A sign in front of Zoom headquarters in San Jose during a protest demanding that the company not host an upcoming event featuring Leila Khaled. (Photo/Facebook-Shield of David)
A sign in front of Zoom headquarters in San Jose during a protest demanding that the company not host an upcoming event featuring Leila Khaled. (Photo/Facebook-Shield of David)

S.F. State should be ashamed; Holocaust education essential; Trump thinks he’s Churchill; etc.

Hypocrisy atop S.F. State

San Francisco State University President Lynn Mahoney demonstrated masterful chutzpah over the Sept. 23 talk by Leila Khaled, an unrepentant airline hijacker and a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

A few days later, J. interviewed the El Al pilot whose bravery and flight skills saved his passengers’ lives. In her column, Mahoney wrote, “I condemn the glorification of terrorism and use of violence against unarmed civilians,” but citing academic freedom, she refused to intervene.
When did hijacking an airliner become a “viewpoint” covered by academic freedom rather than attempted murder?

Lending support to a designated terror group may violate the law. It also runs counter to S.FSU’s 2019 settlement of antisemitism charges and hardly burnishes the university’s reputation.

Fortunately, protest (and fear of antiterrorism laws) led Zoom to a last-minute refusal to host the event. Other social media quickly followed suit.

At the vigil to counter Khaled, Mahoney spoke against terror and violence. But on the S.FSU website, she regretted that Khaled did not get to speak.

You can’t condemn “terror” while offering a podium to a terrorist.

Policy 2301 of the Regents of the University of California states: “Misuse of the classroom by, for example, allowing it to be used for political indoctrination …  constitutes misuse of the university as an institution.” The Cal State University system might reasonably be expected to uphold a similar standard.

Isn’t it time for the state government to halt the longstanding, ugly history of intolerance at S.FSU? As Cal State is ordered to teach ethnic studies, can it not also confront the poison of ethnic hatred?

Alan Fisher

Would SFSU welcome KKK?

Responding to objections regarding the decision to host Leila Khaled at San Francisco State, President Lynn Mahoney cites the importance of freedom of expression, lack of censorship and the airing of “diverse points of view.” She also acknowledges the need to balance these values with creating an “inclusive and welcoming environment” for all students.

I suggest that, in making decisions as to how to achieve that delicate balance in this case, President Mahoney and S.F. State administrators ask themselves: Would you also defend S.F. State in hosting the terrorists who committed the Charlie Hebdo murders or the Boston Marathon bombing? Would you host a member of the KKK or any white supremacist who preached racial bigotry? After all, every terrorist has a grievance and a cause they believe is just; every bigot has a story and a point of view.

If they would hesitate to support bringing speakers such as these to S.F. State, then surely they must also reject hosting an unrepentant terrorist who glorifies the murder of Jewish civilians.

What dismays the Jewish community is the double standard applied to matters offensive to us. In particular, when Palestinian voices speak, a kind of moral haze seems to settle over the listeners. Anti-Semitism becomes justifiable when cloaked in anti-Zionism, even militant anti-Zionism. All Jews ask is that antisemitism, and its manifestation as anti-Zionism, evoke the same level of outrage and be rejected as firmly as hatred directed at any other group.

Malka Weitman

Thanks, Lawfare Project

Thanks to the outstanding efforts of many, the companies Zoom, Facebook and YouTube recognized that supporting the open and free exchange of ideas does not require providing a platform to a Jew-hating convicted terrorist, as SFSU attempted to do.

Especially deserving of mention is the Lawfare Project, whose careful and clear communication to Zoom pointed out that providing video conferencing would constitute a service in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2339B, which makes it unlawful to knowingly provide material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization.

Sometimes the extraordinary work of dedicated community shomrim requires quiet backup from an iron fist in a velvet glove. The Jewish community owes the Lawfare Project a debt of gratitude.

Julia Lutch

Jews need more muscle

How infuriating to read the account of the Jewish community’s feeble attempts to prevent hijacker Leila Khaled’s scheduled appearance at S.F. State. SFSU President Lynn Mahoney’s defense that “I am defending and supporting the right of my faculty to conduct their classes without censorship”  was laughable.

This is a boldfaced lie.

My proof? Try inviting racist David Duke (or author Charles Murray, whose book proposed that Blacks have lower IQs than whites) to S.F. State and see how long it takes for the administration to quash the invitation.

Jews still haven’t figured out that we’re easily pushed around because we play by the rules — then discover that the rules are only meant for us!

David L. Levine
San Francisco

Teaching Holocaust is essential

Although California mandated Holocaust education in 1992, according to a recent survey conducted by the Claims Conference of millennials and Gen Z, Californians rank among some of the least knowledgeable of the Holocaust.

Two findings in particular bring this to light: More than half of those surveyed could not identify Auschwitz or its function during the Holocaust, and 21 percent believe that the Holocaust is a myth or has been exaggerated.

As a professor of Holocaust history in the Bay Area, I wish I could say I am surprised by these findings, but I am not.

Each semester, my students enter my classes assuming they’ve learned all they need to know about the Holocaust. Nearly all my students have studied World War II in high school, but within the first two weeks of class, these same students express some level of frustration at just how much was left out.

In response, I always tell my students that I have been studying genocide for nearly two decades and I am always learning new things. This is why I study the Holocaust, I say. And I will never be done learning from it, nor should you.

Holocaust education is essential because it raises enduring insights that transcend the 1930s and 1940s and help us navigate the world today. In this period of social and political strife, I have found that my students are more motivated than ever to learn about the origins of hate, how propaganda can motivate violence and how resistance can save lives and change the world.

The Claims Conference survey tells us there is more work to be done, but I can say with confidence that students in 2020 are eager to learn.

Alexis Herr
San Francisco

SFSU boggles the mind

I opened my Sept. 18 J. and saw these two articles side by side: “Jewish groups condemn plans for Palestinian hijacker Leila Khaled to speak at S.F. State” and “New grant boosts UC Berkeley antisemitism education program.

I do not disparage the new program at Berkeley. It is greatly needed there. I am hopeful it will help many, if people would only have open ears and open hearts.

But I feel when it comes to disruption on college campuses, Palestinian groups know exactly what they are doing.

How many times have I opened this paper and read about  a Jewish lecture disrupted by anti-Israel groups shouting down our speakers? Too many to count for my liking. It’s very sad and yet they seem to get away with it. They show no respect and then they get a tiny slap on the wrist by the university.

Is this an atmosphere to learn in? How is that free speech for our youth?

Then I read further, and a Jewish student is asked to leave a lecture because she has an Israeli flag sticker on her laptop. That is ridiculous nonsense and should be stopped. We Jews have rights, too.

For S.F. State to allow a known hijacker to speak is disgraceful and goes against all that is deemed good.

I would urge Jewish donors not to give S.F. State even one cent. Time and time again, the atmosphere on this campus is just mind-boggling.

Elyse Maltz
East Bay

Trump thinks he’s Churchill

President Trump, in his own words, knew in February that Covid-19 was “five times worse than the flu,” and he said he “played it down” because he didn’t want to create a panic.

He lied. He said Covid-19 was a hoax and it would go away.

On Sept. 11,  he had chutzpah when he said  he acted like Winston Churchill, “keep calm and carry on.”

Paraphrasing Lloyd Bentsen in the 1988 vice presidential debate: “I was in high school during World War II, President Trump, and you’re no Churchill.” Churchill told the truth when he inspired the British to defend, mobilized his country and collaborated with FDR. Trump still has no complete national plan to fight the pandemic, instead deferring to the state governors.

On Sept. 11, Trump quoted FDR’s “nothing to fear but fear itself,” but Trump has tried to frighten us about what Joe Biden would do and that there will be fraud in voting by mail.

Churchill didn’t say the Nazis were a hoax and would go away, he didn’t downplay things, and his truth didn’t cause a panic. Comparing himself to the wonderful leadership by Churchill and FDR is evidence that Trump is an utterly failed leader against the pandemic.

Norman G. Licht
San Francisco

Mike Pence’s past deeds

Steve Astrachan’s letter (“Kamala Harris’ past deeds,” Sept. 18) took objection to Jewish supporters’ enthusiasm for Harris by pointing out two cases during her tenure as California attorney general. He argued “voters should evaluate very carefully before elevating her to the vice presidency.”

But if he’s going to point out what he thinks are Harris’ misdeeds, Mr Astrachan should take a closer look at the current vice president, who has led Trump’s disastrous response to the coronavirus.

In June, Pence argued in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that the pandemic was largely over. Maybe Mr. Astrachan is not concerned about that, or Mike Pence’s actions as a congressman and governor, when he said that homosexuality was a “learned behavior” and signed a law allowing businesses in Indiana to cite religious objections if they chose to discriminate against gay customers.

When he got an angry phone call from Paul Singer, a Jewish Republican megadonor and supporter of gay rights he was courting, Pence found a way to rescind the law he had recently signed. It seems that his religious principles have a price tag.

So yes, we can look at Kamala Harris’s decisions as California AG, but Pence’s actions as vice president and governor deserve equal scrutiny by those who want to see him continue in his current office.

Marc Roth

An affront to our principles

As a recent recipient of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Certificate at eCornell, I am concerned about the actions of the administration to label DEI training programs as “anti-American.”

Even if I wasn’t a woman, a Jew, a wife of a Cape Verdean American and the mother of Black children, I would be concerned.

As a student of history, this trope rolled out six weeks before a presidential election cannot be ignored.

As a student of human rights education at the University of San Francisco, I find this an affront to the principles of this country.

Actually I am not concerned, I am livid.

Nancy Sheftel-Gomes
San Francisco

Israel a ‘light unto nations’

Thank you for your editorial praising Israel for its help fighting the Northern California wildfires that turned our skies orange.

No country better embodies the Jewish value of tikkun olam (repairing the world).

In response to the 1994 Rwandan genocide and 1999 ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, Israel set up emergency field hospitals, treating thousands. Israel even provided the region’s only delivery ward for Kosovar refugees, saving the lives of many Muslim women and infants.

Israel’s “Save a Child’s Heart” program has brought more than 5,000 children from around the world to Israel for life-saving cardiac surgery, particularly Palestinian, Iraqi and African children. In November 2003, for instance, Israeli doctors saved the life of Bayan Jassem, a week-old Kurdish-Iraqi baby girl with a congenital heart defect.

Israel has treated more than 4,000 people wounded in the Syrian civil war and provided food, medicine and aid to another 200,000 Syrian civilians.

Israel also has provided rescue and medical services in response to hurricanes in New Orleans and the Bahamas; typhoons and cyclones in Myanmar, the Philippines and Mozambique; earthquakes in Mexico, Armenia, Afghanistan, Bolivia, Turkey, Greece, Colombia, India, El Salvador, Peru, Haiti, Nepal, Italy and Indonesia; tsunamis in Sri Lanka, Thailand and Japan; and terrorism in Argentina, Kenya, the United States, India and France.

Israel also is leading the effort to develop treatments for devastating diseases from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis to cancer to Covid-19.

Israel has always aspired to be a “light unto the nations.” Once again, Israel is fulfilling that mission.

Stephen A. Silver
San Francisco

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