Rabbi Sydney Mintz (center) of Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco marches with other faith leaders at a protest in San Diego on July 2. (Photo/Ellen Fleishhacker)
Rabbi Sydney Mintz (center) of Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco marches with other faith leaders at a protest in San Diego on July 2. (Photo/Ellen Fleishhacker)

Letters: Not the Israel I love; Stanford RA got off easy; ICE protests go too far

That’s not the Israel I love

Even though the most horrific provisions of Israel’s original “nation-state” draft were moderated (provisions that would have significantly limited the Supreme Court justices’ decisions, and a controversial clause that appeared to pave the way for the creation of segregated communities based on nationality or religion), the bill that passed sends a message to Arab and other minorities that they are not and never will be equal citizens (“‘Nation-state bill’ would be a disaster for Israeli democracy,” J. editorial, July 11).

Even in its so-called watered-down version, this bill is a significant blow to Israeli democracy and contradicts its own Declaration of Independence principles of equality, social and political rights that formed the democratic foundation of the State of Israel in its creation 70 years ago.

When we in the U.S. talk about shared values with Israel, this is what we are talking about.

The “nation-state” bill is another blow in a series of laws introduced by the current far-right Israeli political leadership in the Knesset, which by their nature move to normalize the unraveling of democratic institutions in Israel. Sound familiar? These policies are not in line with the values of democracy, equality and civil rights that we in the U.S. Jewish community have celebrated and valued so dearly.

For the vast majority of us who believe in these values, whether it be here or in the Israel we have fought for and supported so strongly, the time has come to speak out clearly and unequivocally against these types of policies, and to support and nurture a new generation of leadership in Israel that equally supports these values.

Don Raphael,
San Francisco

Israeli vs. Palestinian laws

Stanford student and Students for Justice in Palestine member Hamzeh Daoud amended his Facebook post “I’m gonna physically fight Zionists on campus next year if someone comes at me with their ‘Israel is a democracy’ bullshit,” to “intellectually fight” Zionists (“Flare-up over Stanford student’s threat against Zionists,” Aug. 1).

He says he was upset about the passing of Israel’s Basic Law (which recognizes that “The state of Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people, in which it actualizes its natural, religious, and historical right for self-determination”).

Those debating Mr. Daoud intellectually might point out that Palestine also has a Basic Law, which was approved by the Palestine Legislative Council in October 1997 and signed into law on May 30, 2002.

According to Article 4 of the Palestine Basic Law:

  1. Islam is the official religion in Palestine. Respect and sanctity of all other heavenly religions shall be maintained.
  2. The principles of Islamic Sharia shall be the main source of legislation.
  3. Arabic shall be the official language.

Another provision provides that personal status (marriage, divorce, etc.) shall be regulated by Islamic law.

One can read through the 121 articles of Palestine Basic Law at tinyurl.com/2003-basiclaw — and compare it to the 11 articles of the Israel Basic Law at tinyurl.com/2018-basiclaw.

Sheree Roth,
Palo Alto

Holocaust was all too real

John Fitzgerald claims the Holocaust is “an absolute lie” (“Anti-Semitic Holocaust denier on ballot for East Bay House seat,” July 12).

If my father was alive, he would tell Mr. Fitzgerald about the Gestapo entering our apartment in Munich in the middle of the night and dragging him out of bed and putting him in jail for the crime of being a Jew. From the jail he was sent to Dachau concentration camp. He was able to leave Dachau for two reasons: Because he was in the German army in War I and because he had enough money to bribe the Gestapo to let him go. His brother died in Dachau. He was a diabetic and was denied the use of insulin.

This is not “an absolute lie,” Mr. Fitzgerald. My family lived through this atrocity and I am offended by your uninformed and ludicrous claim. Wake up, Mr. Fitzgerald. You were not there to see the devastation to human beings. I was and stupid claims like yours are nauseating.

Harry H. Ambrunn,
San Mateo

Gone but not forgotten

In regard to the Joel Brooks obituary (June 22), which stated that “Joel devoted his life to the service of others, [though] most will not remember his efforts,” I am one of those who does remember his efforts.

Joel leaped out of his TransBay bus seat heading to San Francisco on the Bay Bridge when he saw the driver passing out from a heart attack. No one else moved as Joel slowed down the speeding vehicle and brought it to a halt near an emergency phone. That day he saved many lives and, as assistant to him on the AJCongress staff, I was even further impressed with his gentleness and bravery.

Later, despite Federation-connected donors’ fear of international retaliation, he championed the work of Hal Light, who wanted to use the profits from his small business to make contact with and resettle Soviet Jews. He brought Hal together with Earl Raab, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council, and Rita Semel, assistant director. Over a period of two to three years, the campaign spread from JCRC and Federation to national Jewish community bodies, and to Washington, D.C.

As the new assistant of Jewish National Fund and later as head of the local Jewish Labor Committee, I, as well as most other Jewish agency people, made a programming priority of Joel and Hal’s determined persistence on this issue. As we know, it worked.

Jane Vavra Jolly,
El Cerrito

ICE, protests and madness

Has the Bay Area gone mad? And how long will J. continue to fuel the madness? I believe that the administration’s crackdown on illegal immigrants is cruel on many levels, and I wish I could applaud the efforts of protesters, but the current tenor of rhetoric is untenable.

Dan Pine’s article last month (“‘Moral emergency’: Bay Area Jews join nationwide immigration protests,’ July 3) featured Rabbi Sydney Mintz prominently and without comment. Mintz was quoted as saying, “We stand to abolish ICE,” and shown behind a banner railing “against unholy borders.”

Some of us still remember the bygone day — was it 2015? — when saying something like that would have been universally recognized as delirium. However hateful the present crackdown may be, ICE is a legitimate agency with a legitimate function.

From June 29 to July 1, I attended Limmud Bay Area, where I learned from Rabbi Zvi Hirschfield of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies (as well as J. editor Sue Fishkoff). Hirschfield taught the commandment to be kind to strangers, clearly an important one that occurs many times. But he also taught, from many sources, that in a reality of limited resources, the poor of one’s own people or country take precedence over other needy. Has our anger led us to an inability to balance conflicting values?

In the J. article, Mintz added: “People who were not politically animated before are moving into [activism] because they can’t abide … inhumane treatment of human beings.”

Rabbi Mintz and Mr. Pine, let me tell you where I’m moving. I have attended four organized protests since the election. But however much I deplore inhumane treatment of human beings, I also cannot abide much of what was said in my name at these protests, and I will attend no more of this kind.

Ilya Gurin,
Mountain View

Kudos to ‘Jew in the Pew’

Reading David A.M. Wilensky’s “Jew in the Pew” column (“Pride Shabbat is this LGBTQ synagogue’s highest holiday,” July 6), I was reminded that I have wanted to thank David for some time on his reporting on all the various Jewish service options in the Bay Area.

I find it so fascinating the range of options and how Jewish life is surviving and morphing here.

Thank you, David, for your research, your pursuit and your narratives on what exists here. You make each congregation so interesting and distinct.

Steven Hibshman,
Foster City

Stanford student gets off easy

We are told in the Stanford Daily that Stanford’s administration supported Daoud’s decision to resign his position as a resident assistant for the upcoming school year (“Stanford student who vowed to fight Zionists resigns as resident assistant,” Aug. 3).

That statement misleads because it is not the whole truth.

It is very telling that Stanford carefully avoided withdrawing its offer of employment to Hamzeh Daoud. Daoud was allowed (encouraged?) to resign because, among other reasons, he presents himself as a “triggered” and “trans-generational” refugee/victim who should not be held responsible for years of public posts, many generally ugly and some savagely anti-Semitic, culminating in a clear and specific threat of violence against Zionists.

Daoud has been described as a role model by multiple members of the Muslim student community at Stanford, and Stanford’s Muslims did not speak out to distance themselves from Daoud. Hmm. Those who remain silent are understood to consent.

A quick segue to the Stanford College Republicans (shiny object) should be enough to distract the attention of Stanford students. This seems to be the thinking of the editorial board of the Stanford Daily. That’s clearly the way to make everything better on campus.

Julia Lutch,

J. Readers

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