BDS lesson for S.F. teachers
The San Francisco teachers’ union first came out in support of boycotts, divestment and sanctions of Israel (“Pushback against S.F. teachers’ union BDS endorsement,” online, May 27). At its creation by Omar Barghouti, BDS opposes a two-state solution that might end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, and calls for the destruction of Israel.
Now they have passed another resolution that opposes antisemitism (“After BDS endorsement, S.F. teachers’ union passes resolution against antisemitism,” online, June 3).
There are many people who would like us to believe that one can separate
Zionism from Judaism, thus call for the destruction of Israel and at the same time not hate Jews.
The love of Israel is what Zionism actually is, as opposed to the hateful label of fascism and apartheid that the term has received at the hands of those who have been driving through Jewish neighborhoods screaming “Rape Jewish women.”
The teachers’ union, therefore, cannot have it both ways. Calling for the destruction of Israel, the home of approximately 45 percent of the world’s Jewish population, is antisemitism.
Are these the teachers we want to be teaching our children about ethics,
respect, inclusion, fair treatment of minorities and concern for democracy?
They have positioned themselves squarely in the camp of Hamas, a violent dictatorship that trains its children for one thing only, to destroy Israel.
When Hamas started yet another war with Israel, targeting all Israeli civilians which is a war crime, it relinquished any right to say it is fighting for its people’s well-being or any claim to the moral high ground. Simply labeling yourself a “victim” doesn’t mean you are innocent of perpetrating hate, and starting yet another useless war against Israel whose government really does protect its people from harm.
Where is the moral clarity on the part of the S.F. teachers’ union? Instead, we get simplistic thinking and the desire to use their position to propagandize for Hamas.
Self-righteousness, S.F. style
The San Francisco teachers’ union is yet again missing the point. On May 19, United Educators of San Francisco found time to pass an anti-Israel resolution — the coup de grace for Jewish public school parents here in San Francisco.
After refusing to let teachers return to school despite other states proving it safe, it is mind-boggling that they have taken a stand on a complex international issue that is light years outside their jurisdiction.
Somehow the union didn’t consider it problematic that this resolution might encourage antisemitic acts or make Jewish children feel less welcome in school. It is a stark sign of their misplaced priorities and lack of leadership.
The hard work of eradicating institutional racism here in America requires us all to recognize our hidden, unflattering complicity. And while Israel also suffers from institutional racism, projecting our problems onto a separate crisis a world away is facile.
More to the point, blaming people with vaguely similar problems as our own is a dead giveaway that we’re not ready to do the real work required to improve ourselves. It’s a trick I expect my young children to try, not their teachers.
This is classic San Francisco, a city that has mastered performative liberalism. Again and again, we rush to complete symbolic acts that make us feel good about ourselves but do nothing to dismantle our own broken institutions.
Change is long overdue, yet our post-pandemic exhaustion makes it even harder to do the heavy lifting of self-inspection and transformation. Instead of self-righteously checking the box on woke litmus tests like anti-Israel resolutions, we should all, the teachers’ union especially, think before we act, make sure we’re making everyone feel welcome and safe, and model the behavior we want our next generation to live by.
Lev Kushner & Gabrielle Ohayon
Rising tide of Jew hatred
For the first time in my life, the hatred of Jews is reaching into my own home community (“Antisemitism at home: Bay Area organizations dissect Israel conflict’s impact,” May 28).
As a fourth-generation San Franciscan who has been involved in both the Jewish and general community for decades, I am truly alarmed for the first time in my life.
Jews are being attacked on the streets of New York, Los Angeles, Miami and in communities across America. Some are suggesting that Jews should take off their Stars of David and their yarmulkes for “their own safety.”
President Joe Biden felt the urgency, issuing a statement condemning Jew hatred. In San Francisco, the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation put out a statement condemning this rising tide of hatred directed against Jews.
The United Educators of San Francisco passed a resolution on the Middle East which caused the S.F.-based Jewish Community Relations Council to express deep concern about the safety and security of Jewish students in the S.F. Unified School District. The S.F. County Democratic Central Committee put out a highly charged and clearly biased resolution on the Middle East despite the concerns expressed by many San Francisco Democrats about the language used in the resolution.
My own experience as a radio talk-show host on KGO-810 AM offers compelling proof of the insidious rise of this fast-spreading virus of Jew hatred.
On the air, I have been told that the “Jews control the media.” I have been accused of being a citizen of Israel and thus not loyal to the United States. For the record, I am not a citizen of Israel. If I were I would be proud to affirm that as true
I have been accused of being a Zionist. I am proudly a Zionist and served for many years as president of the Zionist Organization of America in San Francisco. When I had the Israeli consul general on the air, a caller stated that “Jews are the new Nazis.” The S.F. Police Department has had to step up security around identifiable potential targets in the Jewish community. The hate-filled emails that I have received can only be described as horrific.
Let me be clear. There has always been vigorous discussion and ongoing debate about particular Israeli policies. That debate continues in Israel, a vital, vibrant democracy.
It also extends to the Jewish community in San Francisco and in the general community. That is both constructive and positive.
It is now indisputable that the line has too often been crossed and that Jew hatred is tragically self-evident. For too many, criticism of Israel is just a mask for modern Jew hatred.
All citizens of conscience must stand up and just say enough is enough!
John F. Rothmann
SFUSD’s ill-begotten politics
The last time I lived in a country where Jewish parents used to tell their children to not even mention the word Israel in school out of fear for their safety was 35 years ago, and that country was the Soviet Union.
Never in my wildest dreams did I think that good old Soviet antisemitism, in the worn-out guise of “anti-Zionism,” would catch up with me in San Francisco, and in the public schools, of all places.
Amid the rising antisemitism and racial violence in this country, and around the world, one would think that the schools would focus on assuring the safety of all children, parents and teachers, including those who are Jewish and those with families in Israel.
Politics in general, and especially extreme political views, be it on extreme left or extreme right, have no place in schools.
One would also think that at this time in particular, the SFUSD would be focusing on restoring a safe place for studies and catching up with the curriculum and everything else that has been lost due to the pandemic, not playing big politics with a complex issue they seem to have neither sufficient knowledge of nor desire to comprehend.
No J. focus on Israel haters?
J. has given us a fascinating cross section of minority women in Israel in recent weeks.
First there was Sophia Shramko, educated, successful, fully integrated and grateful to have had opportunities far beyond what would have been possible for her as a woman in the Bedouin culture from which her family came (“Thank you, Israel, from one of your Arab citizens,” opinion, June 1).
Then there was Mona Khoury-Kassabri, who grew up in the poor neighborhood of Wadi Nisnas and has just been appointed the first Arab vice president of Hebrew University (“Israeli Arab woman makes history with post at Hebrew U.,” May 28).
Finally, there was Nasreen Haddad Haj-Yahya, director of the Arab Society program of the Israel Democracy Institute, who articulately described deep inequities in Israeli society but from the perspective of ongoing efforts to rectify them (“Israel’s mixed Jewish-Arab cities are on fire. Here’s how to put out the flames,” May 20).
Your presentation here was completely commendable.
Conspicuous by its absence, however, was any reference to Muna el-Kurd, a young Palestinian woman at the center of the current eviction conflict in the Sheikh Jarrah section of Jerusalem.
She has proven herself to be quite articulate: “We want all of Palestine, from the river to the sea” and “There is no such thing called Israel.”
These statements are serious and genuine. They do not go away because we may wish to focus elsewhere. While hers is not the only Palestinian voice in the current crisis, it most likely represents that of many others.
Any narrative that fails to take account of Ms. Kurd’s sentiments is a false one which distorts our perspective and lacks any sense of elemental fairness to the Israeli side of the conflict.
I make no pretense of providing solutions for the many issues that vex the Israeli-Palestinian relationship. However, in moving forward, Ms. Kurd’s plain intentions must be acknowledged, understood and, in some manner, confronted.
‘I am not white. I am Jewish’
This is in response to the article about the recent survey of American Jews that found something like 92 percent identify as white (“10 key conclusions from the new survey of American Jews,” May 11).
I am not white. I am Jewish.
I benefit — massively, and unjustly, because white privilege is unjust — from white privilege. But am I white just because some people assume I am? Hell no. Not when people invited to storm the Capitol are wearing “Camp Auschwitz” shirts; not when the white supremacists in Charlottesville are chanting “Jews will not replace us.” Not when I wouldn’t have been considered white just two generations ago.
It comes down to this: allowing previously nonwhite groups to suddenly “be white” (think Italians, Greeks, Armenians, Jews) is part of what allows white supremacy to remain, because they get to claim that they’re inclusive, that their ranks are not ironclad, that upward mobility is granted to all.
I’m not saying that I, as an Ashkenazi Jew, know what it’s like to live in a Black body, to be afraid for my life when I see the lights of a cop car pulling me over, to be followed and assumed guilty when grocery shopping.
And neither do I know what it’s like to hide out in an attic fearing discovery by SS soldiers, or to flee from Russian pogroms to a foreign land (as my grandfather did in 1905).
We can never fully know the inner experience of others, though through introspection and honest dialogue we can get close.
One of the earliest lessons my mom taught me was to always speak out and work for the liberation and fair treatment of all people. My family also taught me to know my place in history, and to keep studying history because it has an awful tendency to repeat itself.
‘Justice for all’ except Israel
The picketers who prevented the Zim ship from unloading at the Port of Oakland were organized by the Arab Resource and Organizing Center (“Zim cargo ship departs Port of Oakland after anti-Israel protests,” online only, June 6).
On its website, AROC claims that it works “towards justice and self-determination for all,” but its social media has contained the sentence “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”
AROC declared a historic win and claims it taught a lesson to the city of Oakland, that it should not “allow Israeli apartheid money to come into our city.” Many truck drivers lose income because they do not get paid when unable to pick up and drop off containers, but AROC says the boycott shows “solidarity between organized working people and the struggle for Palestine liberation.” Some ILWU members and leaders said they feel that the workers were being used as instruments.
AROC works toward “justice and self-determination for all.” Except Israel, of course.
‘Indigenous’ is a key term
Thank you to Rabbi Adam Naftalin-Kelman for his care in defining the terms so relevant to the Israel-Arab conflict, especially the word indigenous (“Zionism. Indigenous. Occupation. Let’s define our terms,” online only, June 3).
The history of the Jewish people in their ancestral homeland goes back 3,000 years.
I would add that the term immigration is also important to understand. Jews are accused of being modern immigrants, who stole the land of indigenous Palestinians. It is important to unravel the truth about immigration.
Why does the United Nations define a Palestinian refugee as “persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict”? Why two years if they are indigenous?
Why did then-journalist Robert F. Kennedy write in the June 3, 1948 Boston Post, “The Jews point with pride to the fact that over 500,000 Arabs in the 12 years between 1932 and 1944, came into Palestine to take advantage of living conditions existing in no other Arab state.”
If you are interested in more on the subject, please see my 2016 essay (tinyurl.com/h88a8vl) in Middle East Quarterly, “Were the Arabs Indigenous to Mandatory Palestine?”
Antisemitism OK at Google
Google would know how, but apparently failed, to perform due diligence before selecting Kamau Bobb in 2018 to be its global lead of diversity strategy and research.
After Bobb’s unconscionable 2007 blog post remarks surfaced, Google did not fire Bobb, but instead reassigned him and offered a boilerplate apology.
Bobb admitted that he “crudely characterized the entire jewish community” and “fed into antisemitic tropes and prejudice.”
James Damore did nothing of the sort, but Google fired him for suggesting that some male-female disparity in tech could be attributed to biological differences, and that bias against women was also a factor. Google CEO Sundar Pichai declared parts of Damore’s statement violated the company’s code of conduct and crossed the line “by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.”
Damore was fired, while Bobb merely has been reassigned within Google. Draw your own conclusions.
I’m a liberal and pro-Israel
The article on progressive, liberal Jews supporting Palestinians and protesting Israel made me sad (“For Bay Area Jewish progressives, this time feels different,” May 27).
I am a progressive liberal Jew, and I stand with Israel.
As an American, I love my country, but I don’t agree with all the decisions made by either party.
For me, Israel is the same. I can love and disagree with policies at the same time. The bottom line for me is the safety and existence of Israel no matter what they need to do to make that happen.
Whose claim is correct?
In his letter to J., Fred Korr questioned why the Jewish owners of property in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem should not be allowed to reassert their ownership rights and evict the Arabs who are “squatters” in their property (“Sheikh Jarrah ‘squatters,’” June 2).
The answer is “fairness.”
Arabs who “abandoned” their homes in those parts of Jerusalem that fell under Israeli control (or for that matter elsewhere in Israel) had their property turned over to the Custodian of Absentee Property and were not allowed to reclaim their property, and this applied even to those who fled from their homes to a nearby village which also ended up as part of Israel (who were deemed “Present Absentee Owners,” a phrase which only a bureaucrat could invent).
I understand why this was done. Vacant land was turned over to productive use, and the immigrants who flooded into the country were housed.
But why should different principles apply now?
If Israel allows Jewish owners to reclaim property that ended up under Jordanian control, on what basis should it forbid Arab owners of property not to reclaim theirs?
Fairness, I suggest, and the passage of time dictates that both claims be denied.
Letter had no place in J.
I’m wondering why J. saw fit to publish a letter from Ms. Lois Pearlman (“‘A travesty of Judaism,’” June 2) which essentially recycled the left’s canards that Israel is built on land stolen from the Palestinians and that the recent war in Gaza was an unprovoked attack by Israel.
Even the Israel-bashing Washington Post recognized that being attacked by 4,000 rockets is more than enough justification to take all necessary measures to end the onslaught.
Ms. Pearlman’s views may be beyond redemption, but that the Jewish paper of record for Northern California chose to publish this modern blood libel is really unforgivable.
Dr. David L. Levine
Honor the survivors this month
Bay Area Jewry can join on June 24 in the first-ever annual International Holocaust Survivors Day. June 26 has been designated as Survivor Shabbat. A public “shout out!” will go to about 300,000 European and North African elderly survivors worldwide, a fast-dwindling body. The event will include a plea for aid for those who are lonely, and even poverty-stricken; e.g., 40 percent of 35,000 survivors in NYC live at or near the poverty line.
Three types of aid are sought: First, personal outreach in the form of making visits to isolated, immobile, and lonely survivors in nursing homes, etc., and listening supportively to them.
Second, aiding those who are still able and eager to share their story in classrooms. Some need car lifts, assistance in hearing students’ questions, in walking, etc. (The Story Project in Sonoma County is exemplary! Contact [email protected].)
And third, many of the organizations that work with survivors need financial donations.
Pew research has confirmed American Jews continue to rank “Remembering the Holocaust” as #1 among 10 indices of what being a Jew means to them. This should earn a positive response from JCCs and synagogues regarding the upcoming commemoration. Survivors deserve this, and more.
Exhibit A: Hamas’ barbarism
Any discussion of the Hamas-Israel war should begin with the following facts:
Hamas is an Iranian-backed terrorist organization whose avowed goal is to give the Holocaust a sequel by annihilating the Jewish state.
In the 1990s-2000s, in response to Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, Hamas sent suicide bombers into Israeli schools, homes, buses, discos, malls and pizzerias to target and massacre Israeli children.
June 1 marked the 20th anniversary of the Dolphinarium disco massacre, in which Hamas bombed a Tel Aviv disco, killing 21 Israelis, mostly teenage girls.
In 2005, after Israeli peace proposals for a Palestinian state had been violently rejected, Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip. Since then, Hamas has started wars with Israel in 2009, 2012, 2014 and now 2021.
In the recent war, Hamas’ rockets sent three-quarters of Israel’s population fleeing to bomb shelters and killed 12 Israeli civilians, including a 5-year-old Israeli Jewish boy, Ido Avigal, and a 16-year-old Israeli Arab girl, Nadine Awad.
Hamas’ reasons were purely opportunistic: The Palestinian Authority recently canceled elections that Hamas expected to win.
Hamas commits the double war crime of deliberately targeting Israeli civilians while hiding behind Palestinian civilians. Hamas stores bombs in schools, fires rockets at Israeli cities from Gaza’s residential areas and has its military headquarters in the basement of Gaza’s largest hospital.
It has used ambulances, donkey carts and women faking pregnancies to smuggle bombs into Israel.
Hamas also digs tunnels under Palestinian residential areas and under the Israel-Gaza border for kidnapping and killing Israelis, and uses environmental terrorism, including incendiary kites to start fires in Israel.
Hamas’ calculated strategy is not only to kill Israeli civilians, but also to engineer Palestinian civilian deaths. When Israel is unfairly blamed, Hamas’ barbarism is rewarded.
Stephen A. Silver