Ben & Jerry's co-founders Jerry Greenfield (left) and Ben Cohen serve ice cream following a press conference announcing a new flavor in Washington, D.C., Sept. 3, 2019. (Photo/JTA-Win McNamee-Getty Images)
Ben & Jerry's co-founders Jerry Greenfield (left) and Ben Cohen serve ice cream following a press conference announcing a new flavor in Washington, D.C., Sept. 3, 2019. (Photo/JTA-Win McNamee-Getty Images)

Illegal stand on BDS; Freeze out Ben & Jerry’s; Critical race theory is futile; etc.


Teachers’ BDS stand is illegal

Reading your recent report on the vote of the San Francisco teachers (“After S.F. teachers’ union vote on Israel, others follow suit around the country,” June 28) and earlier stories, and the referenced resolution itself, compels me to comment  on the legal aspects of the union’s vote.

First, unlike the recent vote of the San Francisco State University student government, which voted a narrow BDS endorsement of a recent U.N. report  focused on specific alleged misdeeds of named Israeli and other companies  in the West Bank occupied territories, the union’s resolution broadly expresses support for the international BDS movement.

As an independent labor union, its members and leadership are free to take any political or foreign policy position they want.

But the San Francisco Unified School District as a public entity is barred from any BDS compliance by California AB 2844 (Sec. 2010 of the California Public Contract Code) signed by Gov. Brown in September 2016.

Whether the district can continue to “do business” with the union if it refuses to repudiate its open-ended endorsement of the much-criticized, broadest, anti-Israel BDS is a significant legal question that the union should have asked its able legal team’s opinion on before passing that controversial recent resolution.

Jerome M. Garchik, Attorney
San Francisco


Freeze out Ben & Jerry’s

Ben & Jerry’s decision is just the beginning of the concerted effort by BDS activists to have U.S. companies boycott Israel (“Ben & Jerry’s ice cream announces boycott of West Bank settlements,” online only, July 19).

The appropriate response measures would be for Israel itself to ban B&J and label Unilever products as part of an Israel boycott (hit them where it hurts).

Take B&J to court in states that have banned Israel boycotts. If they have to fight this in court, it will be a painful, costly exercise and a public-relations disaster.

A worker at the Ben & Jerry's ice cream factory in Israel. (Photo/RNS-AP-Tsafrir Abayov)
A worker at the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory in Israel. (Photo/RNS-AP-Tsafrir Abayov)

Since B&J is owned by a public company, the shareholders and pension funds may also weigh in, since this is a corporate policy matter.

We also have a role to play. B&J may have been usurped by a radical board, but Unilever has international concerns. Perhaps our California Legislative Jewish Caucus can determine what actions may be suitable. Also, if you are a pension-fund manager, investor and consumer of Unilever products, your voices can be better heard in coordination.

Jeff Saperstein
Mill Valley


Critical race theory is futile

When teaching about World War II, would Henry Abramson, writer of the opinion piece “Banning critical race theory will gut the teaching of Jewish history” (July 14), want a young American student whose family came here from Japan to feel discomfort or anguish when contemplating the devastating torture by the Japanese of American prisoners of war during WWII — or the Rape of Nanking, whose brutality was surely as awful as that suffered by Ukrainians who experienced the Holodomor?

The history of WWII British soldier Eddie Lomax and Japanese soldier-translator Takashi Nagase deserves contemplation. Subjected to long-term atrocities in which Nagase participated, Lomax took a chance when a note arrived for Mrs. Lomax from Nagase. The note said, “I have suffered tremendous guilt all these years. I have often prayed I would meet your husband again and be able to seek forgiveness for what I assisted in.” Eventually, the two men met for three days. Both had tears in their eyes when they parted.

“I’ve learned that hate is a useless battle,” Lomax said, “and it has to end sometime.”

A closing thought for Mr. Abramson: “[T]he sad truth is that the conquest and capture of Africans and their sale to Europeans was one of the main sources of foreign exchange for several African kingdoms for a very long time.” That’s from Henry Louis Gates Jr., formerly a Harvard professor, who wrote “It’s time to end the slavery blame-game.”

Human nature is deeply flawed.

Given that unchangeable reality, maybe it’s time to step into a future in which e pluribus unum guides us. It is on that basis that our republic will rise or fall. No country can survive if its children don’t believe it to be worthy of respect, which ours always will be, as long as its citizens focus on the content of their character.

We can teach Jewish history exceptionally well without resorting to something as divisive and unforgiving as critical race theory. All that is required are knowledgeable teachers committed to providing youngsters with a sensitive approach to history. We need teachers who can inspire, as they teach how Jews overcame enduring hatred and provided far more than their share of goodness and light to the world.

As Mrs. Lomax gently suggested, “Maybe it’s time to step out of the darkness.”

Julia Lutch
Davis


Put ‘violence’ tag on Hamas

Hearing about “Israel-Palestinan violence” on “progressive” radio during the time of the recent Hamas attack was infuriating.

Now I’m dismayed to read about when “violence erupted between Israel and Gaza” in an article in a Jewish newspaper, by J. staff. (“After S.F. teachers’ union vote on Israel, others follow suit around the country,” June 28).

Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system (left) intercepts rockets fired by Hamas toward southern Israel from the Gaza Strip, May 14, 2021. (Photo/JTA-Anas Baba-AFP via Getty Images)
Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system (left) intercepts rockets fired by Hamas toward southern Israel from the Gaza Strip, May 14, 2021. (Photo/JTA-Anas Baba-AFP via Getty Images)

As you well know, what happened was not a violence between two parties, but a vicious Hamas attack on civilian population, and it should always be referred to as such.

Talking about “Israel-Palestinan violence” is equivalent to describing World War II as “Allied powers–German violence.”

Anastasia Glikshtern
San Francisco


My balanced view on Israel

One problem I have with BDS (the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel) is that some businesses and their managers who are critical of Israel’s policies will be hurt by the boycott.

Antisemitism on the left, which I am part of, is largely based on ignorance. Little is mentioned about Israel being the Cuba of the left until the mid ’60s. No one mentions the left-wing opposition in Israel, which desperately, in my opinion, needs the support of the worldwide left.

And there is ignorance, for the most part, of how Jews were the victims of antisemitism in the early 20th century.

At the same time, the Jewish establishment has not been kind to Jewish left-wingers as Noam Chomsky or Bernie Sanders. And there are too many neoconservatives who are Jewish.

Israel, like any nation-state, has its strengths and weaknesses.

While it is a homeland for Jews, it also has its flaws and we should not view it as a paradise in the same fashion that American communists viewed the Soviet Union.

We have been besieged by hatred for centuries and finally are in a stronger position, partly due to the existence of Israel.

But strength must be tempered with sensitivity and the right acts. This would include the end of occupation and the miserable treatment of the Palestinians.

I do not condone the attacks by Hamas. By the same token, the eviction of Palestinians from their homes, which was one of the grievances in the May conflict, is wrong.

The left and the Jewish community need a balanced perspective on the Middle East and Israel itself.

In 1991 in London, the Egyptian proprietor of the hotel where I was staying stated that if Israel and the Arab states cooperated with each other, the whole region could be productively developed economically. Hopefully, at my age of 82, this may happen in my lifetime.

Herbert J. Weiner
San Francisco


Unite against antisemitism

The murders and violent attacks on Jews, and on our Jewish institutions, have more than doubled in the U.S. in the last few years, and in response to the Hamas-initiated war on Israel.

This is according to the Anti-Defamation League statistics, which are by no means complete due to the fact that many states do not keep track of hate crimes.

The July 11 Washington, D.C. stop antisemitism rally organizers, including the American Jewish Committee, wanted to show us that major Jewish organizations are working against the Jew hate.

Despite the horrific rise in antisemitism, several organizations (such as J Street and Americans for Peace Now) chose not to attend the rally.

Shlomo Noginsky, a rabbi who was stabbed in Boston, speaks to a rally against antisemitism at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., July 11, 2021. (Photo/JTA-Ron Kampeas)
Shlomo Noginsky, a rabbi who was stabbed in Boston, speaks to a rally against antisemitism at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., July 11, 2021. (Photo/JTA-Ron Kampeas)

Instead of us Jews coming together to fight this destructive hate perpetrated by the right, the left and radical Muslims, J Street chose to stay away and complain that the organizers did not do enough to point out the hate coming from the right.

Somehow, prior to the rally, J Street and Americans for Peace Now did not think that they could add the voice that they perceived would be missing. Instead they chose not to express their concern — if they even have any — for the rise in antisemitism.

Jew hate is indiscriminate: You can be a Jew on the left, on right or in the middle, and still be attacked by those who hate Jews. This was clearly shown when, during the Hamas war on Israel, Palestinian supporters indiscriminately attacked Jews having dinner in a restaurant in L.A.

Our Jewish history has shown us that when Jews are divided, and when we do not have allies, we suffer in very dramatic ways. Although Jews have actively supported other minority groups in their efforts to overcome systemic racism, none of their organizations showed up to support us at this rally.

We just observed Tisha B’Av, when the Temple was destroyed by the Romans in part due to hatred among Jews.

At this time, when Jew hate has become normalized in all forms of the media, and in the language of several organizations on the right and on the left, it is imperative that Jews come together rather than stand divided against antisemitism.

Dorothea Dorenz
Berkeley

J. Readers

J. welcomes letters and comments from our readers. To submit a letter, email it to letters@jweekly.com.