November 21, 2018

Letters to the editor: Questions for Michael Oren, redefining anti-Semitism and more

Three Answers for Rob Eshman

Rob Eshman notices the absence of Benjamin Netanyahu in Michael Oren’s book (“One Question for Michael Oren,” June 26). He is guilty of perhaps a greater omission, leaving out the abject failures connected to the “leading the way” of both Yitzhak Rabin and Ariel Sharon, unless he considers the Palestine Liberation Organization in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza as beacons of hope. 

Zvi Koenigsberg via email

“Tough international sanctions that Obama set in place.”  Really? Once Eshman says stuff like that, he exposes himself as disingenuous and intellectually dishonest. 

Stephen Bier via email

Eshman’s editorial on Michael Oren’s criticism of President Barack Obama, without a critical word of Benjamin Netanyahu, is startling. Eshman gives an example of Levi Eshkol wisely keeping his criticism of Lyndon Johnson out of the press, working instead to find ways Johnson could swing behind Israel. A popular Hebrew saying is “me-oyev le-ohev” — from enemy to friend — also the title of a well-known Shmuel Yosef Agnon story. Obama is certainly no enemy of Israel, but Bibi succeeded in turning him into less of a friend of Israel. 

Yona Sabar, Hebrew Word of the Week

Michael Oren: Friend or Foe?

Michael Oren may claim he is also loyal to the U.S. (“Torn Between Two Loves,” June 19), but his giving up of his citizenship to become Israel’s ambassador to the United States exposed that to be a lie. I am not a fan of Barack Obama, but he is the president of the United States and is under no obligation to feel any affection for Israel. 

At the end of the day, Obama has provided more weapons to Israel than any other president and he has done that through two of Israel’s assaults on Gaza and just ordered another $1.9 billion in weapons to be shipped to Israel, a story that the U.S. media did not report. 
He has also, despite some public criticisms of Israel’s outrageous behavior, continued the U.S. policy of protecting Israel’s behind at the U.N. and every international forum. That should make him an accessory to war crimes, but with his drone war, he already qualified as the real thing. He and Benjamin Netanyahu have much in common.

Jeff Blankfort via jewishjournal.com

Redefining Anti-Semitism Suppresses Criticism 

The AMCHA Initiative and its allies are lying when they say they do not advocate that the State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism should be used to restrict speech (“Yes, Adopt the State Dept. Version,” June 26). As a Jewish and Israeli faculty member at San Jose State University, I can attest firsthand that they routinely utilize this definition to suppress criticism of Israel on college campuses.

The State Department’s definition deliberately conflates criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. That is why Zionist organizations love it, and that is why adopting it as state law would be wrong. Among its flaws, it labels as anti-Semitic any comparison of Israeli policy to that of Nazi Germany. But former head of Shin Bet, Avraham Shalom, did exactly that when he said the Israeli military is “a brutal occupation force, similar to the Germans in World War II.” Menachem Begin, years before he became prime minister of Israel, called the Israeli Defense (Emergency) Regulations outright “Nazi.” Were they both hidden anti-Semites?

Noam Perry, San Jose

University Policy not Universal

I respectfully disagree with Glenn Sonnenberg’s central premise that our community on campuses should not contest Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) votes in student government (“Thinking About BDS Differently — and Strategically,” June 19). Each campus is different. The best strategy must be determined by Jewish campus leaders based on circumstances that only they understand.
Jewish organizations can help in many ways to support our students. In the final analysis, it’s the effort that must be engaged by our students among the broader student community. The organized Jewish community must support but never get in the way.
At UCLA for example, the forces who oppose BDS strongly prevailed this spring; the new student president is Jewish. Circumstances on other campuses will differ and in some cases, Sonnenberg’s strategy may make sense. Let the students figure it out.

Howard Welinsky,Toluca Lake