The Hebrew Cemetery in Marysville takes up a corner of the city cemetery, located right off Highway 70. The gate is originally from a Jewish cemetery in San Francisco. (Photo/Gabriel Greschler)
The Hebrew Cemetery in Marysville takes up a corner of the city cemetery, located right off Highway 70. The gate is originally from a Jewish cemetery in San Francisco. (Photo/Gabriel Greschler)

Ben & Jerry’s, for and against; Leave Bibi alone; Caring for Jewish cemeteries; etc.

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Ice cream above politics

In contrast to using food to divide Jews and Palestinians (“Two pints of Ben & Jerry’s for a two-state solution,” Aug. 9), Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi have shown that Israeli-Arab food is a powerful glue, transcending political borders and differences, showing the way to a common future.

Ottolenghi has several recipes using halvah-flavored ice cream, which Ben & Jerry’s should study, and introduce in their line, as no such commercial flavor of ice cream seems to be yet available. Ottolenghi’s recipes give instructions to make it from scratch!

BDS is modeled from the Sullivan principles, which were applied against the South African apartheid regime. But Paul Simon famously showed that music should not be constrained by political boycotts in his legendary “Graceland” concerts, enriching all involved factions. Like music, food is a cultural factor in life, above politics.

Ben & Jerry’s knows this, and no mention of their BDS decision is mentioned in the “values” or any other part of their elaborate, self-serving website. I am sure that Jerry Garcia’s heirs only want the Cherry Garcia flavor to be sold and enjoyed all over, like his music. I believe that if he were still alive, Bill Graham would say so, too.

Jerome Garchik
San Francisco

Ben & Jerry’s important message

Thank you for publishing Eva Seligman-Kennard’s opinion piece on Ben & Jerry’s decision to stop selling their ice cream in the West Bank (”Ben & Jerry’s is boycotting settlements, not Israel,” Aug. 17).

As she clearly stated, the West Bank settlements are in land occupied by the Israeli military but are not part of Israel. International Law is clear.

A selection of Ben & Jerry's ice cream in Israel. (Photo/JTA-Linda Gradstein)
A selection of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in Israel. (Photo/JTA-Linda Gradstein)

As a strong supporter of Israel, I also recognize that the Palestinian residents of the West Bank must be entitled to govern a state of their own just as Israelis do. The action by Ben & Jerry’s sends an important message that we all need to hear.

Jon Kaufman

Leave Bibi alone

Why would an American Jewish news publication like J. publish a piece like “Why is Bibi in San Francisco looking so sad?” (online, Aug. 16) that casts Israel’s longest-serving prime minister in such a poor light?

It also denigrated him by unnecessarily reducing his security and privacy, and it clearly implied that he’s betraying his country by traveling at this time.

I comprehend that little leftist media outlets tend to disagree with Mr. Netanyahu on political matters, but that item seemed to me to be in very poor taste. After crusades, Inquisitions, pogroms, the Holocaust, all things Judenrein and so much disenfranchisement, I certainly understand why a Jewish man like him might look sad, even without a global pandemic.

I’m sad too, and shame on you.

Ivan Smason
Los Angeles

How to care for a Jewish cemetery

As the Commission for the Preservation of Pioneer Jewish Cemeteries and Landmarks in the West— mentioned in a recent J. article (“Sonora Hebrew Cemetery hosts final burial for Holocaust survivor,” July 26) — we are happy to welcome volunteers to help with the sacred honor of caring for the seven pioneer-era Jewish cemeteries in California’s Mother Lode.

The cemeteries are locked, so anyone who desires to visit should call the commission for information if they wish to do any clean up. Visit or call (831) 607-8749.

Headstones and other artifacts are fragile; we do not allow rubbings, cleaning, scraping and/or even touching the fragile stones, monuments and markers.

We do not permit the use of any implements or solvents for cleaning the headstones, and mechanical tools (such as weed whackers) must be carefully used so they do not touch any artifacts.

We provide instructions on the manner in which clean-up must be done so that no harm will occur.

Membership in the commission is only $36 per year.

We are all volunteers, and our funds go toward maintaining and preserving the cemeteries.

Detailed information on the cemeteries is “A Traveler’s Guide to Pioneer Jewish Cemeteries of the California Gold Rush,” by Susan Morris. This authoritative book is available from the commission for $18. A complete history of our presence in California is documented in “The Jews in the California Gold Rush,” third edition, 2017, updated by Daniel Levinson, son of author Robert Levinson. It’s $25 from the commission. The books can be shipped for $4, plus there’s sales tax.

Freda D. Urling
Chair, Commission for the Preservation of Pioneer Jewish Cemeteries and Landmarks in the West

Un-Jewish ideologies

I agree with opinion writer Eva Seligman-Kennard (”Ben & Jerry’s is boycotting settlements, not Israel,” Aug. 17) that some of the reactions to Ben & Jerry’s boycott of the settlements, such as calling it an act of terrorism, are a bit extreme.

However, I strongly disagree with her contention that Jews have no legal right to live in Judea and Samaria, and that any Jewish presence in these areas constitutes an illegal occupation of a country called “Palestine,” a country that, in fact, does not exist and indeed has never existed.

I don’t doubt that Ms. Seligman-Kennard and her fellow travelers at J Street sincerely believe that their anti-settler ideology is somehow based on Jewish values. But, the fact is, saying that Jews have no right to live in these lands, which were the heart and soul of the ancient Israelite nation, is equivalent to renouncing Judaism in its entirety.

The central principles of Judaism are the supremacy of God and the truth of His Covenant, which includes the promise of the whole Land of Israel. People who reject these core principles, while continuing to claim that they’re upholding Jewish values, are deluding themselves, and if they attain positions of influence, they lead others astray, as well.

Israel will never succeed in defeating its adversaries or living in peace and security in the Promised Land until it discards all of its false, man-made, un-Jewish ideologies and returns to the eternal truths that brought our nation into existence and have sustained it in every circumstance for more than 3,000 years.

Martin Wasserman
Palo Alto

Where are protests over Afghanistan?

The rather abrupt and chaotic withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan (”Reporting from Afghanistan, I learned just how little we Americans knew,” Aug. 19), with the naive hopes that the heavily trained Afghan army would take on its responsibilities to protect its citizens, is another sign that Western powers, and especially the United States, continue to see the Middle East through Christian-oriented lenses marked by a deep misunderstanding of Islam, tribalism and local cultures.

Images coming from Kabul are reminiscent of what transpired from there before the war started 20 years ago. The amount of outrage in the United States doesn’t seem to equal the gravity of what is happening.

Thousands of Afghans rushed to Kabul's airport trying to flee the country as the Taliban seized power. (Photo/RNS-Wakil Kohsar-AFP via Getty Images)
Thousands of Afghans rushed to Kabul’s airport trying to flee the country as the Taliban seized power. (Photo/RNS-Wakil Kohsar-AFP via Getty Images)

Had this happened under the previous administration, we would hear endless outcries from Biden/Harris supporters, who are as silent as Trump supporters would have been under such circumstances.

And, as always, those who pretend to lose sleep whenever a conflict breaks out between Israel and the Islamic terrorist group Hamas are not organizing giant protests, not screaming their abject accusations from university campuses to TV shows.

Laurent Goldsztejn
San Francisco

Biden and Bennett, a healing

President Joe Biden said it right and reassuringly: “… if diplomacy fails, we’re ready to turn to other options” (“Biden and Bennett focus on Iran in first meeting: ‘If diplomacy fails, we’re ready to turn to other options,’” online, Aug. 27). That’s what the Israelis wanted to hear.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett achieved each of the objectives for his first White House meeting, including visa waivers for Israelis.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (left) meets President Joe Biden in the Oval Office, Aug. 27, 2021. (Photo/JTA-Sarahbeth Maney-Pool-Getty Images)
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (left) meets President Joe Biden in the Oval Office, Aug. 27, 2021. (Photo/JTA-Sarahbeth Maney-Pool-Getty Images)

Bennett acknowledged Biden’s support during the recent Gaza war, which was in sharp contrast to “The Squad” and Bernie suggesting military cuts in precision weapons while Israel was in the midst of conflict. Fortunately, they do not represent the Biden administration.

Now, with the Afghanistan debacle, Israel becomes even more important in the U.S. efforts against global terrorism and to support regional stability in the Middle East.

Both leaders showed each other respect and understanding. Let’s hope they can usher in a new year of comity and healing in both our countries.

Jeff Saperstein
Mill Valley

‘River to sea’ is true intent

Ilya Gurin is to be commended for his recent letter warning of the danger posed by the BDS movement (“Overblaming Israel, as usual.” Aug. 20). He laudably wrote, “Israel makes mistakes, and it is our job as Jews to hold it to account.”

He errs, however, by accepting the dominant but false narrative on the Sheik Jarrah evictions controversy. The tenants here are not victims being unfairly singled out as Palestinian Arabs, but rather political actors seeking to de-legitimize the State of Israel.

The Sheik Jarrah evictions, working their way through Israeli courts, represent a lawful title owner’s attempt to evict tenants who have refused to pay rent for decades. The residents in question do not maintain otherwise.

Ms. Muna el-Kurd, a leader of the Sheik Jarrah movement, states plainly: “We want all of Palestine, from the river to the sea” and “There is no such thing called Israel.”

Israeli security forces deploy during a demonstration against planned evictions in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, May 2021. (Photo/JTA-Ilia Yefimovich-picture alliance via Getty Images)
Israeli security forces deploy during a demonstration against planned evictions in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, May 2021. (Photo/JTA-Ilia Yefimovich-picture alliance via Getty Images)

It is long past time that the Jewish community recognize the real intent of Ms. Al-Kurd and her supporters.

As Gurin accurately pointed out, “the BDS movement seeks to continue the pattern already seen at international forums, such as the United Nations, of criticizing Israel out of proportion to its actual misdeeds.”

However, those who would defend Israel should be discriminating enough to seek accurate information and not succumb to dominant narratives that, all too often, present factually false or, at best, misleading pictures of reality.

Responsibility for presenting accurate information falls first and foremost to the Jewish press, which in the case of the Sheik Jarrah evictions has failed dramatically.

Going forward let us all, journalists and laypersons alike, try to seek out objective factually accurate information. To do otherwise leaves us vulnerable to the dangerous demagogues hovering around us.

Steve Astrachan
Pleasant Hill

Winners and losers

So opinion writer Ms. Seligman-Kennard “is ashamed by the amount of vitriol directed at Ben & Jerry’s for its decision to stop selling its product beyond the Green Line in West Bank settlements” (“Ben & Jerry’s is boycotting settlements, not Israel,” Aug. 17).

I have an easy solution for her anguish: Just apply to the “vitriolists” the same gentle approach that her J Street brethren apply to the BDS advocates when they defend the latter’s rights under the First Amendment.

And while on the subject of the settlements, they are not “in flagrant contradiction to longstanding official U.S. policy,” as Seligman-Kennard wrote.

The U.S. policy has zigzagged from one administration to another, between Disputed Territories and Occupied Territories.

These territories came under Israel’s control in 1967. Lost territories are very often the aggressors’ punishment.

In addition, international law recognizes the right of the defending country to control the conquered territories, as long as there is no peace agreement achieved between the warring sides and a threat of attack from these territories still exists.

Vladimir Kaplan
San Mateo

Ben & Jerry’s sad conclusion

Eva Seligman-Kennard’s recent opinion piece said Ben & Jerry’s isn’t boycotting Israel (”Ben & Jerry’s is boycotting settlements, not Israel,” Aug. 17). However, it was Unilever that announced that sales in Israel (as opposed to the “Occupied Palestinian Territories”) would continue, a promise not included in the notice Ben & Jerry’s advisory board had intended to publish.

Her piece also stated that Ben & Jerry’s decision was not made in support of the BDS movement. But Anurhadha Mittal, head of the advisory board, has a long history of supporting BDS (as evidenced by more than 100 tweets) and anti-Israel organizations.

Then there’s the issue of “Palestinian territory.”

During Arab-initiated violence, aimed at preventing the emergence of a modern Jewish state in the Jews’ ancestral homeland, Jordan captured eastern Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria (“the West Bank”). Jordan ethnically cleansed the land of its Jewish inhabitants, destroyed synagogues and desecrated Jewish graves. Israel liberated that land in 1967.

Thus, Jews are justifiably reluctant to cede control of any part of Jerusalem to people who deny the historicity of Jewish claims to Zion.

So we come to the sad conclusion: Ben & Jerry’s, the great proponent of social justice, supports the Palestinian leaders who claim a right to violently resist the “Occupation” while refusing to negotiate on offers to end the conflict.

Ben & Jerry’s has taken a stand against Jewish businesses employing Israelis and Palestinians and serving Israeli and Palestinian consumers, businesses that should be lauded for their efforts in promoting peaceful coexistence.

Toby Block

J. Readers

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