing History and Ourselves, another nonprofit educational organization with ties to “Defiance” and dedicated to Holocaust education. We organized the Dec. 3 event and partnered with JPEF for the screening of “Defiance.” We highly recommend that interested readers explore JPEF at www.jewishpartisans.org and Facing History at www.facinghistory.org .

Everyone has something at stake in making sure that this history is told from generation to generation.

Jack Weinstein | Hayward

Director, Facing History and Ourselves

Civilians or dangerous combatants?

As casualty statistics mount, the most damning factoids seem to be that of civilian casualties in Gaza. That got me thinking, just how does one define a combatant vs. a civilian?

Recently, a Red Crescent Society official was asked how he was capable of telling the difference between innocent civilians and gunmen? He acknowledged this could be tricky.

“Militants usually wear uniforms and carry weapons”: Israeli defense sources say many Hamas gunmen are fighting out of uniform.

So are we expecting terrorists to be branded with a large letter “T”? Clearly Israel is targeting a number of really bad guys, those engaging in exchanges of fire with Israeli troops or those previously identified as Hamas terror operatives. Those are terrorists. Israel is doing its best to avoid attacks that kill innocents. Undoubtedly some innocents are caught in the crossfire but that happens in war particularly in densely populated areas like Gaza particularly where terrorists fire from amongst civilians.

Hamas benefits in the court of opinion from exaggerated body counts. We saw the same tactic in 2003 in Jenin and most of those claims were bogus. Let’s be a bit more careful with the numbers we throw around to criticize Israel.

Steve Lipman | Foster City

Palestinians deserve respect

The rockets are of course not the issue in Gaza. And “terrorist” is what rulers always call the weak who dare fight back however they can.

The large picture is Israel’s chronic refusal to treat Palestine’s Arabs with respect and negotiate an honest two-state solution. Sure, Israel will talk with Abbas for years, hopefully forever, while ceding nothing and eating up ever more of the West Bank.

Israel’s endless “playing” of Abbas is part of why Hamas won Palestine’s elections — a victory Abbas and Israel both refused to acknowledge.

Israel is undoing itself with pointless killing that accomplishes little strategically, first in the north, now in the south. Israel’s efforts to suppress the Palestinians will fail. The question is how much suffering it will take. Giving Israel $3 billion a year for weapons, the U.S. facilitates that killing and Israel’s refusal to face reality. And we as American Jews contribute terribly unless we speak out.

Israel has long sacrificed the united support of the Jewish people worldwide that was its greatest asset. In fighting against overwhelming odds against siege and slaughter, Gazans today call up nothing so much as the memory of the Maccabees.

Steve Koppman | Oakland

Shocking words

As a co-founder of StandWithUs, and currently a community activist with a son serving in Gaza, I have been to many of the pro- and anti-Israel rallies in the last few weeks.

Familiar with the antics of the supporters of Hamas and other terror groups, the chants of “Free Free Palestine” have been screamed over and over again. But what I have been shocked at seeing and hearing are the calls for Hitler and Hamas to “finish the job” and accusations of Israel having learned from the gas chambers. While your article (“Anti-Semitic tone of some Gaza protests worries Jewish leaders,” Jan. 9) states many Americans will be turnedoff by the overt anti-Semitic chants, many are feeling that saying this under the aegis of free speech is de rigeur and politically correct.

It is a very sad day when I see the Israeli flag and the Star of David replaced with a swastika, but it has become commonplace in a world that has been turned upside-down. We need to make sure to expose the real reason for the protests — hatred of all Jews, and a desire to eliminate the state of Israel from the map.

Allyson Rowen Taylor | Los Angeles

‘Distressing’ situation

These have been especially distressing days to be Israeli and to be Jewish, let alone being a human. The firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel is unacceptable, as is the disproportionate and indiscriminate response by Israel. Casualties, of which the Palestinian population bears the brunt in this war, need to be stopped immediately.

The only way to do this is through an immediate cease-fire and, dare I say, change in U.S. policy and unquestioned military aid toward Israel, as a first step for a lasting peace.

I find unacceptable the ethics of the Israeli leaders of the attack on Gaza, which is in effect a 22-by-5 mile prison for its inhabitants. Some “light unto the nations.” Shelling of U.N. schools and relief efforts, medical staff, women, children and innocent civilians have resulted in an unspeakable horror and terror for Gaza inhabitants, for all of us and the rest of the world to witness.

The idea of the IDF is to defend and not to arbitrarily kill. Through all this random slaughter, countless lives are destroyed, along with the last vestiges of a moral Israeli-Jewish soul. Every new motherless Palestinian child becomes a new recruit for Hamas.

Josh Meidav | Albany

An East Bay rebirth

Thanks to the j. for the article “A second chance: East Bay JCC battling back from financial crisis” (Dec. 19). Indeed, the organization is successfully rebuilding. There are more positives than appeared in the article, including the addition of Michele Levine, who’s doing a phenomenal job as the children’s services director. Under her guidance, the afterschool programs are thriving and there are great mini-camps available to all during school breaks.

Moreover, it’s hard to capture in print the cohesiveness and warmth of the community I’ve seen as a parent at the preschool Chanukah party and the CenterStage after-school program’s dynamic end-of-session performances.

All in all it’s clear that the JCC of the East Bay is finally getting into a good position to realize its full potential, and is well deserving of financial support from the community and other generous donors.

Jon Meyers | Albany