J. at its best

As a subscriber to your newspaper for 27 years, I have never been more deeply moved by a feature than by Alix Wall’s report of Joshua Kaplan’s teshuvah — from crazed murderer toward redemption (“Road to atonement,” Sept. 21).

This handsome young man with tilted head and purposeful gaze looks directly into the soul of everyone who can feel his heavy burden. I believe that when Kaplan’s parole ends in five years, he will not only reclaim his rightful citizenship, but eventually contribute to society in meaningful ways.

Wall was able to plumb both Kaplan’s mind and spirit for any sympathetic reader of his sad story. This was j. at its best.

Thank you and shana tovah to Joshua, too. He has “chosen life” and “lives.”

Marian Blanton   |   San Rafael


Jerusalem and Obama

The letter that relegated the recent controversy about the Democrat platform’s omission and reinsertion of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital to “much ado about nothing” is mistaken (“We’re more united than we think,” Sept. 14).

Yes, the platform is non-binding and every previous platform of both parties recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital without a subsequent move of our embassy. However, President Obama’s actions, not in election mode, imply a policy toward Jerusalem both substantially different from that of his predecessors and in sync with that of the majority of Democrat delegates who voted against reinserting the statement.

In March 2010, during Vice President Biden’s visit, Jerusalem authorities announced a new housing project in a Jewish neighborhood, an embarrassment for which Prime Minister Netanyahu publicly apologized. Rather than accept the apology, Obama initiated a major diplomatic confrontation out of any proportion to the actual incident.

Obama’s anger was legitimate; however, Netanyahu’s apology was sincere. Furthermore, he had recently declared a 10-month building freeze in the occupied territories and agreed to the indirect negotiations in spite of his preference for direct negotiations. Yet these significant actions toward substantive negotiations made no difference to Obama as he escalated the confrontation.

We should remember March 2010.

Steve Astrachan   |   Pleasant Hill


A blind eye to injustices

In her Sept. 21 op-ed, Carol Sanders’ assertion that the problem in the Bay Area is hate speech against Muslims and Arabs bears no relation to reality (“Misrepresenting campuses as hotbeds of anti-Semitic activity a disservice to all”).

She gives one example: an ad placed on buses saying, “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat jihad.”

Bay Area Jewish groups quickly condemned the ad. The Bay Area is as hospitable an environment for Muslim religious practice and the Arab political viewpoint about the Middle East as exists in the United States.

By contrast, Jewish viewpoints frequently have been met with responses outside the bound of acceptable discourse. Publicly placed ads supporting Israel have been defaced. Swastikas have been painted on buildings at U.C. Berkeley. Activists have attended public speeches and shouted down visiting Israelis. Opponents of Israel have portrayed Jews as Nazis.

Notably absent is a response from Muslim communities in the Bay Area condemning these actions and expressions of hate.

Disruption and ad hominem invective are an affront to the values of a university. Rather than deny the findings of the Jewish Campus Climate Report, Ms. Sanders should refocus her energies on making college campuses more hospitable for all.

Adam Cole   |   San Francisco


Palestinians want one state: theirs

Beverly Voloshin’s letter (“Dani Dayan’s ugly triumphalism,” Sept. 14) declared that “the heart” of the Israeli/Arab problem is that Palestinians don’t have their own state. She thus advocates — along with the U.S., the UK, the EU, NATO, the U.N. and others — the two-state solution. However, she overlooks a major obstacle: the Palestinians do not want two states.

To understand Palestinian intentions, one might seek answers to a few questions, such as:

Why do Middle East maps show Palestine (only one state) replacing the entire State of Israel?

Why does P.A. leader Abbas say he will never recognize a Jewish state?

Why are Palestinian children taught that “their” land has been stolen?

Why do Palestinian mosques and media demand that all of Israel must be “liberated”?

Why do Palestinian schoolbooks claim Jews have no history in the Middle East?

Why do Palestinians falsely label territory as “occupied” when it is actually “disputed” and to be negotiated by the parties?

June Brott   |   Oakland


Scant comfort

Perhaps I am too steeped in Jewish history to be pacified by President Obama’s State Department “comfort zones.”

The current clash between Israel and the Obama administration over Israel’s red line warnings on Iran’s nuclear weaponizing is a clear signal that this administration is totally oblivious to Middle East realities.

Yet again, in recent days, the White House objects to Israel’s informed assessment and instructs Netanyahu to rely on some unspecified, vague “diplomatic discussion.”

Ernest Weiner   |   Berkeley


A bumpy road

In a “60 Minutes” interview on Sept. 23, President Obama was asked if he felt pressure from Prime Minister Netanyahu to change policy and draw a line in the sand regarding Iran.

Obama’s response: “When it comes to our national security decisions, any pressure that I feel is simply to do what’s right for the American people. And I am going to block out any noise that’s out there.”

Asked (on the day after the murder of four Americans in Benghazi) if the events in the Middle East give him any pause about his policies, he said “there will be bumps in the road.”

Asked about what responsibility he bears for the failures in his policies, he said “Oh, I think that, you know, as president I bear responsibility for everything, to some degree …”

Meanwhile, at a time when the president has no time to meet with Netanyahu, he has plenty of time to appear on the “Late Show with David Letterman,” “The View” and with Miami radio’s “Pimp with the Limp” show. Wake up, folks.

Tom Freeman   |   Orinda


State is ahead of Jewish groups

California Assembly Member Linda Haldermann is far ahead of Jewish organizations in counteracting anti-Semitic incidents on California college campuses. Her House Resolution No. 35 passed unanimously, and notes “the growing number of anti-Jewish acts taking place on California colleges.” The University of California said “thanks but we’ll handle it ourselves.” What will they do? They didn’t say.

Declarations of “support” for Jewish students do nothing, but they sound impressive. Rachel Roberts, civil rights coordinator for the Council of American Islamic Relations in Northern California stated, “Genuine acts of anti-Semitism should be condemned …” But even if we were to condemn them in the strongest terms, nothing would be accomplished.

The First Amendment does not guarantee absolute freedom of speech. Jewish organizations are too timid, “too nice” to take effective action to actually protect Jewish students — it might upset someone.

I urge everyone to protect Jewish students now. I urge everyone to actively support HR 35 by writing and/or calling Jewish community organizations and by contacting California legislators.

The California Legislature is way ahead of us on this issue.

Lawrence Weiswasser   |   Vacaville