Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking at the AIPAC policy conference in Washington, D.C., March 6, 2018. (Photo/Courtesy AIPAC)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking at the AIPAC policy conference in Washington, D.C., March 6, 2018. (Photo/Courtesy AIPAC)

Time to dump Poland; AIPAC shouldn’t kowtow to the left

Time to recognize divorce from Poland and move on

I can sympathize with Tad Taube’s feelings concerning Poland’s recent enactment of their Holocaust denial law (“Poland’s man in S.F. ‘distressed’ by Holocaust speech law”). Mr. Taube has spent considerable time, energy and personal money in attempting to commemorate Poland’s Jewish history and trying to re-establish a physical Jewish presence in Poland.

However, there are inaccuracies in his statements that need to be corrected. Poland did not suffer the most under the Nazis. Poland did lose 6 million people including 3 million Jews during and after the Holocaust. However, Russia lost an estimated 33 million people during that period.

As background to the previous 1,000 years of Jewish history in Poland, the Polish nobility invited the Jews to Poland around 1000 AD. Their purpose was to establish a middle class of merchants and artisans and have a minority of Jewish foreigners they could use to divert the anger of the Polish serfs from them to these Jews. The Polish Catholic Church was a willing party and played and still plays a large part in this diversion. The last 1,000 years had many ups and downs (emphasis on the downs) in the relationship between the Polish Catholic majority and the Polish Jewish minority. This culminated in the murder of 3 million Polish Jews during and after the Holocaust.

At best the “marriage” that Mr. Taube describes between the Catholic Poles and their Jewish neighbors ended in a terrible divorce during the Holocaust. The next 1,000 years should be spent rejoicing that the Jewish people no longer need to tolerate living in Poland.

Phillip Doppelt,
San Jose

Appreciation for stellar work of Stanford libraries curator

Thank you for writing about the retirement of Zachary Baker from the Stanford libraries (“Curator retires with a ‘wow!’ Judaica legacy at Stanford”). The importance of his work at Stanford has been completely underestimated. During his tenure Baker realized the promise that began with the arrival of the Salo Baron collection at Stanford.

Baker’s acquisitions added a variety of important collections that together constitute one of the most significant collections of Jewish books in the world, particularly in the area of Israel studies. Thanks to his efforts the Bay Area community can now be a serious location for Jewish studies.

Henry Hollander,
San Francisco

Backing two-state solution sacrifices AIPAC principles

AIPAC executive director Howard Kohr did Israel no favors when he publicly called for a two-state “solution” at the recent AIPAC policy conference (“In outreach to progressives, AIPAC airs endorsement of the two-state solution”). Neither Israel nor the United States endorses this idea, but Kohr apparently did it to win support from progressives.

The two-state solution itself is a fantasy promoted by people who refuse to face reality. So long as the Palestinian Arabs continue to teach their children to seek suicide martyrdom as their highest possible goal, there will never be a peaceful solution to the conflict, and Israel’s only options will be victory or defeat. Any hint of weakness, such as willingness to surrender land for a peace that will never be delivered, simply emboldens Israel’s enemies and increases their intransigence.

Kohr evidently thinks that the steady rise of left-wing hostility to Israel’s policies can be countered by sacrificing AIPAC’s principles and shifting its position on a question of fundamental importance. But it doesn’t help at all. It just makes AIPAC look unprincipled and opportunistic. What Israel needs from its supporters is a firm, consistent and unyielding adherence to core principles. If progressives support Israel at all, it’s only to the extent that it’s perceived as a liberal secular democracy that supports all of the popular liberal causes, and in which religion is relegated to the margins and plays little or no role in policymaking. But Israel cannot succeed by spurning its religious heritage or replacing it with left-wing social theories that have failed everywhere they’ve been tried.

People who deny outright the central tenets of Judaism, including God, the Torah and the Covenant, can never be dependable allies of the Jewish nation, and it’s a major mistake to undermine one’s own positions in order to court them.

Martin Wasserman,
Palo Alto

J Street and AIPAC will never fit inside the same tent

A big tent is great. Bipartisanship may be happily welcomed. And common goals may lead to a unity. But when the big tent only covers fruitless bickering under it, the bipartisanship brings on startling divisions between the camps, common goals are rooted in totally opposite approaches, and a convergence of views becomes practically impossible. A case in point is centrist’s AIPAC efforts to woo leftist’s J Street members into its ranks at the March 2018 AIPAC conference.

It’s hard to see how AIPAC’s and J Street’s positions may result in rapprochement. AIPAC policies are based on history and facts, while J Street policies are rooted in emotions. J Street looks at Israel through the lens of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which, in the words of J Street founder Jeremy Ben-Ami, represents “existential threats” to the Jewish state. AIPAC looks at Israel as a country whose very existence is threatened by surrounding enemies, especially Iran. J Street supported the Iran deal, AIPAC opposed it.

Decade after decade, AIPAC has shown that it can successfully work with the U.S. and Israeli governments of any stripe, while J Street has been able to interact just with U.S. folks on the left (in Israel, J Street influence is minimal, even among Labor and its allies).

AIPAC believes that Jews of Israel know best what is essential for their security and prosperity. J Street insists that Israel’s deliverance will come from following outsiders’ advice and plans.

The AIPAC/J Street split can’t be resolved by proclamations — learning and internalizing Jewish and Israel’s history, recognizing the Jewish identity and being proud of it may serve as a common foundation for Jewish unity.

Vladimir Kaplan,
San Mateo

J. cartoons represent Israel and U.S. as ‘bad guys’

For the last 20 years, European surveys show that Israel — not the nuclear-weapons goals of dictatorships in North Korea or Iran — is the biggest threat to world peace. How? European news media continuously rant about the evil of Israel and Jews.

J.’s political-left cartoons in the last few issues showed (1) an Israeli dressed in rabbinic garb, with a text that equated the arsonist (Iran and its efforts to wipe Israel off the map) and the firefighter (Israel seeking to defend itself); then (2) a March 9 cartoon where persons who are in a nation illegally are welcomed as “the stranger” by “progressive, high ground” Bay Area leaders. Thus, Israel and the USA are depicted as “the bad guy.”

“Sanctuary” cities/states were created as “the moral thing to do.” The political left believes in open borders and that evil “Amerikka” has a duty to take in “undocumented” people because of America’s depredations around the world and to ensure the glories of diversity. If this continues, tax rates of 100 percent will not be adequate to meet the government funds required for entitlements for non-citizens!

America proudly calls itself a nation of laws. Article VI, Section 2 of the Constitution has the “supremacy clause,” which asserts that constitutionally assigned rights of the federal government must prevail over any conflicting state exercise of power, i.e. determining citizenship.

When states sought to create voter identification cards, then-President Obama asserted that citizenship is determined solely by the federal government and the states have no say in such matters.

J. is representing America and Israelis/Jews as “the bad guys,” as does Europe. No wonder that Bay Area Jews, living with this anti-Israel and anti-Jewish approach, have little affiliation with Israel, as was documented in the recent survey reported on by J.

Fred Korr,

Recognizing Jerusalem as capital doesn’t affect peace

Letter-writer Diana Scott said for Israel-Palestinian peace, there should be “mutual recognition, respect and adherence to the values of universal human rights, equality and justice” (“Workmen’s Circle denounces Trump’s embassy move”). That is why there can be no two-state solution with the present Palestinian leaders of Fatah and Hamas. They have refused to recognize Israel as the sovereign Jewish state it is, and the values of Israel and the U.S. have been completely rejected by Palestinian terrorism. Remember the terrible terrorism which was the response in Gaza after Israel voluntarily withdrew.

The U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel recognized the reality, and that has no effect on peace, which had failed long before that recognition.

Norman G. Licht,
San Carlos

Violating immigration laws is still breaking the law

Rabbi Mona Alfi is quoted as saying her father “came here because he believed in the American judicial system and the rule of law, that it judged all people fairly and with equity” (“Rabbi, pastors, union leaders, elected officials stand up to Sessions in Sacramento”). Her father no doubt came to this country in accordance with the American judicial system’s immigration laws and spent many years fulfilling the requirements to become an American citizen.

Judging people fairly and with equity suggests that those who violate our immigration laws are law breakers, despite other more commendable personal attributes.

Would Rabbi Alfi’s father, who put so much effort into preparing for American citizenship, really “be crushed to see how immigrants are treated in our country”? People who enter this country do so because they know the U.S. offers them a better life than their countries of origin could, not because they will be treated in a way that will “crush” them.

Perhaps Rabbi Alfi might wish to consider how she would be treated if she crossed the border illegally into Mexico, Guatemala, Venezuela, Russia or Iran.

Julia Lutch,

Hawking’s Israel boycott was small-minded

Professor Stephen Hawking had a complex relationship with Jews and Israel (“Hawking will be remembered by Israeli colleagues for his insight, not boycott”).

When he was born, the Nazis were murdering not only Jews, but handicapped people, too. As his amyotrophic lateral sclerosis progressed, a microchip developed in Israel allowed him to continue to contribute to science.

The field of study that became his focus — black holes — emerged from the development of general relativity (by Albert Einstein, on whose birthday Hawking died) and quantum mechanics (by many Jewish scientists). Hawking’s most renowned discovery, “Hawking-Bekenstein radiation,” resulted from a dispute he lost with an Israeli theoretical physicist, Jacob Bekenstein, over whether black holes had entropy.

Hawking’s fame, which grew exponentially from his 1988 book “A Brief History of Time,” owed a debt to the success other theoretical physicists had writing for a general audience, including Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg — who contends that boycotting Israel indicates “a moral blindness for which it is hard to find any explanation other than anti-Semitism.”

Hawking himself wrote sympathetically of Zionism in “A Brief History of Time.” Concerning Einstein, he observed that: “a growing awareness of anti-Semitism … led him gradually to identify with the Jewish community, and later to become an outspoken supporter of Zionism. … His vocal support of the Zionist cause … was duly recognized in 1952, when he was offered the presidency of Israel.”

I admired Hawking and saw him when he spoke in Oakland on Nov. 10, 2005. Still, his 2013 boycott of Israel was hypocritical and inexcusable, especially given his failure to acknowledge Israel’s peace proposals that the Palestinians had violently rejected, and his willingness to visit Iran. Sadly, even an extraordinary mind can succumb to small-minded bigotry.

Stephen A. Silver,
San Francisco

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