the desk says "Jews are evil" with several swastikas
A desk at Alameda High School with anti-Semitic graffiti on it, 2016

Letters for the week of June 2, 2017

Disturbing, not surprising

It was very disturbing to read J.’s May 26 cover story about the rise of anti-Semitism in Bay Area schools. Unfortunately, it was not surprising.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, hate crimes in general, including anti-Semitic incidents, increased dramatically last year coinciding with the presidential primary and general election campaigns, and have skyrocketed since Trump was elected.

It has been clear to any rational objective observer that the hateful, extremely divisive words and actions of Donald Trump are responsible for unleashing the worst instincts of many Americans. This has resulted in a spate of hate crimes.

Another disturbing piece in the May 26 issue of J. was an op-ed detailing the firsthand experience of a Palestinian-born U.S. citizen being denied entry into Israel while being treated inhumanely by Israeli border authorities (“Jerusalem: a destination too far for Gaza-born American”). On Feb. 15, Jennifer Gorovitz, a Jewish American with a long history of being supportive of Israel, wrote an article in J. about her experience being given a hard time at the airport entering Israel because she represented the New Israel Fund.

Recently, genuine anti-Semitics in the Trump administration — Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka — have been praised by many American Jews and Israelis, who share their support of the policies of the right-wing Israeli government, which enacted a law in March that bans entry to anybody who supports a boycott, even a boycott of settlement goods. If the renowned Israeli authors Amos Oz, David Grossman and A.B. Yehoshua were not Israeli citizens, they would be banned from Israel, as they support a boycott of settlement goods.

Mark Davidow
Glen Ellen

Piedmont High has its share of hateful acts

Your special report on anti-Semitism in Bay Area schools omitted the recent anti-Semitic as well as racist and homophobic events that have been occurring at Piedmont High School. Jewish students at the school have been confronted with taunts including a group of students forming a swastika shape with their bodies as well as multiple derogatory references to Jews, blacks and gays.

To their credit, school administration officials have handed out suspensions to the offending students and have held student assemblies to address these issues and try to educate all their students about this hateful type of behavior. They have also reached out to East Bay Jewish community leaders as well as to the ADL, the NAACP and local police officials.

Sadly, part of this hate-filled expression at all of these schools may emanate not only from the students’ home environments but also from the “open expression” fostered by today’s political climate.

Herb Holman

Time to show courage in face of anti-Semitism

What is not mentioned in the excellent article by Max A. Cherney about anti-Semitism at Bay Area schools is how the environment fertile to anti-Semitism in middle and high schools gradually developed.

Start by looking at the decades-long development of ugliness on college campuses that has been directed against Israel and also Jews, without consequences. SFSU is a prime example, and UC campuses are not far behind.

Well-intentioned “big tent” Jews twittering over that propaganda coup known as Islamophobia, or about how Israel must “do more for peace,” have lost their sense of right and wrong, or even the understanding that such concepts are essential.

It should surprise no one that anti-Semitism (like cancer) is growing, spreading and mutating into new forms. Thank God there are brave young people like Natasha Waldorf and her parents. Let us give them every possible means of support and stand behind them as a strong united community, guided by the outstanding (but tragically long-forgotten) example of Jewish courage on behalf of Soviet Jewry.

Julia Lutch

Know your history before you make your point

The May 26 letter “The semantics of exile” displays an ignorance of thousands of years of Jewish history as well as the last 150 years of Mideast history.

The author asserts: “The Israelites were driven out of Israel 2,600 years ago to Babylon, where much of the Bible was written.” Much, but not all, of the Jewish population was brought to Babylonia after Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the first Temple in 586 BCE. That Temple contained the Ten Commandments and copies of the written Torah. (For reference, King David lived around 1000 BCE.) Indeed, one requirement of every King of Israel was that whenever he left Jerusalem, he had to travel with a copy of the Torah.

Prophets helped the king and society maintain the correct religious path defined by the Torah/Bible. Two prophets — Daniel and Ezekiel — were taken from Israel to Babylonia. These two and Jonah (who lived 790-750 BCE) were the only people who offered prophecies outside of the land of Israel.

Arabs living in Gaza, Judea or Samaria in the year 1900 would state they lived in the Ottoman Empire or southern Syria (the administrative Ottoman district for those areas). The word “Palestine” was first used as a geopolitical entity when the British Mandate in Palestine was created after World War I.

The author also asserts that Palestinians “were driven out of their homes 69 years ago by European Jews in an ethnic cleansing they call the nakba, or catastrophe.”  The catastrophe the nakba notes is that five Arab armies’ attack on Israel when it declared its independence — in conformity with the U.N. Partition plan of 1947 — failed to annihilate all Jews living in the British Mandate of Palestine. Jews had lived in the area for 3,000 years!

Fred Korr

Where’s the empathy when terrorists kill Israeli children?

When I learned that the Manchester concert massacre’s victims included an 8-year-old girl, Saffie Rose Roussos, my heart broke. Commendably, the world stands with Britain against ISIS’ barbarity.

Yet this empathy disappears when Palestinian terrorists murder Israeli children.

After the Palestinian Authority rejected peace during talks at Camp David in 2000, Palestinian terrorists kidnapped and murdered Koby Mandell and Yosef Ish-Ran, ages 13 and 14, and smeared the boys’ blood throughout the cave where they dumped their bodies. A Palestinian sniper killed 10-month-old Shalhevet Pass in her stroller. Palestinian gunmen stormed Israeli homes, killing Danielle Shefi, 5, in her parents’ bedroom, and Noam and Matan Ohayon, 4 and 5, cradled in their mother Revital’s arms in their kibbutz nursery, with Matan clutching his pacifiers. Another Palestinian knifed Yoav, Elad and Hadas Fogel, 11, 4 and 3 months, in their beds and crib.

Hamas bombers struck Tel Aviv’s Dolphinarium disco, killing 21 young Israelis, including Maria Tagiltseva, 14; an ice cream parlor, killing 5-month-old Sinai Keinan; and a Jerusalem pizzeria, killing American Malki Roth, 15; her best friend Michal Raziel, 16; Yocheved Shoshan, 10; Tamara Shimashvili, 8; and siblings Hemda, Avraham Yitzhak and Ra’aya Schijveschuurder, ages 2, 4 and 14. Palestinians bombed Israeli buses, killing 3-month-old Shmuel Taubenfeld near the Western Wall; Hodaya Asraf, 13, a girl who “loved to draw leaves”; Shani Avi-Tzedek, 15, a precocious teen; and Galila Bugala, 11, an immigrant from Ethiopia.

These, too, were children, murdered by terrorists. Yet no one gathered in Europe’s capitals to mourn them, sing “Hatikvah” or proclaim “Je suis Israelien.”

Meanwhile, the “moderate” Palestinian Authority names schools and public squares in honor of Dalal Mughrabi, glorifying a terrorist who murdered 13 Israeli children as a national hero. The world shrugs.

Stephen A. Silver
San Francisco