Pity the fool

Concerning “Obama’s Jewish support rises decidedly, AJC poll finds” (May 4), I do not doubt the poll. Instead, I am perplexed by those Jews who think Obama has changed his antagonistic policy toward Israel.

Three days after the Jewish voters’ revolt in New York’s 9th Congressional District, Obama gave the only pro-Israel speech of his life. Was he sincere? Only a fool would think so. Apparently, however, for many Jews this did the trick, probably because they want to be fooled.

If you think the first three years of the Obama presidency were marked by overt hostility to Israel, just wait: If re-elected, Rev. Wright’s ex-protégé’s second term will — as respects Israel — make the first term seem like a love-in. He is just getting started — first on the agenda, kick-starting his land-for-nothing plan (indefensible borders and an implicit disavowal of George W. Bush’s commitment on the so-called “right of return”).

Tod Zuckerman   |   San Francisco


Making the connection

I disagree with Edward Rothstein’s take on Holocaust museums and their unique Jewish connection (“Does the Holocaust belong to everyone?” column, April 27).

I visit Holocaust museums, watch Holocaust movies and listen to people’s stories to feel and connect more. It is impossible to really feel what our people suffered, and I want to — as close as humanly possible.

Why are we encouraged to remember? To never forget? “Because it can happen again,” we are told.

But can a Holocaust happen only to Jews? Hatred based on differences is happening over and over in all parts of the world. And if we can’t see it, feel it and make the connection, we are in deep trouble.

Sue Fishkoff asks, “Must [a Holocaust museum] touch upon the Jewish story as part of a greater cautionary tale, and risk losing its soul?”

We read the Torah every week, not just to read ancient stories but to make connections to our life today. If we can’t make those connections, if we can’t learn and become better people, it is then that we lose our soul.

Bravo to the museums that make the connection, and thank you for inspiring thought.

Laura Siegel   |   Pacifica


Pause in beating war drum

Any reasonable person knows that if Israel unilaterally takes the initiative to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities, success would be far from definitive and the cost to both Israeli military and its citizenry would be definitively high. On the other hand, if Iran were to successfully develop nuclear weaponry, Israel could be wiped out.

Until recently, I felt that whether one supports an Israeli strike on Iran should be defined by the Israeli government itself, as it is the Israelis who would pay the possible existential price.

However, recent statements by former PM Ehud Olmert, former Mossad Chief Moshe Dagan and former Shin Bet security agency head Yuval Diskin have come out so forcefully against an Israeli military initiative that I have given pause and believe Israel should wait to see whether sanctions on Iran have their effect.

There still is time to see if Iran caves in the face of the most severe economic sanctions it has yet experienced. And if just prior to November’s U.S. presidential election, should sanctions not be deterring Iran, then Israel could justify unilateral action. But not before — the cost both in human lives and world condemnation of Israel would just be too grave.

Dan Spitzer   |   Berkeley


Israel poses no ‘threat’

I recently read about the polls in Germany regarding the “threat” scale of Israel and Iran (“Germans: Israel greater threat than Iran?” April 27). I appreciate the article because it gives me a better understanding of how the world views Israel.

I am concerned about the 22 percent who believe Israel and Iran are equally a threat. As a Jew, it is upsetting to me that people believe Israel is a threat to others. Iran is the one that is actually threatening to use its publicly known nuclear bombs. Israel is a democratic country and fights to protect, not to invade.

I am writing this letter with concerns about how the world views the beautiful country of Israel. What can we do as people and as advocates to educate those who do not quite understand the politics of the Middle East, mostly regarding Israel, to guide them into a clearer mindset?

Rebecca Kassel   |   Santa Cruz


Answers on demolition found lacking

I recently attended an excellent in-depth talk about current cultural and political trends in Israel given at the Bureau of Jewish Education by Eran Kaplan, associate professor at San Francisco State and the university’s endowed Richard and Rhoda Goldman Chair in Israel Studies.

I posed the question that yearly, if not more, one reads about Israel’s demolition of Arab housing in east Jerusalem to make way for Jewish residences; who makes the decisions, and are the Arab inhabitants allowed to protest and receive adequate compensation for their loss?

The answer was, “The laws in this regard are involved and complicated.”

Also recently, former Jerusalem councilwoman Anat Hoffman, who advocates for changing the laws concerning ultra-Orthodox–sponsored rule (requiring women to sit segregated in the back of buses, and disallowing them from praying at the Wailing Wall), was speaking in the area. I asked her who is advocating for the Arabs regarding destruction of Arab east Jerusalem domiciles. She gave a non-answer about Arab integration at Israeli hospitals.

How inappropriate and cynical it is for Jews who have had property seized and confiscated by virtually every European country to take such action. Comments please.

David Fisher  |  San Francisco


Wrong to criticize Israel

While reading Penina Schwartz’s piece about New Israel Fund and TribeFest conference in Las Vegas (“Shiny Las Vegas offers mirror on social justice efforts,” op-ed, May 4) one thought occurred to me: Why are there so many Jews busy criticizing Israel?

America is a country of immigrants. But how many group-compatriots have been actively and incessantly participating in the business of criticizing the land of their or their ancestors’ birth? Almost none. And I am not talking about multiple critical organizations. Only Jews somehow have “rewarded” themselves the rights to talk constantly about what is wrong with Israel.

Within a mere 64 years, Israel has achieved enormous economic, military and spiritual success. Israel has inspired millions of Jews to break the shackles of totalitarian regimes and join the free world. Tiny Israel has absorbed hundreds of thousands of Jews from Arab countries, without the U.N.’s billions of dollars and without whining and grumbling.

American Jews should be proud of Israel and make certain that the United States indeed, as President Obama said, “has Israel’s back.” And accordingly, organizations like J Street, NIF and others, dedicated exclusively to faulting Israel, should put more emphasis on a positive attitude toward Israel, especially since the Jewish state has a very poor record on the propaganda front.

Vladimir Kaplan   |   San Mateo