Controversial cover image?
Controversial cover image?

A nation of hypocrites; Obama’s ‘occupation’; who’s really Jewish?

Sign up for Weekday J and get the latest on what's happening in the Jewish Bay Area.

A nation of hypocrites with no moral standing

By not vetoing the latest United Nations resolution concerning Israeli construction, not only has the United States betrayed our only true friend in the Mideast, we have become a nation of hypocrites with very short historical memory.

If the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 applied to us, how would we, as Americans stand?

Unless we are descendants of Native Americans, every single person and every single structure built by us is illegal. For about 500 years, in waves of huge migrations, we pushed our way into this land. We had no cultural, moral or legal right to do this. In the process, we destroyed the cultures and lives of the indigenous peoples. This is a shameful injustice, which we have never rectified.

Israel has a historical and internationally accepted legal right to exist. The issue of the settlements is not the obstacle to a peace agreement; the Palestinians have refused all offers of peace and the opportunity of statehood long before the settlements existed.

Resolution 2334 is potentially harmful for both parties. Please contact President Obama and ask him not to tarnish his legacy. Please ask the president to reverse his decision and veto Resolution 2334.

— Ruth B. Gundelfinger and Rose G. Schlecker,  South San Francisco


Obama’s family settled on occupied Hawaiian land

I commend President Obama for supporting a Security Council resolution declaring Jerusalem occupied Palestinian Arab territory.

The president is an expert on occupied territory. He was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, in 1961. Six decades earlier, illegal American immigrants overthrew the Kingdom of Hawaii, installed a puppet regime, outlawed the Hawaiian language, confiscated the natives’ land and began flooding the occupied territories with hundreds of thousands of American settlers. Among those settlers were President Obama’s mother and grandparents. Two years before the president’s birth, America made Hawaii a state, making the illegal occupation permanent.

Unlike the Jews of Judea and Samaria (the “West Bank”), Obama, his mother and grandparents are not indigenous to Hawaii and don’t speak its language. Digging there, they won’t uncover the bones, houses, scrolls and shrines of their ancestors.

Yes, President Obama knows about illegal occupation. He’s a product of it.

— Seth E. Watkins, Menlo Park


‘Useful idiots’ of Bay Area

After Obama decreed (by his abstention from a heinous U.N. resolution) that even Eastern Jerusalem and the Western Wall are now illegally occupied Palestinian territory, there is only one thing more sickening than the resolution itself. It is the voice of many progressive Jews (and their organizations, like J Street) that cheer its passage.

Once upon a time, the Western intelligentsia turned a blind eye to the evil of Stalin. He called them his “useful idiots.” In the Jewish community of the San Francisco Bay Area, Barack Obama has his own comparable lot, does he not?

— Scott Abramson,  San Mateo


If I am not Jewish, who is?

David Friedman, a bankruptcy lawyer whom Donald Trump has picked to be U.S. ambassador to Israel, thinks that supporters of J Street, a pro-Israel organization that opposes occupation of the West Bank, are like Nazi collaborators. He thinks they are worse then kapo-Jews who turned in their fellow Jews in Nazi death camps. Our new ambassador to Israel let me know I was not Jewish.

I was born to a Jewish mother and father. I had a bris. I was bar mitzvah. At 13, I said Kaddish for my mother three times a day in an Orthodox shul. I went to Hebrew school, after public school, six days a week.

I experienced anti-Semitism at age 16 when I entered college. After college, I married a Jewish woman. We had a mezuzah on our door. We had a daughter who went to Camp Tawonga.

I was on the board of more than 10 Jewish organizations. I gave donations to Jewish charities for 50 years. The Jewish Federation has been a partial beneficiary of my IRA for over 30 years. My wife and I were founding members of the Contemporary Jewish Museum. My wife and I have a fund for needy campers at Jewish Family and Children’s Services. My wife and I have a fund at Federation.

This is the first year I will not support AIPAC. Israel has become very right wing.

When I was in business, my former business partner and I supported the J. with substantial ads. I have belonged to a synagogue in the Bay Area for almost 50 years.

When our family has Passover, break-fast and other holidays, I hope I will be accepted even if I am not Jewish. As we light Hanukkah candles, it’s hard to know I am not a member of the tribe.

Lastly, when my uncle David, his wife and his son were gassed to death by the Nazis, they were Jewish.

He was not a member of J Street, and neither am I.

— Norman Schlossberg, San Francisco


Let’s put election behind us and focus on challenges

I thank David Moss for his letter about my Dec. 16 op-ed, “Looking ahead to the Trump presidency with an open mind,” as his views likely reflect those of many in our community. In the spirit of the free exchange of ideas, the following comments are offered.

First, I am not a “Trump supporter,” and one should not have drawn that conclusion. The op-ed contains various criticisms of his policies, such as a penchant for protectionism and a failure to deal with a national debt that has grown dramatically under President Obama. Let’s try to avoid such binary logic.

Beyond this, several comments particularly drew my attention. First, “no one voted to have a secretary of state who is Putin’s best buddy.” This comment is particularly striking, as my most serious criticism was “Mr. Trump’s seemingly benign view of Vladimir Putin is worrisome when considering our relations with Russia.” In this regard, Mr. Trump’s recent statement regarding the acceptability of an arms race seems to be a warning to Mr. Putin that he will not allow us to become a secondary nuclear power. Hopefully, President-elect Trump will not fall prey to the naiveté in our relations with Russia that has bedeviled past American leaders.

Finally, there was “…did not vote for a fascist white state.” While there have been problems since the election, readers of this paper should recognize that they began well before Nov. 8. Please recall the report of a 45 percent increase in anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses in the first half of 2016. After such a polarizing election, such incendiary rhetoric is best avoided.

It is time to put the election behind us and focus on the serious challenges that we face as both Jews and Americans.

— Steve Astrachan, Pleasant Hill


Flames of discontent

Though not shocked, I was certainly very dismayed to see the cover of the Dec. 23 Happy Hanukkah issue. As a transplant from a meaningfully conservative Jewish Midwest home, I must admit that the biggest challenge I faced in relocating here was the very liberal view of Judaism that welcomed me to the Bay Area. Fortunately, I was successful in adjusting, becoming fully engaged in the wonderful Jewish community on the North Peninsula and am most fulfilled worshipping weekly at a Reform synagogue just blocks from my home.

Unfortunately, I view the menorah artwork as a slap in the face and yet another attempt by your publication to isolate those of us who hold dear to our traditional Jewish values.

— Lisa Brown, San Mateo


A very meshuggeneh season

We are done with another frenetic holiday season, especially so since Hanukkah and Christmas intersected, making everyone massively meshuggah. When bombarded by peppy, overcaffeinated, fake-smiling, pre-programmed salespeople upon checkout with the question “Have you finished with all your Christmas shopping?” my answer was “Yes — in 1947, when I was born Jewish.”

— Andy Dolich, Los Altos


Look to traditional Judaism for progressive principles

You have a habit of asking local Jews who do interesting things about their Jewish upbringing and current practice. I am usually saddened to read their answers; most show an unfortunate lack of Jewish knowledge. Steve Silberman is typical (“Talking with … A rock star in the autism community,” Dec. 16): child of communists, little Jewish commitment outside of tikkun olam (repairing the world).

There are two problems with progressive Jewish agnostics championing tikkun olam. First, it was never a primary Jewish value until a generation or two ago. It appears nowhere in the Torah, and originated somewhat later as an expression of mystical messianism. The Aleinu prayer, for example, includes the words “to repair the world [le-taken olam] for the dominion of Shaddai.” Any connection to social justice is incidental, and in any case, “le-taken” may mean “to prepare” rather than “to repair.”

More importantly, traditional Judaism has many other principles that should appeal to progressive agnostics! Both Torah and Talmud are very concerned with protecting the poor and powerless through just civil laws, such as those in Parashat Mishpatim. Consider also the extensive and thoughtful rules about hurtful speech (lashon hara), which we so sorely needed this election year and every year.

And finally, consider Mussar, a methodical system for developing positive character traits, accessible regardless of one’s observance or beliefs. (Thanks to J. for its recent coverage of Mussar.) So my last word to Mr. Silberman is, the door is open. Come and see what Judaism has to offer!

— Ilya Gurin, Mountain View


‘Friends told me I was nuts’

Hamas has publicly praised Obama’s U.N. “vote.” I knew eight-plus years ago that Obama despised Israel. His background, friends and admiration of Islam screamed it loud and clear. Nobody bothered (or wanted) to see it. My friends told me I was nuts. All I said was “wait and see.” Kerry’s speech could have been delivered by Eichmann.

— Mike Levine, Moraga


U.N resolution impedes progress toward two states

The Obama administration exhibited a fundamental lack of leadership by abstaining on the U.N. Security Council resolution, which calls on Israel to “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.”

I am not swayed by the lame justifications of senior administration officials that “opposing settlement expansion was consistent with the bipartisan consensus accepted by every single U.S. president of both parties since Ronald Reagan” and that the “United States acted with one primary objective in mind: to preserve the possibility of the two-state solution.”

While settlements are doubtlessly an irritant, they are not the root cause of the lack of progress. Equal if not more blame should be placed on the Palestinians for their constant refusal to negotiate in good faith with Israel.

We cannot fool ourselves; meaningful progress is a two-way street, and it takes two to tango. The Security Council is not an appropriate dance hall. The U.N. is a hopelessly confounding forum for Israel’s worst bashers and critics. U.N. resolutions like these do not bring us closer to a two-state solution, and the Obama administration should have known better than that.

— Steve Lipman, Foster City


Hamas, Fatah leaders make peace impossible

Secretary of State John Kerry’s 90-minute speech, with a 17-page transcript, reveals an amazing obsession with the tiny geographical area of Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. It revealed why his extraordinary effort to get a peace agreement failed. He overestimated the importance of the settlements, as did President Obama’s support of the U.N. resolution.

They dangerously misunderstand that the Palestinian leaders of Hamas and Fatah do not accept the very existence of the Jewish state, and they will not stop their terrorism, which is their futile attempt to destroy Israel. It is impossible to create a Palestinian state with the present leaders of Hamas and Fatah.

The best example is Gaza. Israel voluntarily withdrew, which removed the settlements. Hamas could have developed a peaceful Palestinian state there. Instead, they fired thousands of rockets into Israel, launched suicide bombers and snipers and built a network of tunnels to go under the border, which provoked two wars.

Secretary Kerry talked about two states, one state, but failed to consider variations of the status quo while waiting for better Palestinian leaders. The Palestinians in the West Bank have a much better life than do the Palestinians in other Middle East countries. The status quo in the West Bank is certainly better than in Syria, where 500,000 people have been killed and more than 6 million have been displaced from their homes. Never before has so much time and effort been spent with nothing good accomplished, as the Obama administration did for the West Bank.

— Norman G. Licht, San Carlos


Help Israel, help the needy

In December, StandWithUs had a commendable project, IsrAction Day, which featured donations of Israeli goods to the needy in our wealthy midst (“Action Day to help Israel, local food banks,” Dec. 16).

May I suggest year-wide donating of Israeli products to food banks, etc., thereby helping the needy, Israel and local firms such as Afikomen and Oakland Kosher Foods even more? You can find stores that carry Israeli products online.

— Celia Menczel,Walnut Creek


There is no Palestine

I would like to thank J. for publishing Sheree Roth’s Dec. 23 letter to the editor in response to “Making strides: Israel studies flourishing at Cal,” Dec. 16. Not only is her statement concerning Jews being indigenous to the land of Israel correct, even Ariel Sharon writes about that continuity in his autobiography “Warrior.”

Unfortunately, Jewish continuity in “Palestine” — an exclusively Roman name used for the goal of destroying Jewish identity — has been interrupted by extremists seeking to murder Jews, whenever possible, within and outside the land of Israel. Sometimes they strike in the USA, other times in Europe, Baghdad, Medina, and they have even reached the Jewish community in Buenos Aires.

Most of the battles fought by our ancestors to liberate the ancestral part of the historical Jewish homeland from Syrian-Greek rule are what we celebrate on Hanukkah. Most of the battles of the Hasmoneans/Maccabees were fought in what is called the “West Bank,” also known as Judea and Samaria. Politics aside, the cradle of Jewish civilization is in Judea and Samaria (Beitar, Hebron, Beit-El, Bethlehem, parts of Gaza, etc.) in addition to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

— Mordechai Pelta, San Francisco