The Cesar Chavez Student Center at San Francisco State University. (Photo/Wikimedia-Briantrejo CC)
The Cesar Chavez Student Center at San Francisco State University. (Photo/Wikimedia-Briantrejo CC)

Free speech at S.F. State; ‘Love for all Jews’ has a limit; etc.

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Israel needs judicial reform

The article “Some of Israel’s staunchest Bay Area supporters are speaking out against proposed judicial reform” (March 13) was more than a little biased in its coverage of this controversy in Israel; there was more than three times the space allotted to describing the support of the protests than was presented describing the judicial reform side of the issue.

The proposed judicial reform is a clearly articulated legal process designed to restore a workable system of checks and balances between the Knesset and the Israeli Supreme Court, by undoing the past 30 years of judicial activism started by Chief Justice Aharon Barak, which during that time has allowed the legal system to run the country by potentially overriding any check on its power by the Knesset, without recourse.

The proposed ability of the Knesset to override the Supreme Court would augment democracy and representative government, not detract from it.

You now know more than the tens of thousands of misled protesters in Israel and their seriously confused “pro-Israel” Bay Area supporters.

Dave Harris

Yes, antisemitism abounded

When I saw “The Fabelmans,” I was surprised that Sammy/Steven was bullied as a Jew in progressive Saratoga. Director Steven Spielberg and the four interviewees in “Like Sammy Fabelman (and Steven Spielberg), these Bay Area students faced antisemitism in the 1960s” (March 10) are my age peers.

I understood that my being othered in my little western Pennsylvania, blue-collar steel mill town in the 1950s and ’60s might have been expected. I was disturbed to read that these incidents happened in the Bay Area, too.

Norman Weiss’ story troubled me the most. We lived a 5-minute walk from a golf club. Despite my father being a prominent, well-respected, civic-minded and philanthropic businessman in the little town, we were not allowed to belong to this restricted club. The course was closed during the winter, and my sisters and I would take our sleds there. I was afraid of being caught and told to leave … maybe with a racial slur. I suppose that if girls could have even been on a high school golf team like Norman was, I could never have joined because there would have been no place for me to practice.

To answer Tom Levy’s question: Catholic priests were telling their followers that Jews were Christ-killers, and your classmates were “hearing this stuff at home.” My town was largely Catholic. I know this is what they were taught.

What changed in the ’60s? At the end of 1964, at Vatican II, the legislative body of the Roman Catholic Church decided that Jews were no longer officially to be considered Christ-killers.

Natalie Krauss Bivas
Palo Alto

Free speech at S.F. State

“‘Antisemitic statements’ at S.F. State meeting prompt university response” (online, March 23) is an interesting story about an SFSU student who said they didn’t want to collaborate with Hillel because it is a Zionist organization.

For starters, the headline labeled it an antisemitic incident, when it was actually anti-Zionist. Zionism and Judaism are two different things, so equating the two is simply stereotyping, not accurate reporting.

Secondly, Hillel is a Zionist organization. In fact, at some universities and colleges, some Jewish students who are not Zionist have created Open Hillel organizations for Jews like themselves.

Thirdly, everyone in the U.S. is guaranteed free speech by our constitution. The student who spoke up at the meeting was simply exercising their right to free speech. The other participants at the meeting were free to honor the statement or ignore it.

And, finally, if 65% of students have some qualms about identifying as Jewish, that means 35% do not. Maybe the qualms are more about the fearful students than about the reality that the 35% seem to experience.

Lois Pearlman

‘Love for all Jews’ has a limit

Intentionally or not, you made an excellent point by printing letters from Caroline Lehman (“Deserve to be defaced”) and Seth Morrison (“Shunning anti-Zionist Jews”) back-to-back in your Feb. 17 issue.

Lehman supports the anonymous anti-Zionist(s) who vandalized a JewBelong billboard and turned its message on its head. Readers may raise their eyebrows at Lehman’s characterization of JewBelong’s slogans as “abhorrent” and “very incendiary.” But what’s really shocking is that she wants to silence those who disagree with her. Jewish Voice for Peace and its allies are free to exercise their free-speech rights by buying their own billboard space. But sadly, Lehman instead follows the example of progressives who believe that those who offend progressives’ sensibilities forfeit their rights.

As if simultaneously, Morrison laments his exclusion from “many Jewish institutions” because of his anti-Zionist beliefs.

Why would I want to associate, either personally or through an institution, with someone who wants to silence me?

Love for all Jews (klal Yisrael) is an important Jewish value, but like all values, it must have a limit. If anti-Zionist Jews insist on freedom of speech for their views (which I consider, to borrow Lehman’s words, abhorrent and incendiary) while denying it to their opponents, they should not be surprised to find themselves disinvited.

Ilya Gurin
Mountain View

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