Barkat sits huddled in a circle speaking with other students
Mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat speaking at San Francisco State University on April 6, 2016 (Photo/David A.M. Wilensky)

Letters for the week of May 12, 2017

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SFSU president can fix Jewish problem overnight

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat is a recent example of a speaker egregiously prevented from speaking freely on the SFSU campus. Shouting and an undercurrent of threatening ugliness have regularly trumped civility and rationality in a variation of “might makes right” at SFSU. The consistent “normalization” of this deplorable behavior at SFSU violates everything that a university is supposed to stand for.

Statements like “this University belongs to all of us” are belied by other statements by President Les Wong, this one captured on video: “They [General Union of Palestine Students] have been an inspiration for me. And they have helped me when I have to tell other community groups to mind their own business. GUPS is the very purpose of this great university.”

Demanding “strategic patience” is merely a convenient way of avoiding responsibility, President Wong. You actually can eliminate ugliness at SFSU alone and overnight using the 15-minute rule of Notre Dame’s late Father Theodore Hesburgh.

Paraphrasing that wise and great man, tell those who disrupt invited speech or programming that their actions will not be tolerated, and that they have 15 minutes to adjust their approach to one which respects the free speech of others. If they do not within that time period cease and desist from further interference with an invited speaker or program, they will be asked for their identity cards. Those who produce these will be suspended, those who do not have or will not produce identity cards will be photographed and physically removed by police officers.

Alone and overnight, President Wong, you really will solve the long-term and increasingly ugly problems at SFSU if you announce and consistently enforce that simple, direct course of action. Alternatively, there is a word for allowing oppression of the democratic marketplace of ideas: fascism.

Julia Lutch,

Talk is cheap; change at S.F. State requires vigilance

I want to thank Dan Pine and the JCRC for addressing the serious and institutional problem of anti-Semitism at San Francisco State. But having graduated from S.F. State, participated a lot in Hillel there, served on the Academic Senate, worked with the campus police and literally served on the front lines of the pro-Israel movement on campus, I am really disappointed with the latest approach.

It is more of the same. Words are cheap and weak. Presenting us to the world as such reinforces a certain stereotype. The most you will predictably get from State are nice words and no action. S.F. State is not stupid. They know through attrition they will wear down the JCRC and the current campaign with nice words.

Let me illustrate for you how in the past Jewish and non-Jewish pro-Israel students, friends of mine, have been treated in front of the police and State administration: They have been spit on by GUPS supporters, punched, threatened with violence, arrested for self-defense and, as J. reported, there have been many chants of “Hitler should finish the job.”

The reality is that until you go after State’s funding in Sacramento and hit them with lawsuit after lawsuit, nothing will drastically improve concerning this. Do you want to whine and get a meaningless response, or make a change for the better? I also joined JCRC’s letter-writing campaign, but it’s a drop in the bucket. Much more must be done.

Mordechai Pelta,
San Francisco

Hearts open to suffering of those who blame Israel

It’s hard to take issue with the peaceful intentions of Orli Bein and the New Israel Fund regarding their hearts open to the suffering of both Palestinians and Israelis. However, I have a big problem with the collaboration of the JCRC with Parents Circle-Families Forum and Combatants for Peace.

I hope everyone reading this will take the time to read about these organizations on the NGO Monitor website. Here is a small excerpt:

Combatants for Peace: “While claiming to ‘allow each side to understand the other’s narrative,’ Combatants for Peace activities reflect a strong affiliation with the Palestinian agenda and narrative, placing most of the blame for the conflict on ‘the occupation.’ [CFP participated in] Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) [and] ‘Summer Rebuilding’ trips. ICAHD utilizes highly demonizing language, accusing Israel of ‘ethnic cleansing,’ ‘genocide,’ ‘collective punishment,’ and ‘apartheid’; promotes BDS campaigns against Israel; and explicitly advocates for the end of the state of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.”

Parents Circle Families Forum (PCFF): “Activities promote a highly biased view of the conflict based on the Palestinian narrative and draw an immoral equivalence between terror victims and terrorists. … Many bereaved families in Israel have spoken out against PCFF for its demands of an acceptance of the Palestinian narrative of exclusive Israeli guilt, a corresponding rejection of the legitimacy of Israeli narratives, and the political messages that are transmitted, explicitly and implicitly, through PCFF activities.”

Can we only have peace by making common cause with those who blame Israel for lack of peace and deny Jewish history? Shouldn’t our Jewish organizations do more to tell the story of the indigenous Jewish people in Israel?

Sheree Roth,
Palo Alto

Waldman isn’t conversant with the facts on Israel

Ayelet Waldman’s apparent hatred of Israel has blinded her to facts — and common sense (“Ayelet Waldman to Israel: I dare you,” May 3). For her, the worst problem in the world is not the ongoing Arab genocide against Christians and Yazidis in Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Libya and Iran. For her, the worst problem in the world is Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria — a presence that she falsely terms “illegal,” “criminal” and an “occupation.”

As Ms. Waldman must know, 50 years ago this very month, five Arab nations put their armed forces under joint control for the stated purpose of exterminating the Jews — not to create an Arab Palestinian state. Indeed, at the time, not a single Arab called himself a “Palestinian.” Residents of the West Bank were citizens of Jordan and Gazan Arabs were Egyptians.

Fortunately, the Arab states lost their war of extermination as well as territory that the League of Nations had assigned to the Jewish state.

Although Israel’s presence in that territory is neither illegal under international law nor an occupation, reasonable people can disagree on whether Israel’s benign presence there is wise or beneficial. Reasonable people can also disagree on whether a country should admit visitors, such as her husband, who will serve as propagandists for its enemies. But Ms. Waldman is neither reasonable nor conversant with the facts. Therefore, she doesn’t elicit my sympathy. She elicits only my pity and my scorn.

Seth Watkins,
Menlo Park

Liberal Jews ‘morally confused’

In response to your May 5 editorial “It’s time for SFSU to stand up for Jewish students,” no one will stand up for Jews unless Jews stand up for themselves.

Ironically, liberal Jews are very good at standing up for others, but very poor at standing up for themselves as Jews. This is usually because they lack a strong Jewish identity or because they reduce Judaism to a mere collection of left-wing political theories, most of them highly antithetical to actual Judaism.

The real strength of the Jewish people lies in its connection to God. When this connection is strong, our enemies fear us, and a few of us can overcome many of them. But when Jews deny this vital connection and place their trust in the false gods of liberalism and progressivism they become morally confused, incapable of explaining why a nation like Israel has a right to defend itself, and unwilling or unable to stand up for their own people.

Martin Wasserman,
Palo Alto

Double speak from S.F. State president

I have criticized you in the past — it is only fair for me to praise you after reading an editorial that was (in my view) spot on. So, “atta way to go” for the editorial on SFSU. The only Bay Area Jewish newspaper must speak up for the rights of pro-Israel students. Timidity to the point of abject cowardice is, sadly, part of our S.F. Jewish history. Never again.

SFSU President Leslie Wong’s response to J.’s editorial was sickening; moral equivalence at its worst. He equated the rights of Jews to criticize and condemn those who defame Israel with those who intimidate pro-Israel students and engage in mob tactics to suppress their rights to freely speak and assemble. It was also double-speak — he promised nothing except that he was going to “appoint a commission.”

However, Wong is deceiving nobody. Either he does not have the required moral courage to be SFSU’s president or — because he lacks a commitment to the First Amendment — is unable to form an ethical intention to do the right thing.

Tod I. Zuckerman,
Daly City