A man floating in the Dead Sea, one of the sites that the Sierra Club's trips to Israel have visited in the past. (Photo/maxpixel.net)
A man floating in the Dead Sea, one of the sites that the Sierra Club's trips to Israel have visited in the past. (Photo/maxpixel.net)

Canceling Sierra Club; AIPAC misguided on ‘stop the steal’ candidates; etc.

Healing a fractured world

Thank you for your fine reporting of Sierra Club’s initial decision to suspend trips to Israel (“Sierra Club reverses course after canceling trips to Israel,” March 15).

I grew up on a farm and love the outdoors. I’m also a psychiatrist, teacher of rabbis, daughter of Holocaust survivors, mother, grandmother and member of JCAN – Jewish Climate Action Network/NYC.

As a longtime donor to Sierra Club and also a Zionist who appreciates the complexities of Israel/Palestine, I dove into protesting this boycott. Our fractured world needs as much communication and dialogue as possible. We need to walk each others’ paths and see each others’ vistas. We all breathe each others’ air. We need more trips to Israel and the surrounding region, not fewer.

I’m heartened that Sierra Club has reversed its position and reinstated the trip to Israel. I encourage readers to pay attention to this unfortunate current of politicizing all issues to the extreme and think about the big picture.

Michelle Friedman, MD
New York

Canceling Sierra Club

With all due respect, do not underestimate the thousands of calls made by individuals to the Sierra Club over the weekend. (“Sierra Club reverses course after canceling trips to Israel,” March 15). I immediately contacted them by phone and email, told them I was canceling my membership and voiced my concerns. I received a personal email today, begging me to stay a member. I told them, “Too late.” I already stopped payment on my membership dues. I thanked them for having a change of heart and told them, “Maybe next year.”

Karen Levi
Potomac, Maryland

Antisemitic trope of club ‘funders’

Thank you for reporting on the Sierra Club’s reversal of what could only be called its cancel-Israel policy (“Sierra Club reverses course after canceling trips to Israel,” March 15).

Notice how the cancel campaign proceeded: Adalah, an anti-Israel group behind the cancellation, condemned the reversal as the club’s kowtowing to its “funders.” Adalah — and Jewish Voice for Peace shared the tweet — could have argued its case on its merits, but chose to cut directly to the antisemitic trope that Sierra must have been driven by the money.

The true face of BDS has been shown once again, and it is pure bigotry.

David A. Sherman
Needham, Massachusetts

So long, Sierra Club

Regarding Gabe Stutman’s article on the Sierra Club canceling trips to “apartheid” Israel, here’s an email I sent to Sierra Club President Ramon Cruz:

Dear President Cruz,

If it is true as has been reported that the Club has peremptorily canceled a natural history trip to Israel and defamed the country as apartheid at the behest of a few activists, then I must cancel my 50-year membership [San Francisco Bay chapter] with the Club.

How could such a thing take place without due process within the Club? I recall the Club’s open and constructive policy-making process regarding population growth and later environmental justice. But here a handful of people are allowed to wrongly condemn a diverse, dynamic and democratic nation on behalf of us all?

All I can pledge about my support of the Sierra Club if this unjust decision is allowed to stand is Never Again.

Jack Liebster
Corte Madera

Stick to the environment

Thank you to JCRC for spearheading a response to Sierra Club canceling Israel trips.  We Sierra Club members must remind them that their primary focus, the one we hold them accountable for and donate for, is to fight for the environment and against climate change. No other issue is as important as those. And, few other world organizations besides Sierra Club have the resources and know-how to help us deal with those issues. Furthermore, as history continues to show, Israel and its technological innovations are at the forefront of that challenge. Please do not ignore their contributions to the challenge of this century. BDS is a smokescreen. Israel continues to be a leader in gender and LGBTQ rights, and in providing education and health care for all. Something none of its neighbors come close to duplicating.

David Moss
Palo Alto

Cold-blooded hot take

I read the article “Sanctions threaten Russia’s Jewish oligarchs and their philanthropy” (March 2). It is offensive for me as a Jew, and I am sure it is painful to Ukrainians.

Putting one’s own interests first is normal. Worrying about loss of donations when people are being bombed is shameful.

Valeriy Volynskiy
Palo Alto

Billoo not antisemitic? Ask Dr. King

Letter writer Jim Haber is entitled to his opinion (“Zahra Billoo was wronged,” March 7). However, in his rush to cite Dr. King, he carefully avoids Dr. King’s wise and prescient words spoken in Cambridge, Massachusetts, shortly before his death, in response to a young man attacking Zionism: “When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You’re talking antisemitism.”

Mr. Haber categorically states that Ms. Billoo “isn’t antisemitic at all.” Dr. King’s unequivocal words make clear that he would disagree.

Richard Sherman
Margate, Florida

‘Stop the Steal’ and AIPAC

What do Republicans Jim Jordan of Ohio and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania have in common? Two things: 1, They voted against certifying the 2020 election results and 2, They are among the 37 Republican candidates recently endorsed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Also, Jordan has refused to testify before the Jan. 6 committee despite his involvement in the violent events, and Perry has compared Democrats to Nazis and promoted white supremacist conspiracies.

And a number of these AIPAC endorsees have disturbing histories of bigoted comments and actions against LGBTQ people and other minorities.

Not surprisingly, AIPAC’s endorsement of these proponents of the “Big Lie” has subjected the organization to scathing criticism from different quarters, including Tom Dine, a former executive director of AIPAC; Abe Foxman, a former head of the Anti-Defamation League; and pro-Israel organizations such as J Street that have pledged not to endorse candidates who voted against certifying Joe Biden as president.

What is perhaps most disturbing about AIPAC’s endorsements is the justification offered to its critics, namely, that AIPAC is a single-issue organization focused exclusively on Israel. However, even if we assume that having Jordan, Perry and others of their ilk in Congress is beneficial to Israel, it is impossible to ignore basic principles. After all, we teach our children that the ends cannot always justify the means.

Surely there must be some red lines for a U.S. organization that purports to be the leading voice of American Jews.

AIPAC’s last round of endorsements lies beyond the moral pale and crosses these lines.

As Richard N. Hass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, tweeted in response to AIPAC’s endorsements: “Sorry @AIPAC, but it is morally bankrupt & shortsighted to back pols who undermine democracy just b/c they support Israel. What ties the 2 countries is a commitment to democracy. An undemocratic America could easily distance itself from the Jewish state.”

Ivan Rothman
El Cerrito

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