Posters at SFSU: facts or friction?

Your article about the posters recently displayed at San Francisco State University leaves many questions unanswered (“Jewish groups slam ‘pro-Israel’ poster campaign on campus,” Oct. 21).

For example, I am left without a clear sense as to whether professor Rabab Abdulhadi actually supports Hamas or not. Her 2014 meetings with terrorist Leila Khaled and with Sheikh Raed Salah, who calls for the destruction of Israel, suggest that this is not a far-fetched possibility. She is identified as the faculty adviser to the General Union of Palestine Students at SFSU, which has certainly taken similar positions.

If professor Abdulhadi wishes to assert, unequivocally, that she opposes the BDS movement [boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel] and the terrorist group Hamas, that action would be a welcome step forward.

I am also surprised at the reaction of the Jewish studies department, as quoted, that the posters were “threats” against Abdulhadi. I see nothing in the poster displayed with the article that is at all threatening. Similarly, I see nothing in the poster that justifies SFSU President Les Wong’s description of the poster as “bullying.” It simply asserts that the individual holds a particular political view. (Whether an off-campus group is entitled to put up posters at all is a quite separate issue. For example, would President Wong have called it “vandalism” if an off-campus group put up posters advertising a rock concert?)

As a former faculty member at SFSU, I am aware of many incidents of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel activity on the campus, involving physical threats and intimidation. These incidents have rarely drawn the level of outrage that this incident has brought forward.

Dan Fendel   |   Piedmont


A ‘productive’ discussion

Instead of claiming indignation for not being invited to speak at three public conversations about the Israeli-Palestinian crisis (“J Street, Israeli consul general at odds over public appearance,” Oct. 21), Andy David, Israel’s S.F.-based consul general to the Pacific Northwest, should have been in the audience for the World Affairs-sponsored conversation in San Francisco between J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami and Palestinian ambassador Maen Rashid Areikat, head of the official delegation of the Palestine Liberation Organization to the United States.

He would have heard two very knowledgeable partisans engage in an informative, civil, optimistic dialogue, seeking to find a common path to a secure peace.

While differences (BDS, UNESCO, etc.) were made clear, the participants engaged in an extremely productive discussion, from which the Netanyahu government could well learn a lesson.

Charles L. Frankel   |   San Francisco


Consul general’s reaction reflects poorly on Israel

Maybe it would have been a good idea for Israeli Consul General Andy David to have sat in the audience and listened to the conversation. He might have learned something very valuable.

If the consulate’s mission is to coordinate relationships between Israel and the public and citizens in the Bay Area and the Pacific Northwest, then perhaps a good starting point would be to respect the rights of the community to engage in public discourse.

The comments made by the consul general that the conversation between J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami and Ambassador Maen Rashid Areikat would be biased and “crossed the line” were both disingenuous and inaccurate. The program was a dialogue between our respective communities here in the United States, and it was an open, frank and respectful dialogue of mutual concerns, as well as an opportunity to identify a commitment by both communities to advancing the peace process. As one who attended the San Francisco event, I can state that the evening was a great success.

It is troublesome to me that a representative of the Israeli government would not welcome this opportunity for dialogue, and seems indicative in the bigger picture of the drift in the current Israeli leadership away from a true intent to advance a peace process leading to a two-state solution, as well from its democratic principles in its criticism of public discourse that it deems somehow threatening to its policies.

Don Raphael   |   San Francisco


Andy David is welcome at NIF

I was disappointed that Israeli Consul General Andy David did not consider contacting the New Israel Fund directly about his interest in speaking at a future New Israel Fund event.  We plan events about democracy and social change in Israel throughout the year and would be happy to invite Mr. David to speak.

I was also sorry that Mr. David didn’t accept our invitation to be our guest at NIF’s annual Guardian of Democracy gala, where we honor trailblazers and exceptional advocates for democracy and equality in Israel. This year we heard from Rachel Liel, director of NIF in Israel, who will retire this year after decades at the forefront of social change; Mutasim Ali, a young Darfurian refugee and inspiring leader of the African asylum-seeker and refugee community in Israel; and Orlee Rabin, a young local leader dedicated to a better future for all Israelis.

Mr. David missed an evening with 500 NIF supporters from the Bay Area who came together because we care about Israel’s future.It was a spectacular and moving event. We hope he finds time in his schedule to join us next year.

Orli Bein   |   San Francisco

NIF regional director for the Bay Area


J Street’s ‘lip service’

In your Oct. 21 article, J Street is described by the writer as a “pro-Israel, pro-peace advocacy group.” That is at odds with J Street’s own description of its priorities.

As reported in 2009 by James Traub of the New York Times Magazine, Jeremy Ben-Ami, national president of J Street, described his organization this way: “Our No. 1 agenda item is to do whatever we can in Congress to act as the president’s blocking back.” What does this suggest about J Street’s agenda and loyalties?

Ben-Ami was applauded at the 2015 J Street conference after he addressed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu directly, telling him, “You don’t speak for us.” What does this suggest about J Street’s regard for Israel’s voters, who actually think they should make decisions about who will speak for Israel?

Those statements by Ben-Ami, along with J Street’s exclusion of Israel’s S.F.-based consul general to the Pacific Northwest from speaking at its public conversations this week in Seattle, San Francisco and San Jose on the future of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, suggest that J Street gives only lip service to the safety and security of Israel.

Julia Lutch   |   Davis


Here’s a history lesson

In the Oct. 21 letters section, Mr. Aaron Blumenfeld wrote that fundamental to the problems between the Israelis and the Palestinians is what he calls a religious problem, and he called for the Muslims to remove the buildings that they “arrogantly” built on the Temple Mount (in the 7th century) and apologize to the Jews for the “unacceptable insult” that these buildings represent.

Does Mr. Blumenfeld know that before the Muslims conquered Jerusalem in 638, the holy city was under the control of the Byzantines, who had oppressed and massacred the Jewish population? Does he know that the Jews rejoiced at their arrival, as following the Muslim conquest Jews were once again allowed to live and practice their religion in Jerusalem?

If the 7th-century Muslims had wanted to “show the ascendance of Islam over Judaism,” as Mr. Blumenfeld states, why didn’t they completely destroy the remnants of the Temple?

Where on his list of “unacceptable insults” hurled at our people through the ages would he put these buildings?

I would put the Holocaust, the expulsion from Spain (and almost every country in Europe at one time or another during the Middle Ages), the Inquisition, the slaughters of the Crusades, the pogroms — all carried out on European soil by “Christians” — much higher on my list.

I also would put toward the top of my list a presidential candidate who looks the other way when his supporters send out vicious anti-Semitic messages (“Trump backers blamed for online attacks on Jewish journalists,” Oct. 21), and any Jew who supports that candidate.

Danny Yanow   |   San Francisco