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)

Doing right by disabled Jews; Sierra Club, continued; AIPAC and the Dems; etc.

Doing right by disabled Jews

I am so thankful to Mariyama Scott for her wise words and for sharing her truth, and that of many more people, at this moment in Covid life (“Plea from a disabled Jew: the pandemic isn’t over,” March 18).

I also feel surprised and somewhat shocked that some of our communities are not learning the lessons of safety and inclusion that many of us had been talking about even before Covid.

As a partner of an immunocompromised woman (due to cancer), I have always felt we could do better to protect the vulnerable. And then when Covid hit, we did!

Now it feels very hit-or-miss across the board, as Mariyama Scott described in detail.

I am lucky to be part of a synagogue that is being very transparent and careful and finding ways to slowly and safely go back in person while also keeping a multiaccess model (Zoom or livestreaming, for example).

This has not been easy for them, and I am so grateful for their commitment to the community, not to just some. Thank you for the opinion piece.

R’ Chaya Gusfield

Sierra Club shows its colors

What happened with the Sierra Club is not new, but that does not make it any less disturbing (“Sierra Club cancels trips to Israel at urging of progressive and anti-Zionist groups,” March 11).

That an established environmental organization would automatically accept biased and false accusations against the Jewish state is antisemitism pure and simple.

Their reversal of the boycott does not change that.

While we should thank them for coming to their senses, we should continue to demand answers as to how and why this occurred in the first place. It is ironic that Israel, which has reversed deforestation and developed drip irrigation and other water conservation measures, is boycotted when the Arabs in Gaza are sending incendiary balloons into Israel to burn forests and kill wildlife.

I thank J. for publicizing this outrageous action by the “politically neutral” organization and to the many pro-Israel organizations that responded. No doubt this will happen again with other organizations and we must continue to battle antisemitism as a united people.

Gil Stein

‘Two sides to this story’

I just read the editorial board response to the Sierra Club’s change of heart and restoration of trips to Israel (“Sierra Club Israel mess never should have happened,” March 17).


But J. continues to ignore the fact that there are two sides to this story.

The situation in Israel, West Bank Palestinian Authority and Gaza should not be ignored. It needs discussion. The Sierra Club would be far better served if trips to Israel included two-sided (elective) discussions about the issues that are so important to so many and promote a way forward for all sides to coexist and enjoy all the land has to offer.

Mark Rabinovitz
Walnut Creek

Story Project plays a vital role

We very much appreciated the excellent and accurate account by J. news editor Gabe Stutman of our visit to Wheatland High School, which the Story Project did in response to an antisemitic incident at the school in December (“Teens from viral swastika photo face Holocaust survivor families,” March 14)

We would like to mention to teachers and educators that the Story Project of Sonoma County offers free, age-appropriate Holocaust and genocide education programs for students in grades 5-12.

Story Project member Peter Krohn speaks to Wheatland students about his family's experience in the Holocaust. (Photo/Gabe Stutman)
Story Project member Peter Krohn speaks to Wheatland students about his family’s experience in the Holocaust. (Photo/Gabe Stutman)

During the Covid-19 pandemic, speakers are available remotely or in person depending on circumstances at the time. Our speakers visit virtual classrooms beyond Sonoma County, in many states nationally and internationally.

The Story Project brings living human survivors in direct contact with students and offers them, while it’s still possible, an opportunity to engage in a personal dialogue with them. We also foster discussion and action on relevant issues related to bullying, exclusion, intolerance, stereotyping and appropriate interventions.

To schedule a free presentation or for more information, please contact Elaine Leeder at [email protected].

Elaine (Sneierson) Leeder, Steve Einstein,

Peter Krohn
Sonoma County

‘Vituperation against AIPAC’

Apparently Nathan Wolfson, associate digital director for J Street, would have us believe that because he is the grandchild of Holocaust survivors his responses, presented in his recent opinion piece, are somehow especially valuable (“AIPAC’s far-right endorsements show how out of touch they are with American Jews,” March 22).

Let’s think about that while we recall how J Street founder Jeremy Ben-Ami was applauded at the 2015 J Street conference after telling then–Prime Minister Netanyahu, “You don’t speak for us.”

What does this suggest about J Street’s regard for Israel’s voters, who actually think they should make decisions about who will speak for Jews who live in (and die to defend) Israel?

Are their concerns of no interest to American Jews? Maybe not.

According to James Traub, writing in 2009 in the New York Times, Ben-Ami described J Street this way: “Our No. 1 agenda item is to do whatever we can in Congress to act as the president’s [Barack Obama at the time] blocking back.”

Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, speaking at the J Street National Conference in 2018 (Photo/JTA-Michael Brochstein-SOPA Images-LightRocket via Getty Images)
Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, speaking at the J Street National Conference in 2018 (Photo/JTA-Michael Brochstein-SOPA Images-LightRocket via Getty Images)

What does that suggest about J Street’s agenda and loyalties?

And what, by way of contrast, are AIPAC’s goals?

AIPAC works to create and strengthen support for Israel, because it is clear to AIPAC that when Iran proclaims its goal is “death to Israel,” we had best understand that Iran means what it says.

Meanwhile J Street’s associate digital director hopes to distract us from pesky existential concerns with claims of an attempted insurrection (open rebellion against an established government or authority) on Jan. 6 and with a curious ad hominem attack on Jim Jordan.

Does J Street’s associate digital director’s unsubstantiated stream of vituperation against AIPAC really reflect thinking characteristic of the American Jewish or pro-Israel community?

If one (supposedly) Jewish organization attacks another, instead of together seeking ways to help secure the American Jewish and Israeli futures, we may not really have much of a future.

Julia Lutch

Why AIPAC acts as it does

Nathan Wolfson, on behalf of George Soros’ J Street, argued plausibly against AIPAC’s Political Action Committee in his recent opinion piece (“AIPAC’s far-right endorsements show how out of touch they are with American Jews,” March 22).

However, Mr. Wolfson himself stated that the crux of the issue is that AIPAC claims it is a single-issue organization. So it should not be a surprise that this bipartisan organization stands up for any congressperson who stands up for Israel.

Furthermore, Mr. Wolfson stated that AIPAC has steadfastly opposed getting back into the Iran deal. That is because they read and understand the contents of the archives that Israel stole from Iran. Those archives clearly stated that Iran was cheating throughout the time that our country was in the JCPOA. Giving Iran billions of dollars only increases the money they have to pay their proxies to destroy Israel and kill American soldiers.

Roberta Zucker

CA Democrats and Israel

Your recent report got it wrong in so many ways (“Jewish groups applaud CA Democratic Party platform’s wording on Israel,” March 14).

The article ignored the important passage of a new platform plank affirming the rights of all refugees, under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to asylum and to leave and return to their countries, despite stated opposition from a number of Democrats for Israel and so-called “progressive Zionists.”

The opposition demonstrated that for some, backing Israel is more important than international law — but even the conservatives in the party couldn’t justify flouting it entirely.

The alternative wording on Israel/Palestine, which I drafted and which you quote, was in fact “disregarded” in that the conservative forces that dominate the platform committee prevented it from being discussed or brought to a vote.

The language in the platform was a lightly edited version of the 2020 plank, which survived a floor challenge in a close vote that probably would have gone the other way had it been conducted fairly. Proponents of the pro-justice language needed signatures from 300 central committee members in 24 hours to bring it to the floor. They got 450 in 18 hours. Under this year’s online format, that was impossible.

Absurdly, Andrew Lachman, president of Democrats for Israel California, is quoted as saying that use of the term “Jewish Israelis” means we think that “the only people who are Israelis are Jews.” In fact, the opposite is true: The counterposing of “Israelis and Palestinians” by supporters of Israel ignores that 20 percent of Israeli citizens are Palestinian. The whole matter is compounded by the fact that Israel, unlike other multinational states, differentiates between nationality and citizenship in ways that reinforce the inferior status of non-Jewish citizens, not to mention the 5 million-plus Palestinians living under occupation with no political voice.

Times are changing in the Democratic Party and its constituencies, including the Jewish community.

David L. Mandel

Platform not good enough

Pro-Israel California Democrats won a victory of sorts by defeating an attempt by radicals to insert anti-Israel language into the 2022 California Democratic platform (“Jewish groups applaud CA Democratic Party platform’s wording on Israel,” March 14).

Nevertheless, from a true pro-Israel perspective, the current language is still woefully inadequate.

For example, the platform supports the “two-state solution,” which most Israelis strongly oppose, not just because they reject any surrender of Jewish land as a matter of principle, but also because the Palestinians have repeatedly made clear that getting their own state won’t end the conflict, but just raise it to a higher level.

The platform also calls for negotiations as the only path to peace. But Palestinian leaders have never negotiated in good faith. They’ve used negotiations only to gain one-sided concessions in return for empty promises. Historically, Israel has gained nothing, and lost much, by negotiating with the Palestinians.

It also treats Israeli and Palestinian land claims as equally valid, which they are not.

Democratic Majority for Israel supporters at the 2019 California Democratic Party convention. (Photo/Courtesy DMFI)
Democratic Majority for Israel supporters at the 2019 California Democratic Party convention. (Photo/Courtesy DMFI)

The Jews have been a distinct nation for over 3,000 years with a unique language, religion and history, and a unique connection to the Land of Israel. But the claim that Palestinians are a distinct people entitled to their own state is simply a lie invented in the 1960s for the sole purpose of undermining Israel’s legitimate claim. To say that the two claims are equal is a perversion of truth and justice.

The platform even supports a return to the Iran nuclear deal, which is anathema to almost all Israelis, as it wouldn’t stop Iran from getting nukes, wouldn’t hinder its non-nuclear aggressions in the region and would give it billions of dollars which it would use to pursue its ultimate goal of annihilating Israel.

So yes, the platform could have been worse, but true friends of Israel can only be disheartened by such tepid “support.”

Martin Wasserman
Palo Alto

‘She is no hero’

In the article “A Jewish Google employee says her activism against an Israel contract got her job moved to Brazil” (March 16) by JTA’s Andrew Lapin, I initially thought that the Google employee, Ariel Koren, was spearheading a protest against Google to defend the State of Israel.

Upon completing the article, I could not believe that Ariel Koren was protesting against the Google contract with the state of Israel.

Her self-righteous behavior betrays the Jewish people and our beloved State of Israel. Ariel Koren is entitled to her opinion, but she should not “lead the charge” against the Jewish state. We already have plenty of enemies of the Jewish people.

She is no hero.

Steven Fink
Los Angeles

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