How to fight BDS
I applaud Joanne Palmer for both her prominent coverage of the May 31 United Nations anti-BDS meeting (“Fighting BDS at the U.N.,” June 10) and for her editorial (“Confronting BDS,” June 10). Many of us are not only alarmed by the increasingly vociferous and disingenuous BDS movement but also frustrated by the staid and impotent responses of the institutional Jewish establishment.
It is past time for the major Jewish organizations to move beyond hand-wringing and advocating for objective dialogue with BDS proponents. This approach ignores the social component of the movement’s participants. In college, being part of a movement gives its participants not just feelings of moral superiority but of belonging. It’s the same feeling ballplayers feel for their teammates and glee club singers feel for their group.
The fight is not with the 50 campus demonstrators who leaflet dormitory rooms or stage mass mock arrests. The fight is for the hearts and minds of the thousands of students who walk by those demonstrators, and whose only knowledge of the situation come from those theatrics.
The way to reverse the dangerous impact of the college BDS movement is not with arguments about Israel’s progressive egalitarian stance, or advances in medicine and science, or even its remarkable medical triage teams that travel anywhere in the world where there is a natural disaster. We are rightly proud of those accomplishments, but they have no impact against guerilla theatre.
Here is what we ought to be doing. There should be full-size posters of a bombed bus — there are many to choose from, #5, #37, #142, #960 are just a few — each graphically showing the very real danger that Israelis have had to live with. Four-foot posters of murdered Israelis, especially young people, people of color, and innocent Muslims killed by terrorists should be held in a line, facing the pro-Palestinian mockup of the security barricade that BDS proponents put up. Large signs should be erected showing the dramatic decrease in the number of Christians left in Bethlehem since the 2000 second intifada. The fate of Palestinians who have been summarily executed by Hamas for suspicion of collaboration without a trial should be displayed, as should photos of Arab women stoned or burned to death for not wearing a full hijab, and of Arab homosexuals who have been thrown off rooftops by Islamic radicals. Condemnations of the Israeli military should be compared against the vicious Syrian government attacks on its own people. A list of beheadings perpetrated by Islamic extremists on Christians — the numbers are in the many hundreds — should be distributed everywhere calls for boycotts are made.
At the rate that young people are siding with Palestinians in this wrenching conflict, the U.S. population might well be anti-Israel in about a decade. In an age where facts are regrettably too cumbersome to be digested in a world of 140 characters, our major organizations must respond with smart gut-sensitive rejoinders aimed at emotion, not logic. In the struggle to justify Israel’s right to exist, let alone its many attempts to make peace with its neighbors, feelings count for more than facts.
And now, Rabbi Boteach?
Following the horrors of Orlando, Donald Trump demanded that President Obama resign, adding that we are “led by a man that is not tough, not smart, or he’s got something else in mind. There is something else going on,” he said.
I await Rabbi Boteach’s next column, discussing how Donald Trump’s current incendiary statements comport with Jewish values. I want to see whether Mr. Trump still has the rabbi’s support.
Gerald D. Fisch
Get over Iran, Rabbi Boteach
In his May 27 column, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach once again took the opportunity to castigate J Street. This time his assertion was that J Street is “for sale to the highest bidder.”
He does this because the Ploughshares Fund supported J Street at the time that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, better known as the “Iran deal”) was being debated and voted on by the U.S. Congress.
Ploughshares is opposed to nuclear armament proliferation and would like to see nuclear stockpiles reduced or eliminated. Would it have been better if J Street received donations from some organization or person that supports an organization that the rabbi agrees with, perhaps one that advocated increased nuclear stockpiles? Campaigns in the United States around vital policy issues are usually very expensive, and this one was no exception. In fact, organizations opposed to the deal raised over $20 to $30 million, while J Street publicly announced that it raised only $5.5 million.
He then indicates that the JCPOA encourages nuclear proliferation. He states this despite the fact that Iran has shipped 98 percent of its highly-enriched uranium out of the country, has disabled the Arak plutonium reactor by irreversibly filling its core with cement, has disconnected two thirds of its centrifuges, and subjected the entirety of its nuclear program to the most intrusive inspection program in history. This incredible transformation and neutralizing of a key threat was accomplished by tough diplomacy, without firing a shot.
I understand that the Israeli government opposed the Iran deal, although many leading Israeli security personnel and former military officers supported it, and so did the Israeli Atomic Energy Agency. Israel’s army chief of staff, Gadi Eisenkot, has said the deal reduces the threat to Israel and is an important strategic turning point. I also understand that the rabbi opposed the deal as well. The Iran deal went into effect about a year ago. Has Israel been attacked by Iran yet? I know there is always the possibility, but he shouldn’t forget that if the deal fell through, Iran could have built up its arsenal and Israel might have been attacked already.
The Iran deal passed, and the rabbi, and others who opposed the deal, lost. They should get over it, move on to other issues, and stop attacking J Street and other organizations that also support Israel but believe that there are better ways to protect Israel than ones the rabbi proposes.
Chair, Northern New Jersey chapter of J Street
Se habla Yiddish
I refer to Larry Yudelson’s story, “The fly and the bear” (June 10.) The article brought back reminiscences of my childhood. My immigrant parents spoke Yiddish — that was their culture.
Like Susan Levin, I too went to the Workmen’s Circle Yiddish school. I remember how much I liked going to Yiddish school and how I wanted very much to make my parents happy and proud. My dad taught me the Yiddish alphabet and as I progressed taught me to read the Yiddish newspaper, “The Forwards.” I recall how my dad would read to my mother from this newspaper. Her favorite column was the “Bintel Brief.”
How wonderful to have Yiddish class studies back in Teaneck. Some words just sound better in Yiddish and have become part of our English expressions. I love, for example, oy vey, tchatchke, kibbitz, baleboste, zeeskite, kvetch, mazel tov, and the favorite word, chutzpah.
I am moved to reflect growing up in a Yiddish home and take pride in my heritage. My parents instituted a sense of goodness and love. Jewishness to me is the Friday night dinners, the taste of chicken soup, and all the beautiful rituals.
We had books in the home by Isaac Bashevis Singer. His stories had a way of making you feel good. My favorite story was “Yentel, the Yeshiva Boy.”
I recall the time I went to Miami Beach to find a place for my folks for the winter and overheard the manager speak in Yiddish to the agent, “we don’t rent to shiksas.” I then spoke up in Yiddish and their response changed very quickly. I found this amusing!
When visiting downtown New York recently, I noticed a sign in one of the store windows that said, “Se Habla Yiddish!”
I am glad Yiddish is back and wish Susan Levin good luck for being “proud to be part of this century’s minor resurgence of Yiddish.”