J Street isn’t pro-Israel

Your headline about J Street was misleading (“Head of liberal Jewish lobby pushes back against his critics,” Sept. 18). It is not a liberal group. Its policies are radical left and out of step with every Zionist group in Israel and America. Every Zionist political party in Israel, including Meretz on the far left, supported Operation Cast Lead.

J Street is a threat to Israel. Their opposition to Israel’s right to self-defense undermines Israel’s very existence. Hamas, Iran as well as Hezbollah are real threats and J Street wants to tie Israel’s hands and thus cause more terror. We listened to the appeasers with Oslo and we got the second intifada. Most Israelis now know it was a mistake and the peace talks are just that: talk.

J Street is living in the past. They are still looking for peace in our time. They may say they are pro-Israel but their actions say otherwise.

Gil Stein   |   Aptos


New camp offers Jewish experience

In response to Rachel Freedenberg’s column (“Camping is a religious experience in my book,” Aug. 28), maybe the real question should be not if Jews camp, but whether they can practice Judaism in the wilderness. Certainly the latter is less common.

But it doesn’t have to be. There is a new outdoor Jewish camp that will debut next summer for entering 8th, 9th and 10th graders called “Ramah Outdoor Adventure in the Rockies.” I’ll be one of the counselors.

Honestly, though, I wasn’t sure what to think about the program at first. I have done a fair amount of camping with my family, and backpacking with NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School). I have gone to Israel, but have never really been Jewish in the outdoors.

This summer, the other counselors and I had an eight-day training session that included backpacking and first aid. Most magical though, was debating the different interpretations of Jewish law and tikkun olam (repairing the world) — all while drinking hot chocolate and noshing on kosher marshmallows.

Do Jews camp? Yes. But can Jews learn to practice Judaism while living in the outdoors? Absolutely.

Elliot Krigel   |   Palo Alto


No coexistence with ‘death cult’

Rabbis Rosen and Walt of “Jewish Fast for Gaza” (“Rabbis’ Fast for Gaza can be good for Israel, too,” Sept. 11) use highly selective Torah quotes to support their position. True, the Torah says that God created man in His image, and all men should be treated with dignity and respect. But it also says that He removes entire nations from the Earth when they’re no longer willing or able to serve His purposes.

When the Israelites first entered the Promised Land, He commanded them to make no peace with the Canaanites, but to utterly remove them, since their extreme corruption and debasement had cost them the right to remain there. How would the Canaanites compare to today’s Palestinian Arabs, whose culture extols hatred, slander and bloodshed, and who consider it the highest good for their children to turn themselves into human bombs?

Israel cannot coexist peacefully with a death/suicide cult that has an insatiable appetite for Jewish blood. Israel must either destroy it or be destroyed by it. People who try to help the Palestinians, congratulating themselves on their compassion as they do so, are in fact aiding and abetting the darkest forces of destruction, and should not expect to be judged favorably for it.

Martin Wasserman   |   Sunnyvale


Israel is the key

Lately the printed media has been abuzz with the question why Jews have strong pro-liberal tendencies. It started with Norm Podhoretz’s book “Why Are Jews Liberal?” The overall consensus among Podhoretz’s supporters is that modern liberalism has turned into a form of religion substituting the real one. On the other hand, Podhoretz’s detractors claim that he misinterprets liberalism, which, in their opinion, carries the best of the Jewish values.

Unfortunately, both sides have almost omitted the centrality of Israel in Podhoretz’s analysis of Jewish liberalism and how it leads to ostracizing Israel.

Why is Israel so important in modern Jewish life? Because the rise and strength of Israel has been directly related to the rise and strength of Jewish self-confidence in fight for equal rights and freedoms here in the U.S. and around the world. Conversely, any weakening of Israel, including dilution of Israel-U.S. ties, will be detrimental to Jews everywhere. There is no escape from this truth, however unsettling.

Vladimir Kaplan   |   San Mateo


‘As Jews we care’

I found the letters by Mike Levine and Martin Wasserman (Letters, Sept. 4) repugnant. What Mr. Levine and Mr. Wasserman are basically saying is “I got mine and to heck with everyone else.” In their minds, it’s just too bad for people who are poor and can’t afford health insurance.

When I was a child at Homewood Terrace during the 1950s and early 1960s, Benjamin Bonaparte and Herbert Liebhoff taught us in their Shabbat sermons to be our brother’s keeper. Of course, that’s our sister’s too.

As Jews we care about all who are oppressed, because we were oppressed.

Fortunately, most American Jews disagree with the philosophy of Mr. Levine and Mr. Wasserman, as approximately 80 percent consistently vote Democratic and voted for Barack Obama last year. Many Jews served in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, and some like Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, died for the cause.

Walter Ballin   |   Chico


‘No right to food’ a slippery slope

Mike Levine (Letters, Sept. 4) states that there is no human right to food. Perhaps God disagrees with him, as in chapter 19 of Leviticus, where Jewish peasants are commanded not to pick the fallen fruit nor harvest the corners of the field, so the poor could glean.

He says “only labor, both mental and physical” creates wealth. Yet, hedge fund managers and their ultra-wealthy clients make tens of billions with arbitrage and commodity speculation without producing one extra bushel of wheat or barrel of oil. In India, though, the producers of food are able to eat less and less each year.

Mr. Levine’s attitude is emblematic of those who worship the idol of neoliberal economics. Taken to its logical conclusion, it dooms the vast majority of humanity to a subhuman existence.

Alfred Lerner   |   San Carlos


Untold story on Human Rights Watch

The Ron Kampeas article on Human Rights Watch and the Israeli response (“Israel, NGOs play the blame game over Gaza war,” Aug. 28) described as childish name-calling the charges of bias against HRW, while leaving readers ignorant of their substance.

Numerous unchallenged reports document that Sarah Whitson, the HRW Mideast Director, formerly of the Arab-American Discrimination Committee, raised money for HRW in Saudi Arabia by focusing on HRW’s battle with “pro-Israel pressure groups.” Joe Stork, author of the HRW Gaza report, wrote after the Munich massacre, “Munich and similar actions cannot create or substitute for a mass revolutionary movement … but we should comprehend the achievement of the Munich action … It has provided an important boost in morale among Palestinians in the camps.” In 1976 Stork attended an anti-Zionist conference in Baghdad sponsored by Saddam Hussein and his virulent anti-Zionism views continue.

In deciding the credibility of the HRW report, your readers were told none of this, but only read Kampeas’ comparisons of Stork’s unspecified bias with Lieberman’s past statements. Stork and Whitson are entitled to their views, but unlike a politician, HRW presents itself as an unbiased accurate human rights monitor. Coming next, perhaps, a defense of the Aftonbladet article on the IDF or the El Mundo interview with David Irving?

Thom Seaton   |   Berkeley