Courageous journalism

Reporter Dan Pine and J. deserve praise for their courage in covering the campus BDS movement with journalistic objectivity. In addition to covering the polarized debates that are all too common, I hope you will continue to cover the many efforts toward reconciliation and coexistence, which often proceed too quietly to get the attention they deserve.

Cyndi Spindell Berck   |   Berkeley


Show Green Line to show patriotism

This November, when we mark the 20th anniversary of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination, I will recall a different time for Israel, when the prime minister took genuine steps toward peace.

At the time, I was a Jewish Agency counselor for youth groups visiting Israel, and I would discuss with my students what a two-state solution would actually look like. To demonstrate, I prepared a map of Israel with Velcro-removable pieces representing the West Bank and Gaza.

Twenty years later, the Green Line separating Israel from occupied territory has blurred so much that I fear such an exercise would be condemned as unpatriotic. But that line is still there, representing if not an accurate then at least a general plan for a solution. To ensure Israel’s future as a democracy and Jewish homeland, Israel and its supporters must continue envisioning two states.

As American Jews, our patriotism and Zionism demand that we dust off those old maps. From urging our synagogues to only use maps of Israel with a Green Line, to making sure that our donations to Jewish institutions aren’t used to support settlements or other obstacles to a two-state solution, we must remind our friends and family of the real compromises that peace will require.

Karen Braverman Bujanover   |   Mountain View


Bringing Poland’s dark past to light

During an April 15 speech at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, FBI director James Comey noted that some Poles were accomplices in the Holocaust. The Polish government objected, and the White House apologized.

In fact, Comey was correct. From the 1100s to 1500s, Poland welcomed Jews fleeing Western Europe, where anti-Semitism flourished during and after the Crusades. Beginning with BolesÅ‚aw the Pious’ “Statute of Kalisz” in 1264, Polish rulers protected Jews; King Casimir the Great later expanded those protections. According to legend, in 1587, a Jew, Saul Wahl Katzenellenbogen, was even elected by acclaim as Poland’s king for a night.

As the Poles’ fortunes fell beginning with the 1648 Cossack uprising, however, anti-Semitism spread rapidly. When Poland was partitioned among Prussia, Austria and Russia in the late 1700s, Poles unfairly scapegoated their Jewish neighbors; when Poland was reconstituted after World War I, those attitudes remained.

During World War II, no country produced more individual “Righteous Among the Nations” honorees by Yad Vashem than Poland. Nevertheless, more than 90 percent of Poland’s 3.3 million Jews were murdered by the Nazis. It was the highest rate of any nation, made possible by widespread Polish acquiescence to the genocide. Poles also massacred Jews during and after the Holocaust without the Nazis’ help — most notably in the 1941 Jedwabne and 1946 Kielce pogroms.

Rejected by their neighbors, most of Poland’s 250,000 surviving Jews fled to Israel or the United States.

During the 1967 Six-Day War, Poles sympathized with Israel, and the Polish slogan “Nasi Å»ydzi pobili sowieckich Arabów!” (“Our Jews beat the Soviet Arabs!”) became popular. Poland’s pro-Soviet Communist government retaliated by forcing most of its remaining 30,000 Holocaust survivors to flee as well.

Poland is a different country today. But it cannot wish away the darker chapters of its own history.

Stephen A. Silver   |   San Francisco


Criticism rejected as letter wars persist

I am responding to Isaac Agam’s most recent letter (May 1). He roundly criticizes me for two positions I never took: that I claim to speak for the majority of Jews, and that I claim the Zionist Union doesn’t oppose the framework agreement with Iran.

Stating that “I believe” that the values of pursing peace, etc., are treasured by the majority of Jews doesn’t arrogate to myself authority to speak for most Jews. Second, I focused on a difference between the Zionist Union response and Netanyahu’s. The Zionist Union emphasized the need to work with world powers to modify the agreement, rather than trampling American constitutional principles to destroy it. To expand, Netanyahu has a nearly unblemished record of fanning the flames of discord. From standing silent as a crowd shouted “traitor” about Yitzhak Rabin, to urging war with Iraq, to manipulating the situation after the murder of three Israeli teenagers last summer, Netanyahu has a dismal record.

When the final agreement with Iran is judged, the public will be at the mercy of political leaders and their experts. Technical questions such the proper breakout time are beyond our competence. I lack faith in Netanyahu to make an objective assessment. The Zionist Union’s measured approach is more tenable.

Although I reject Mr. Agam’s specific criticisms, I agree that I owe him an apology to the extent that I inadvertently implied that those who worry about Israel’s defense do not also espouse Jewish values. The rabbis strongly condemn sinat chinam (internecine bickering leading to gratuitous hatred), and I am sorry if I perpetuated that sin. Those who advocate the robust defense of Israel (a group in which I include myself) espouse Jewish values. My wish is that that goal be moderated by those other, critical Jewish values of pursuing peace and doing justice.

Yonkel Goldstein   |   San Carlos


Israel has every reason for Iran ‘hysteria’

In an interview aired May 3 on Israel’s Channel 10 television, Secretary of State John Kerry brushed off some Israeli concerns over the possible Iran deal as “hysteria.”

Let’s review some recent history: Ayatollah Khamenei: “The Zionist regime is a true cancer tumor on this region that should be cut off, and it definitely will be cut off.”

Former Iranian President Rafsanjani: “… the use of even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything.” Reuters: “Ahmadinejad called Israel a ‘tumor’ and echoed the words of the former Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini by saying that Israel should be wiped off the map.”

Israel’s concerns clearly have a firm basis in reality. But sadly, hysteria, an uncontrollable outburst of emotion often characterized by irrationality, perfectly describes Secretary Kerry’s unfortunate remark.

Julia Lutch   |   Davis