A tale of two mothers

I am rarely at a loss for words, but I was stunned by the grief-stricken eulogy of Rina Ariel, mother of Hallel Yaffa Ariel, that beautiful 13-year-old girl slaughtered in her bed by a Palestinian terrorist on June 30.

Rina called upon our forefathers and mothers to protect Hallel in heaven, but perhaps the most vivid image she used was for Miriam the prophetess to make sure Hallel had room next to her to dance in heaven.

Who can forget the beautiful pictures of Hallel’s dance recital the day before her murder and the horrific images of her blood-soaked bedroom the next day.  How do you say goodbye to a child? How can I forget her mother’s wailing and the tears of their community at the funeral and those of Klal Yisrael?

And then we have the mother of the dead terrorist who said, “My son is a hero. He made me proud.” How sickening. How tragic. How despicable! I cannot even begin to fathom the depths of her depravity.

And yet here we are, two mothers. One sickens us and the other we want to hug.

No words. May Hallel’s memory be blessed. May her family be comforted.

Steve Lipman   |   Foster City


Muslim refugees a risk not worth taking

Your editorial “Helping Muslim Refugees is our duty and privilege as Jews and Americans” (June 24) was a striking example of the fine Jewish tradition of concern for the other, which dates back at least to the time when “Ruth the Moabitess” became “Ruth.”

However, it fails to recognize the clear security threat that these refugees pose to American society.  The Syrian Muslim population contains a significant hostile element. Pew Research and others estimate that more than 10 percent of Syrian Muslim refugees sympathize with the Islamic State, from which they supposedly fled.

Nor should our government’s vetting capability bring great assurance. FBI Director James Comey has been clear that we lack reliable databases against which to check the would-be refugees from Syria. As he testified before Congress, “I can’t sit here and offer anybody an absolute assurance that there’s not risk associated with this.”

There is also a tragic irony here.  The Islamic State’s worst depredations of murder, rape and sexual slavery are directed primarily against Syria’s Christian and Yazidi religious minorities.

The Jewish community’s involvement with the refugee crisis, however well intentioned, lacks any sense of perspective. Our own vulnerability to the potential dangers posed by this migration is ignored.The preferential immigration of Syrian Muslim refugees should stop immediately and be replaced with the assisted immigration of Syrian Christians and Yazidis who are the victims of horrifying persecution.

Steve Astrachan   |   Pleasant Hill


Anti-BDS laws are a good thing

Writing about whether anti-BDS laws violate the First Amendment, Rabbi Jill Jacobs (“N.Y. law tramples on free speech, could provoke backlash”) and Northwestern law professor Eugene Kontorovich (“Anti-BDS laws prevent discrimination, no threat to free speech”) squared off June 24 in J.

Of the “Two Views,” Kontorovich had it right.

Boycotts, whether of Israel or any other country, company or entity for that matter, are discriminatory, and, in the case of the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel, inherently anti-Semitic.

As the professor cogently argued, restricting the ability of Company X, which boycotts Israel, to do business with a state or governmental entity is not a violation of the free speech right embodied in the First Amendment. Company X is free to make a conscious choice with knowledge of the economic benefits or detriments of that choice, and remains free to express its support or criticism of Israel and/or the Israeli government.

Jacobs’ arguments were simply wrong and emblematic of the inconsistencies posited by the many liberal progressives who conveniently cite constitutional grounds to condone actions that support their political views and condemn those in conflict with their political views.

Eric Horodas   |   Oakland


BDS is a conduct, not free speech

I read Rabbi Jill Jacobs’ June 24 piece with interest. Our so-called First Amendment rights vary greatly depending upon the state you live in.

It is a watered-down right, much like how the Second Amendment has become in California. One can buy an assault firearm in Florida, as we sadly know, and yet in California, one cannot even buy a small-capacity pistol unless it gets on an approved list (which has absolutely nothing to do with gun safety).

BDS is not a right. It is conduct. Conduct is not protected by the First Amendment, but speech is. But speech can be anti-Semitic, hateful and toxic — much like the atmosphere that has existed at San Francisco State, U.C. Berkeley, U.C. Santa Cruz and a long list of other BDS universities, where exercising one’s First Amendment right to support Israel is effectively treated as a crime.

Where is one’s First Amendment right then? In California, the same place as the Second.

Mordechai Pelta   |   San Francisco


‘Mythical increase in anti-Semitism’

The recent Anti-Defamation League report on the incidence of anti-Semitism has gotten a lot of press, including in J. (“California second worst in nation as anti-Semitic incidents rise in the U.S.,” June 24).

Unfortunately, the headlines for these stories and/or the lead paragraphs all suggest that the report shows that the incidence of anti-Semitism has markedly increased.

It was not until the sixth paragraph of the J. article that the reality of the report was printed: Its overall finding was that there was “an increase [in anti-Semitic incidents] of 3 percent from the previous year.” That’s hardly the huge upsurge suggested by this and other articles.

In fact, while some types of incidents have increased, the number of anti-Semitic harassments was “down slightly in 2015 compared to 2014.” And, as noted, “the number of reported anti-Semitic incidents peaked in 2006 and since then has been mostly on the decline.”

We should stop repeating the line that anti-Semitism is way up, as it sounds a bit like crying wolf. And we should stop conflating anti-Israeli policy and actions with anti-Semitism. We should address the real issues related to Israel rather than claiming that we need to support Israel, right or wrong, given this mythical increase in anti-Semitism.    

Joan Meisel   |   Cloverdale