So much for seder
So all the Jews are thrilled there was a seder in the Obama White House (“Obama makes history with White House seder,” April 10). Personally I would have been happier had he not given almost a billion dollars to Palestinians in Gaza who voted for a regime that wants to annihilate Israel and its Jews.
Scott Abramson | San Mateo
Holocaust wasn’t just in Europe
As we approach Yom HaShoah and begin commemorating the millions of lives lost during the Holocaust, we should remember those victims whose story is in grave danger of being completely forgotten: Jewish victims from North Africa and the Middle East.
Let us not forget that Nazi policies extended far beyond its mainland and into European colonies in North Africa and the Middle East, leaving no Jew in these regions safe. Thousands of indigenous Jews were detained in camps throughout North Africa where they faced torture, disease, slave labor and execution.
Their history is absent from books, archives, maps and oral testimonies documenting the atrocities of the Holocaust. The Yad Vashem chief archivist as well as the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., have told me that this is a part of Holocaust history that has been grossly neglected.
The experience of the Jews from North Africa during the Holocaust must be adequately recorded to raise awareness about this unknown part of the Nazi atrocities. We owe it to the victims, to ourselves and to our children to preserve their memory and to bring their stories out of history’s shadows and into the light of acknowledgment and commemoration.
Gina Waldman | Tiburon
Chair, JIMENA (Jews Indigenous to the Middle East & North Africa)
Correcting the record
It has recently come to my attention that a contributor to your letters page, John Gertz, made several false statements about me in a letter entitled “More to the story” (Letters, April 2). I am a columnist for the Daily Planet (as well as Foreign Policy in Focus), and in his letter Mr. Gertz says that “about 75 percent” of my columns are on Israel.
For the record, I have written 88 columns for the Planet, 10 of which are about Israel, three on the recent Gaza war. Unlike Mr. Gertz, I have written three columns about the courageous Israeli peace movement, which is trying to create the conditions for a two-state solution. I realize the word “about” is a little squishy, but Mr. Gertz’s characterization of what I focus my columns on was simply dishonest.
Secondly, he accuses me of being a member of the Communist Party. I am not. You can check with them if you like.
Both of Gertz’s statements are false and I would like the editors to correct them.
Conn Hallinan | Berkeley
Reflect on Darfur
Since it’s almost Yom HaShoah and Genocide Prevention Month, it’s appropriate to reflect on the crisis in Darfur. On March 4, the ICC made the bold move of issuing an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The arrest is significant for a number of reasons, but most notably because al-Bashir is the first sitting head of state arrested by the court. What greater evidence does the world need than his subsequent expulsion of the key humanitarian aid groups from Sudan, depriving over one million from food, water, and medical services?
Darfur advocates met with Obama last week and they are cautiously optimistic that he is committed to bringing peace to the region. They are hopeful that Special Envoy Scott Gration will soon travel to key nations to garner support to convince — and, if not, compel — al-Bashir to restore humanitarian access and make progress towards establishing a true peace.
Now, more than ever, it’s time to contact our political leaders to encourage them to support all efforts to stop a genocide that has already cost up to 450,000 lives.
Stewart Florsheim | Piedmont
I was shocked to see that j., a newspaper of a people that has known the pain of attempted extermination, would print Martin Wasserman’s hate-filled op-ed (“Nothing to apologize for,” April 3). Per Mr. Wasserman, Palestinians want to kill all Jews everywhere, view war as a way of life, use civilians as human shields, are cruel, etc., it is justifiable to kill however many civilians as necessary to kill a combatant. Since God has given us this land, it is God’s will that we refuse to follow the laws of war. Every Kassam launched is an Auschwitz, while our bombing of schools, mosques, hospitals, U.N. sites where people took refuge and all civilian infrastructure is self-defense.
We now have an ultra-right government in Israel. Several parties in the coalition call for the expulsion of Arabs from the river to the sea. A deputy minister threatened the Gazans with a Shoah a few years ago. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman mused about the effect of a nuclear bomb on Gaza. If these fascists carry out their threats, shall we applaud, or shall we say ‘I did not know’?
Al Lerner | San Carlos
Not wrong to question
I remain proud of Israel and the IDF, the most moral army in the world, for its actions before, during, and after the Gaza War. At the same time I am proud of those in our community who genuinely wrestle with the real moral dilemmas that the IDF faces when fighting an amoral enemy like Hamas in a densely populated urban warfare setting.
It is not anti-Israel to suggest a need to wrestle with moral dilemmas. Our community tent should be wide enough and our love and support for Israel should be sure enough to accommodate differing points of view and genuine contemplation and even disagreements caused by the “fog of war.” It is unfathomable to me how persons of such upstanding character as Rabbi Amy Eilberg can be subjected to such abuse on the part of our community.
Israel is fighting intractable enemies such as Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah and these enemies should be our focus, not Israel’s supporters in our community.
To Rabbi Eilberg’s detractors, give her a break. To Israel’s supporters, calm down and remember who the real enemy is. Israel has too much to lose when we diminish our own support with silly accusations and innuendos.
Steve Lipman | Foster City
Get the facts, then react
The contradictions in Rabbi Eilberg’s letter of April 3, acknowledging that the most serious of her allegations turn out to be hearsay, while “nothing has changed in the depths of my concern,” implies a need for clarity regarding Israel’s recent campaign in Gaza.
Elsewhere in j., the estimates of Palestinian dead vary between 1,166 and 1,417. These numbers, after 22 days of operations in a densely populated area, do not suggest a wanton disregard for the noncombatant population, but just the opposite. Compare it to the death tolls in the conflicts in Algeria (120,000 minimally) and Chechnya (200,000).
Further, evaluation should be with the accepted Laws of Armed Conflict based on the Hague and Geneva Conventions, which prohibits the intentional targeting of civilians in the absence of a legitimate military objective. It does not criminalize civilian death secondary to a legitimate military objective or from the fog of war. It does prohibit willfully endangering civilians by operating in proximity to them. This prosecutable violation was a basic Hamas strategy.
There should be no prohibition of open discussion or criticism of Israeli policy. But, such criticism should be consistent with available factual information and attempt to understand the issues involved.
Steve Astrachan | Pleasant Hill
Eilberg took a risk
I would like to congratulate Rabbi Amy Eilberg on her bravery for speaking out on an issue that pains so many of us who deeply love Israel. Any time that a rabbi publicly dares to criticize Israel he or she puts livelihood and a career at risk, and one does that only on issues that are vital to the preservation of our values and way of life.
Rabbi Eilberg, out of her lifelong love and concern for Israel and Judaism, is acting as a rabbi should, holding Jews to the ethical and moral standards of our tradition. Our tradition requires us to speak out to do everything in our power to save lives. If there is any possibility that the IDF participated in the unnecessary death of civilians, there must be an independent investigation to protect the honor and sacredness of centuries of Jewish ethics.
Rabbi Mordechai Liebling | Philadelphia
Songs of hope
On behalf of Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring of Northern California, KlezCalifornia, and Tri-Valley Cultural Jews, co-sponsors of next Sunday’s double-bill concert in Berkeley, “Songs of Remembrance, Resistance, and Hope,” thank you for Stacey Palevsky’s well-done article (“Warsaw Ghetto Uprising comes to life in music and dance,” April 10).
Our concert commemorates not only the 66th anniversary of the brave Uprising, but the 144th birthday of Yiddishist Chaim Zhitlowsky — who 100 years ago recognized the importance of this language in uniting diaspora Jews.
Diana Scott | San Francisco
Chairwoman, Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring of Northern California