When will France sing ‘Je suis Israélien’?

As I followed the unfolding tragedy in Paris, from the massacre by Islamic terrorists of nine journalists, a maintenance worker, a security guard and a police officer at the provocative satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, to the murder of four Jews at the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket, I found myself wondering why countries attacked by Islamic terrorists don’t empathize with Israel’s plight.

 Then I thought of the Todd Solondz film “Welcome to the Dollhouse.” The 1995 dark comedy defied the traditional Hollywood depictions of child outcasts bonding together to defeat the powerful, popular bullies. Instead, its protagonist was an unpopular preteen girl who faced rejection from her fellow outcasts, who were more concerned with protecting their own tenuous positions above her in the social hierarchy from the perceived taint of associating with her.

 That aspect of the film parallels the world’s treatment of Israel. Today, Israelis are wearing shirts and displaying banners proclaiming “Je suis Charlie” and singing “La Marseillaise,” standing symbolically with the French journalists who were murdered by terrorists for exercising their right to free expression. However, France, which abandoned Israel when it was under siege on the eve of the 1967 war, is too pusillanimous to risk its ill-gotten standing in the Arab world by reciprocating Israel’s support.

Yes, France is finally beginning to confront a growing wave of anti-Semitism within its borders that has already persuaded thousands of Jews to flee for the relative safety of Israel, and some Frenchmen are wearing shirts saying “Je suis Juif” in solidarity with France’s Jews. Even so, the next time there is a deadly terror attack in Israel, how many French citizens will march through Paris proclaiming “Je suis Israélien” and singing “Hatikvah”? Not many, I’m sure.

Stephen A. Silver   |   San Francisco


Inalienable right turned on its head

The Paris massacre was an assault on free speech by those who apparently believe they have an inalienable right not to be “offended.” Is Islamist Islam entitled to control what non-Muslims may say or publish, on pain of death? If not, what steps must we take to ensure freedom of speech for generations yet to come?

Julia Lutch   |   Davis


To protect freedom, take off the gloves

The murderous attack on Charlie Hebdo’s cartoonists in Paris isn’t an attack on freedom of speech. It is another round in a long war between two competing civilizations.

The Paris terrorists are no different from the man who beheaded a British soldier in England or the attackers of the Jewish synagogue in Brussels or those who stormed a French police station or the youngster who slaughtered kids in a Toulouse school. And the list goes on and on.

Yet again, enlightened Europeans miss the point. They will light candles, darken city monuments, write articles that condemn the attack, wave posters proclaiming “Je suis Charlie” and demand respect for values that only their civilization enshrines. But terrorists are not moved by condemnations and certainly don’t consider what those who don’t share their views have to say. For them, there is an unquestionable set of truths. And violence –— against anyone, everywhere, at any time — is a legitimate means toward these truths.  

European societies have sacrificed much for freedom and progress, both now fiercely challenged from within. To protect these freedoms, European governments must strictly supervise the teachings and sermons of religious leaders in European mosques that have become hotbeds for anti-Western incitement and extremist Islamist ideology; outlaw groups that openly call for the institution of Islamic fundamentalism on European soil; and monitor travel of European residents to and from countries where terrorists are trained.

This isn’t a war against Islam or Muslims. On the contrary, this is a war for Islam and Muslims to live more peacefully in a Europe that won’t compromise its freedoms. But for that to happen, Europeans must be prepared to take off their gloves.

Moran Stern   |   College Park, Maryland


Cremation wrong for other reasons

Regarding Jonathan Harris’ Advice Mensch column “Cremation wishes in conflict with strict Jewish law” (Dec. 12): While I personally am not particularly interested in any biblical arguments against cremation, I would suggest two additional reasons, not mentioned by Harris, why I do not believe in cremation for Jews.

First, the idea of cremation seems to be awfully close to the cremation ovens used in “The Final Solution.” Second, I have found that occasionally visiting my family’s graves in Colma provides me with an opportunity for deep contemplation, and a certain amount of inner peace. Being able to visit my family in a physical place in a beautiful location with green grass under a wide sky provides me with a connection to my family that I don’t believe could be achieved from scattered ashes.

Ronald Glas   |   Concord


Listen carefully to dissenting voices

J. is to be congratulated for publishing “Elite Jerusalem school alums, teachers urge IDF refusal” (Jan. 9). The fact that this is the third time in a year that “a group of Israelis has published a letter opposing participation in certain military activities because of the occupation” should be instructive to those who would silence or discredit a plurality of opinions within the American Jewish community.

We would all do well to listen carefully to these dissenting Israeli voices. The article mentions a letter sent by 43 reservists from Intelligence Unit 8200 to Benjamin Netanyahu, who “[came] to realize that the intelligence unit in which they served is part of the military control mechanism over the territories … to recruit informers and to extort them by various means, including exploiting the sexual orientation, illnesses and distress of innocent Palestinians.”

Not mentioned were the collective opinions of the six former directors of the Shin Bet, interviewed in the 2012 Israeli documentary film “The Gatekeepers,” all advocating an end to the occupation and a conciliatory approach toward the Palestinians based on a two-state solution.

 Perhaps diaspora Jews who are quick to oppose the two-state solution should ask themselves if they’d be willing to argue their point with those 43 reservists in Intelligence Unit 8200 and the six former directors of the Shin Bet. Would they be willing to tell these committed Zionists and well-informed Israelis, “I’m right and you’re wrong?” The Greeks have a word for that: hubris. We also have a word for that: chutzpah.

Michael J. Cooper   |    Lafayette


When voting is a dangerous trend

I was surprised by Sue Fishkoff’s column “Time to stop whining and start voting” (Jan. 9): “Worried about anti-Semitism? How about West Bank settlements, or religious pluralism in Israel?”

Is this a call to vote against the only Middle Eastern democratic state that offers religious pluralism and freedom of expression? Do you think West Bank settlements, which are part of Israel’s security strategy and were built on land acquired legally during the Six-Day War, should be returned to terrorists who have one goal, the destruction of Israel? Isn’t it enough that Gaza’s “land for peace” experiment turned Gaza into a terrorist camp? Ms. Fishkoff, I believe you owe your readers an explanation.

Eugene Vos   |   South San Francisco

Editor’s response:
No political opinion was being expressed. On the contrary, the sentences you refer to carefully avoided suggesting that one support or not support building more West Bank settlements, support or not support greater rights for non-Orthodox Jewish streams in Israel — the point is, if you are a diaspora Jew who cares about those issues and others affecting Israel and world Jewry, then you should vote in the World Zionist Congress elections.


Israel is forever tied to Holocaust

Holocaust Remembrance Day is a tribute to those who lost their lives to evil and a tribute to those who survived. They must not be forgotten or pushed to the out edges of our minds (“Time has come to rethink Holocaust Remembrance Day,” Jan. 2).

If Ireland or any place else has a problem with Israel being connected to Holocaust Remembrance Day, it is their problem, not ours. Israel exists in large part because of the Holocaust. We cannot start changing our traditions to suit the world. Those who hate Israel will continue to do so regardless of facts. It would be a disgrace to Israel and to those who died because they were Jews to cater to bigots.

If you would join me at services on Holocaust Remembrance Day (Jan. 27), we can pray together for those who were murdered.

Jill Maleson   |   Fremont


Court is stacked against Israel

Mahmoud Abbas’ threats to take Israel to the International Criminal Court for preventing Hamas from killing more Israelis during last year’s Israeli military operation in Gaza seem likely to succeed. Benjamin Netanyahu’s threats to prosecute Arab Palestinians for war crimes in response won’t work, because in practice, the Palestinians are “judgment proof.”

Arab Palestinians routinely kill “collaborators,” so finding witnesses from Gaza to testify against them is impossible. Arab Palestinians as a group won’t be punished for not cooperating with an investigation against them. They will merely explain that they’re “under occupation” and that the investigators are under Israel’s thumb. Israeli democracy and free speech prevent Israel from doing the same.

 Numerous Israeli NGOs that exist because their members, unlike their Arab counterparts, are not casually murdered, will supply the prosecutor with the dirt on alleged Israeli misdeeds. Furthermore, many jurisdictions are only looking for an occasion to impose sanctions on Israel.

So unless one foolishly anticipates a heroic level of altruism from Arab Palestinian leadership, their well-documented war crimes will go unpunished, while Israel will surely be found guilty. It’s the way things are.

Desmond Tuck   |   San Mateo