A JewBelong billboard at  San Pablo Ave. and Hearst St. in Berkeley had the words "Free Palestine!" spray-painted on it. (Photo/Courtesy JewBelong)
A JewBelong billboard at San Pablo Ave. and Hearst St. in Berkeley had the words "Free Palestine!" spray-painted on it. (Photo/Courtesy JewBelong)

JewBelong billboards, for and against; Human composting is obscene; etc.

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Human composting is ‘obscene’

As a Jew, I found the article on “human composting” obscene (“Is human composting the next big thing in Jewish death practice?” Jan. 19).

Fifty years ago, the science fiction movie “Soylent Green” depicted a future dystopian world, which will be saved from the greenhouse effect, climate change and other human pollution by eating green wafers made from deceased human remains by an unsuspecting public.

How ironic that this is taken seriously today. Life imitates art?

Lawrence Wolff
Mill Valley


Censorship in antisemitism definition

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism (“Israel’s consul general: California should join other states in adopting IHRA definition of antisemitism,” Jan. 11) is a tool for censoring issues relating to Palestinian rights and does nothing to address the root causes of increased antisemitism in the U.S.

The IHRA wrongly equates fair criticism of Israel with antisemitism to censor efforts to hold the Israeli government accountable for numerous human rights violations against Palestinians.

Attempts to codify the IHRA definition into law have been strongly opposed by a broad cross-section of civil liberties groups, and Jewish and Palestinian human rights organizations including the ACLU, the National Lawyers Guild, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Palestine Legal, Jewish Voice for Peace, Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, the U.S. Reform movement, J Street and many others. The editorial boards of the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post have all criticized use of the definition, citing Constitutional concerns.

Right-wing racism — which also includes Islamophobia, homophobia and white supremacy — is the main cause of antisemitism and is not addressed in the IHRA definition.

Neo-Nazis and white Supremacists take part in a march the night before the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Aug. 11, 2017. (Photo/JTA-Zach D Roberts-NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Neo-Nazis and white Supremacists take part in a march the night before the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Aug. 11, 2017. (Photo/JTA-Zach D Roberts-NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The efforts against all forms of racism are linked and must include support for Palestinian rights. No state government or municipality should adopt this definition and must instead work to build a future in which all people live in freedom and safety.

Seth Morrison
El Cerrito


U.S. Jews don’t rule Israel

The gap and misunderstanding between Jews who align with American modern progressive values and the majority of Israelis only widens when Jews who comfortably live in the U.S. project their social and political ideals and fears onto Israel without properly understanding the challenges, frustrations and priorities of the largest and most pluralistic Jewish community in the world (“Israel’s new right-wing Knesset troubles Bay Area supporters,” Jan. 18).

The recent election outcome might not look like what lots of American Jews would have wanted for Israel, but it is the result of a properly executed democratic process.

Some critiques are absolutely legit and are also shared by thousands of protestors in Tel Aviv. But few here in the U.S. are as loud when Israel is viciously demonized, regardless of which government leads the Jewish state.

Laurent Goldsztejn
San Francisco


Where indoctrination leads

The recent opinion piece “When did Zionists become snowflakes?” (online, Jan. 24) was problematic on many levels.

Palestinian groups are marching and calling for Israel’s destruction (“Intifada revolution”) because they have been indoctrinated in their homes, schools, media and mosques from a young age, and for many years, that the Jewish people, who have no ties to the land of Israel, have stolen their land.

Those of us who have experienced such rallies can tell you that they can be frightening.

For example, Google the Day of Rage protest that took place last week in New York’s Grand Central Station. Watch the footage. How would you feel in the midst of this? The solution is to teach our children about Jewish ties to the land and to enroll them in organizations that support them.

Club Z is doing a phenomenal job. So are organizations like CAMERA, AIPAC, StandWithUs and Hasbara Fellowships.

A view of the stage at the 2019 AIPAC conference in Washington, D.C. (Photo/JTA-Cheriss May-NurPhoto via Getty Images)
A view of the stage at the 2019 AIPAC conference in Washington, D.C. (Photo/JTA-Cheriss May-NurPhoto via Getty Images)

There is no lack of organizations critical of Israel. Support organizations that support Israel. Support Birthright and send your kids.

Per the article, Dennis Ross wants people to support rallies against the new Israeli government to show their pro-Israel cred? For heaven’s sake, no!

Israelis voted against the terrorism they face every day — even when there were liberal governments (and there were many) — rockets, stabbings, arson, the Palestinian Pay to Slay program and more.

Sheree Roth
Palo Alto


Israel’s behavior is an ‘affront’

As a middle-school teacher in South San Francisco, I have had many Palestinian American students and have worked with Palestinian American teachers and classroom aides.

They have made it clear to me how their families had suffered from the establishment of the state of Israel, and objected to the way that their people are treated today as either Israeli Arabs or residents of the West Bank. They are not antisemites, though they are anti-Zionists.

Our relationships have always been special and more meaningful because of the fact that I am a Jew. I have led many school trips to Washington, D.C., and there were always Palestinian American students and often parents on these trips. When we visited the Holocaust Museum, it was as meaningful and moving to them as it was to me.

I write this to say that, obviously, anti-Zionism is not the same as antisemitism, despite what the billboards that have sprung up say (“Provocative JewBelong billboards vandalized with ‘Free Palestine’ in Berkeley,” Jan. 23).

I am a Zionist. I absolutely believe that Jews have a right to a nation of our own. However, I find the policies of that nation toward their Arab citizens and the inhabitants of the Occupied Territories to be an affront to our traditions as a historically oppressed people.

The new Israeli government, with its rogues gallery of racist criminals, is a disgrace to our people.

To be opposed to racism and oppression is not anti-Zionism, and it is certainly not antisemitism.

Danny Yanow
San Francisco


Law dean is fueling the fire

The recently defaced billboards in Berkeley (“Provocative JewBelong billboards vandalized with ‘Free Palestine’ in Berkeley,” Jan. 23) stated that anti-Zionism is antisemitism, and it was vandalized for saying that.

The allegedly Zionist dean of Berkeley Law is quoted as saying that the message of the billboards is misleading and is inflammatory.

He should be embarrassed for that comment.

Those who defaced the billboards are antisemitic, and the anti-Zionist declarations of members of Dean Erwin Chemerinsky’s college are, as well.

Erwin Chemerinsky is dean of UC Berkeley Law. (Photo/File)
Erwin Chemerinsky is dean of UC Berkeley Law. (Photo/File)

Chemerinsky should not only be embarrassed by those clubs and students attending his law school, but for his own conduct in these matters.

Campus organizations that engage in banning Zionists are practicing such discriminatory activities and should not receive any public funding, nor should they have any official status on campus.

Law students who do not want to hear someone of opposing views will not be good lawyers. Law professors who allow this kind of behavior are not good teachers.

Perhaps if Chemerinsky would get out of his ivory tower and stop defending the indefensible, the university could salvage what is left of its reputation as a place where the exchange of ideas is encouraged.

Gil Stein
Aptos


‘Disservice to American Jews’

I admit to having had mixed feelings about the JewBelong billboards that have become a Bay Area presence (“Provocative JewBelong billboards vandalized with ‘Free Palestine’ in Berkeley,” Jan. 23).

I have always felt, since coming to America from the U.K. 45 years ago, that, unlike in Europe, I’ve never had to play down my Jewish background. I was just another citizen in a melting-pot society where Jews were an important and respected part of the fabric of the American experience.

Then Trump gave presidential permission for a largely white supremacist–based expression of a latent antisemitism that has found echoes elsewhere, and for the first time, I had to give credence to concerns in the Jewish community that I had hitherto considered rather paranoid.

So just maybe JewBelong billboards are serving a useful purpose in making the claim that we indeed belong.

Then I read your article about the defacement of their billboards that equated anti-Zionism with antisemitism. That is such an appalling statement.

Let’s say you are a Palestinian and you have experienced what Zionism has done to your people; it would be incomprehensible if you were not anti-Zionist, but you may work and live closely with Jews without any feeling of antisemitism. I know many Palestinians who fit that description.

Let’s say you are an ultra-Orthodox Jew belonging to a sect that perceives Zionism as anti-messianic. Are you antisemitic?

Let’s say you are an Israeli or young American Jew who is appalled by the 55-plus-year occupation and humiliation of the Palestinians in the West Bank, and you conclude that Zionism is incompatible with true democracy. Are you antisemitic? Obviously not!

So when JewBelong blasts out that message on its billboards, it is doing a real disservice to American Jews.

By accusing of Jew hatred anyone who does not agree that Zionism is a good thing, it is encouraging antisemitism and, by making such a ridiculous claim, it is trivializing a terrible prejudice that has had such horrific consequences for the Jewish people for the last two thousand years.

Charles Kremer
Berkeley


Zionism has victims

The group JewBelong has put up billboards around Berkeley that state “anti-Zionism is antisemitism” (“Provocative JewBelong billboards vandalized with ‘Free Palestine’ in Berkeley,” Jan. 23). This is not true.

Antisemitism is prejudice against Jews, regardless of where they live. It is a historic and worldwide problem and must be opposed, like all varieties of prejudice.

On the other hand, Zionism is an ideology which says that Israel/Palestine should be regarded as the homeland of the Jews, and that Israelis have the right to control the entire territory and treat non-Jews as inferior, second-class people.

An Israeli checkpoint is seen during the holy Islamic month of Ramadan as Covid-19 measures continue in the West Bank city of Hebron, April 20, 2021. (Photo/JTA-Issam Rimawi-Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
An Israeli checkpoint is seen during the holy Islamic month of Ramadan as Covid-19 measures continue in the West Bank city of Hebron, April 20, 2021. (Photo/JTA-Issam Rimawi-Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Saying that anti-Zionism equals antisemitism is a smokescreen intended to stifle debate while Israel continues to oppress the people of Palestine and occupy their land.

The only way to truly eliminate antisemitism is for Jews and others to oppose all forms of prejudice and unite with its victims around the world, not its perpetrators.

Larry Hendel
Berkeley


Wonderful step into the past

My heartfelt congratulations to the team that assembled the Jan. 6 cover package “Step into the Bay Area’s Jewish Past” (using J. archival material, print edition).

As docent for Congregation Sherith Israel, I especially love reading these snapshots of historic moments drawn directly from the pages of past J. editions.

These contemporaneous articles bring to life the thoughts of everyday people living through the events.

Again, a wonderful read and a great job assembling the retrospective!

Alan Mirviss
San Francisco

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