For the sake of our Jewish souls

If being a Zionist means supporting the right of the Jewish people to a homeland in Palestine, then I am a Zionist, and proudly so. But I am mindful every day that many of the early Zionists, including the great philosopher Martin Buber, believed that Zionism could succeed — both practically and morally — only as a partnership with the Palestinian people in which the two communities together redeemed the land. That is my Zionism.

I am watching the current war with utter horror, and it is clearer to me than ever that the occupation must end, by Israel unilaterally if that is the only way. It is unsustainable demographically, economically and, especially, morally.

With each child killed in Gaza, we lose a bit of our souls as Jews, a bit of what has distinguished us — and what always should distinguish us — as those who brought the great gift of ethical monotheism to humankind. And we lose sight of what God requires of us as Jews and as human beings, in the words of Micah (6:8): “To do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

Yes, Hamas has built tunnels under homes and schools, and yes, Hamas cynically forces Gazans to suffer immeasurably for its own political gain, but we simply cannot continue on this path of disproportionate destruction, of skewing too far the balance between justice and mercy — if not for the Palestinians, then for ourselves.

Howard Simon  |  San Francisco


Supporting Israel in crisis

Thank you to J. for covering our community solidarity gathering at Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco on July 20. It was a remarkable program and we are grateful to the 1,000 people who attended to show their support for Israel in this time of crisis. We were also heartened to see a strong showing from local Bay Area elected officials who spoke in solidarity, including Rep. Jared Huffman and San Francisco Supervisors Malia Cohen and Scott Wiener.

The event demonstrated the deep attachment of our diverse community to Israel and the need to come together for words of inspiration, healing and action. The organizers of the event — JCRC, Jewish Community Federation and the Board of Rabbis of Northern California — thank Congregation Emanu-El and Rabbi Ryan Bauer for hosting this important gathering, as well as the young Israeli community that joined with us after their march.

Most of all, we thank the Bay Area Jewish community for its broad and deep support for Israel’s right to defend itself from rocket attacks from an enemy that violently opposes her right to exist and quest to live in peace with her neighbors. Communities like ours are an important resource in Israel’s fight for survival.

Mark Schickman  |  Berkeley

Chair, Jewish Community Relations Council Middle East Strategy Committee


Palestinians kept spurning peace

Thank you for Dan Pine’s column “Hamas or Israel? Choosing a side isn’t rocket science” (July 18).

Years ago, after one of the major Palestinian terror attacks, I asked an anti-Israel demonstrator whether Palestinian massacres of innocent Israelis bothered her. “No,” she replied, “because it shows how desperate the Palestinians are for peace.”

Desperate for peace? In 2000, 2001 and 2008, Israel offered the Palestinians a state on virtually all of the disputed territory — something that Tibetans, Kurds, Chechens and other stateless people could only dream about. And in 2005, Israel vacated Gaza, leaving behind only greenhouses.

Yet the Palestinians, having repeatedly spurned Israeli peace efforts, cite their lack of a state — the result of their own intransigence — as justification for blowing up buses, discos and pizzerias filled with Israeli children; kidnapping and killing young Israelis; and raining rockets and mortars indiscriminately on Israeli cities. Hamas also uses its own people as human shields as it attacks Israel in a cynical ploy to create “martyrs” to gain international sympathy, while Israel takes remarkable measures to avoid hurting Palestinian civilians.

It’s heartbreaking to see people ostensibly concerned with human rights vilify Israel while supporting genocidal Palestinian extremists.

Stephen A. Silver  |  San Francisco


Pro-Israel crowd’s ‘thuggish’ behavior

Regarding your July 25 story “Solidarity inside, feuding outside at pro-Israel gathering at Emanu-El,” there was a major omission. Jewish Voice for Peace and our allies had arrived first and established a position on the wide sidewalk. Later, StandWithUs/S.F. Voice for Israel people arrived and chose not to simply find another place on the sidewalk. Instead the pro-Israel group got as close to us as they could without knocking us down. They leaned over us with Israeli flags attempting to cover our banner. In addition to taunting and physically threatening us, they danced and sang in celebration of Israel’s slaughtering the people of Gaza.

Is an attempt to physically overpower and to speak in threatening tones to those who dissent an expression of a confident position? It was alarming to see the pro-Israel crowd’s use of thuggish intimidation with fellow Jews on the streets of San Francisco. The violence perpetrated by Israel seeps down, making inroads into our own community.

Bruce Ballin  |  San Francisco


Palpable hatred at S.F. protest

An American Jew who wonders what a potential pogrom feels like should attend an anti-Israel rally in San Francisco, like the one I witnessed at Justin Herman plaza on July 27.

I thought of my Polish grandparents, who witnessed not only “pre-pogroms” but also the real thing.

The kaffiyeh crowd and their recruited followers emit palpable hatred toward Israel (and Jews). They spread their well-financed poison to the Ferry Building and to (police-protected) sit-in photo-ops on Market Street.

They blame Israel for Palestinian injuries and deaths but scrupulously shun mention of Hamas’ role. Their main chant — Free Palestine from the river to the sea — expresses the Israel-haters’ true intent: Israel does not have the right to exist; it should have been murdered before its 1947 rebirth; now Hamas, Iran, Turkey and such friends will use rockets, tunnels and dead Palestinians as long as Israel refuses to commit suicide.

June Brott  |  Walnut Creek


The right to live free of hate

The chants in the streets of Europe today are filled with hate that should be in our past. “Kill the Jews.” “Murder the Jews.” “Gas the Jews.”  “Jews back to the ovens.”

President Francois Hollande of France declared, “The fight against anti-Semitism will be a national cause. It is unacceptable to target synagogues or shops simply because they are managed by Jews.” Sarcelles Mayor Francois Pupponi stated, “We have never seen such hatred and violence as witnessed in Sarcelles. This morning people are astonished and the Jewish community is frightened.”

The foreign ministers of Germany, France and Italy issued a statement in a joint declaration, “Anti-Semitic rhetoric and hostility against Jews, attacks on people of Jewish belief and synagogues have no place in our societies.”

The real issue that we confront today is the right of Israel and Jews to live in this world without rockets flying and continuing hate, vituperation and intolerance.

John F. Rothmann  |  San Francisco


Supporting the Jews of France

Thanks for the articles from JTA and the opinion piece by Milena Kartowski-Aiach (“Amid anti-Semitism, French remain passive, July 25).

I have property that my American parents developed in southeastern France back in the 1970s. My wife and I visit almost every year.

Following the attacks on the synagogues in Paris on July 13, I started a letter addressed to some of my neighbors in France, as well as to some of my former instructors at the Alliance Francaise here in San Francisco. I voiced my concerns — fear for and support of French Jews. It took me about a week to write, but I did send it. However, I found that Ms. Kartowski-Aiach’s piece was better. I’m glad she sent it to the French magazine Le Nouvel Observateur.

Michael Cronbach  |  San Francisco


The root causes of this conflict

In her July 25 letter to J., Judith Levitt Kennedy is quite right to fault Dan Pine for his “you’re either for Israel or for Hamas” stance. In the very next letter, Tod Zuckerman disparages the idea that the settlements are to blame for the current war, but rather than honestly addressing the issue, he only generates a list of the horrors of Hamas.

There are strong, credible voices within Israel, in addition to the views of every American president from Eisenhower to Obama, that identify the settlements as the greatest obstacle to peace, and yet they have only continued to grow. Netanyahu’s vision of a Palestinian pseudo-state is the division of the West Bank into four Arab enclaves, effectively divided by a heavy Jewish settlement and “security” presence.

If only Israel would acknowledge its responsibility for the current state of affairs and deploy its very considerable courage, ingenuity and resources in building a truly viable two-state solution.

Unfortunately, at the moment, the settler movement, and the attitude that you are for Israel (and everything it does) or you are against it, is in the ascendancy. Apparently there is an increasing number of Israeli crowds in the streets chanting “Death to Arabs.”  This may prove to be far more deadly for Israel than Hamas rockets.

John Lovejoy  |  Corte Madera


Liberal blind spot

Thank you, Dan Pine, for your incisive and powerful column (“Hamas or Israel? Choosing a side isn’t rocket science,” July 18). No one could have done a better job of speaking to that blind spot many liberals have with regard to Israel. I often want to ask some of my left-leaning Jewish friends how it is that they can have so little sympathy for the suffering of their own people and so much for just about everyone else.

With regard to the Middle East, the idea seems to be that since Jews are the ones with the stronger weapons they are the villains, and so deserving of being judged by a harsher standard.

There are several people to whom I’d love show this column — but I know it would not be received. I find that folks on the extreme left are just as hard to reach as those on the extreme right. Ironic, isn’t it?

I always appreciate Dan’s columns for the intelligence and heart he puts into them, not to mention the fine writing.

Malka Weitman  |  Berkeley


Believe Hamas and act accordingly

The biggest enemy of the Palestinian people is Hamas. Consider these facts:

Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal issues orders from his luxury suite in Qatar. He knew that the indiscriminate rainfall of some 2,000 rockets from Gaza into Israel would elicit a response, yet deliberately placed his “beloved brothers and sisters” in harm’s way.

Mashaal’s deputies planted missiles destined for Israel under and beside mosques, schools and homes. They unabashedly use civilians as human shields.

Though not politically correct, it is incumbent upon us to believe what these extremist groups are telling us and act accordingly. Until people face the glaring truth that Hamas, and groups like it, trumpet an avowed and public commitment to destroy Western values, their naivete will continue to fuel the depraved indifference to human life and civilized behavior that has earned Hamas its terrorist bona fides.

Marlene Maler  |  Berkeley


‘Exterminate the nest of cockroaches!’

Of course Hamas and its amen-chorus are shouting “Burn the Jews!” throughout Europe. The Palestinian Arabs are literally broadcasting that message and worse on YouTube in a “music video” sung in poorly accented Hebrew. (www.tinyurl.com/youtube-hamas-lyrics)

The video includes images of apes and sounds of ape-hoots, in keeping with Islamist belief that Jews are the “sons of apes and pigs.” The only remarkable thing about the song is its overt racism and calls for genocide. The translation of one stanza — and not the most violent is:

Shake the security of Israel!

Set a fire to the heart of Israel like spider webs!

Undermine Israel to her foundations!

Exterminate the nest of cockroaches!

Expel all the Jews!

Cause mass injuries among the apes!

Go around causing shocks!

Liquidate all the Jews!

Shake the security of Israel!

The Hamas Palestinians of Gaza, and the members of their amen-chorus in Europe, are responsible for every Arab civilian death in Gaza just as much as if Hamas and the choristers had personally pulled the trigger.

Seth Watkins  |  Menlo Park


Living as one, healing together

In the midst of Middle East fury — and broken hearts and hopes — how do we begin ending war, creating community, finally living as if we are one, echad, wahad, odin?

How do we understand ourselves and our power to redirect relationships and history?

In our experience, today’s more dangerous “iron dome” is the increasing hardness around people’s defended hearts—inevitable outcomes of slaying, scaring, destroying, blockading and humiliating.

Too, showering ineffective rockets disregards inescapable cause-and-effect of terrifying an unhealed, fearful, heavily militarized people — any people.

Most Palestinian and Israeli citizens seem educated and inventive about everything except thoughtful communication that humanizes one another.

Who will be the new citizen-communicators who sit down to face and hear each other — listen deeply to learn, familiarize and experience ourselves in the equal-other?

With this listening, we dignify “them” and “us,” become one another’s doctors, and heal together — only together.

In the flames of fear, in the illusion of individual survival, most people succumb to the clan’s taboo against personal contact and empathy.

Who among us will transcend this anxiety, champion the inclusive Prophets, and practice the prescription of social scientists, mental health professionals and the spiritual greats?

Who will engage to discover that “an enemy is one whose story we have not heard” and that we are one, neighbors forever?

Libby and Len Traubman  |  San Mateo


Choosing sides needs dose of reality

Regarding Judith Levitt Kennedy’s letter (“Killing leads to killing,” July 25): You do not choose to support Hamas. That’s commendable. Better than being with the Jewish Voice for Palestine/Peace, whose members stand in demonstrations calling for the elimination of Israel.

You also do not choose to support Israel’s “invasion” of Gaza. Instead, you support “a peace process in which all the peoples of the region will be able to live in secure and thriving communities.” Sounds good to me. Just let me know when Hamas stops firing rockets aimed at killing Israelis and recognizes the right of Israel to exist.

In the meantime, I fully agree with Dan Pine’s column (“Hamas or Israel? Choosing a side isn’t rocket science,” July 18).

Joel Ackerman  |  Richmond