Our letters column for the Nov. 17 print edition:
Hillel’s wisdom: Defend ourselves
“If I am only for myself, who am I?” asked Hillel the Elder, in his famous three-part adage, almost two millennia ago. We can proudly answer that as far as Jews of the Bay Area are concerned. We have been in the avant-garde of defending not-ourselves on many fronts: assisting IsraAid in refugee camps, demonstrating against the travel ban, supporting Yazidis in their fight for survival, etc.
But we rarely answer resolutely to the first Hillel’s question: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?”
A case in point is the recent anti-Semitic cartoon in UC Berkeley’s student newspaper the Daily Californian. That is how Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ reacted to this cartoon: “I cannot recall anything similar in the Daily Californian, and I call on the paper’s editors to reflect on whether they would sanction a similar assault on other ethnic or religious groups.” The cartoon was blood-libelous, in the “best” traditions of Nazi Germany. The newspaper’s editor explained that the cartoon has been misunderstood and retracted it. No heads roll, no demonstrations, no petitions. End of story.
As for the Jewish community at large, its voice was mute. Silent have remained Jewish faculty members, Jewish civic and clergy leaders, Jewish Berkeley alumni. There is a third question in the Hillel’s teachable saying: “And if not now, when?”
No partner for diplomacy
Mr. Kyle Fradkin described himself as a “pro-diplomacy millennial.” Apparently he is unable to register the fact, demonstrated many times, that there is no one on the other side with whom to engage in diplomacy. The other side continues to focus its efforts on the destruction of Israel. We ignore this at our peril.
The front-loaded, unsigned ”deal” (remember that plane delivering over one billion dollars in cash at night?) with “Death to America! Death to Israel!” Iran is supported by so-called millennials? The emperor is not wearing any clothes, and to decry this statement as a “hawkish position” is to side with rhetoric over reality.
Support for this “deal” by millennials is a worrisome trend.
Judo federation’s apology too late
While it might have been good PR, the apology made by the head of the Abu Dhabi Judo Federation after the fact, for the treatment of Israeli participants at the recent Abu Dhabi Grand Slam Judo Tournament, was too little too late.
Israeli athletes were prevented from wearing their national colors as all other athletes did. Several Muslim judoka refused to shake the hands of the Israelis who beat them. Then the Israelis who won medals stood on the podium to receive them, only to hear the International Judo Federation’s anthem played instead of “Hatikvah.”
This is nothing new. Iranians have refused to even fight Israelis in other martial arts events, and an Egyptian judoka refused to shake hands with the Israeli who beat him in the 2016 Summer Olympics. Simply put, a bona fide martial artist can’t rely on someone else’s apology for their own bad behavior.
As an active practitioner myself for almost 50 years I know that one of the core values a martial artist must develop is to evaluate every opponent on their merits. Muslim athletes who can’t bring themselves to shake hands with Israeli opponents have sold their souls to petty hatred. This is a pity because many of the best-performing martial artists in the world today come from Muslim countries.
Sadly, they and their instructors have allowed their prejudice overwhelm the meaning of true Budo spirit. What a disgrace.
7th Degree black belt, Gojuryu Karate-do