Letters | Aug. 8, 2019

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More about Susya

I was quite shaken when I read “What I saw after Israel’s highlight reel” (Student Voices, Aug. 1). At first I felt anger that no one should live like that. Then I started to analyze my thinking and started to change. My first thought was: Why did J Street take this group to such an isolated place like the village of Susya?


The photo surely does not look like a real village. The structure seems temporary.

Second, why did Simone Pass Tucker spend more than 90 percent of the article describing the horrible conditions in Susya and nothing on “Israel’s highlight reel?”? After that, I decided to check Wikipedia about Susya and here is what I found: It dates to about 1830 and was a religious communal Jewish settlement. Further, archeological remains were found of a synagogue dating to the 5th to 8th century CE, replaced by a mosque.

https://www.washingtonjewishweek.com/enewsletter/

With regards to the residents, Wikipedia states that only about 50 families live there. The IDF wanted to destroy the village but the Israeli government said no, but they would move the residents to a better grazing location and build them new homes so that the archeological site can be analyzed. After that I am no longer shaken.

ALBERT JACOBS
Silver Spring


Rabbis, what about Eichmann?

I believe that “Rabbis weigh in on death penalty” (Aug. 1) was incomplete and perhaps purposefully so. None of the rabbis commented on Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann’s execution by Israel, and I suspect R. S.

Kelly did not ask any of the rabbis for their position on it.

Eichmann was executed in 1962. Clearly all the talmudic limitations on capital punishment were in place by then. However, I do not remember any widespread opposition by rabbis to Eichmann’s execution.
Apparently, in 1962 the rabbis thought it did not violate Jewish law for Israel to execute a mass killer of Jews. However, in 2019, according to your article, virtually all rabbis believe it violates Jewish law for the United States to execute mass killers of gentiles. One can only conclude that a large part of the reaction of the rabbis reported in your article was not the result of any effort on their part to deal with complicated issues like Israel’s execution of Eichmann, but was, instead, driven by a reflexive opposition to any act by the Trump administration.

STUART SHELDON
Bethesda

He’s right, too

Thank you for your report on the Takoma Park panel discussion following the screening of “The Occupation of the American Mind” (“High Noon for Takoma Park film screening,” Aug. 1). Matthew Mayers of J Street correctly, in my view, supports Israel’s right to exist, while recognizing that “there is an occupation and it is brutal.”

When asked if Israel has a right to exist, Taher Herzallah of American Muslims for Palestine, responded, “Not at my expense. It’s funny for a Palestinian to answer if a colonizer has a right to colonize his homeland.”

This reminds me of the scene in “Fiddler on the Roof” when Tevye, listening to a debate between a radical and a non-radical, tells each that they are right. When confronted by another person saying, “They can’t both be right,” Tevye answers, “You’re right, too!” This is the dilemma we face. We cannot pretend it does not exist.

DAVID S. FISHBACK
Olney

Thorough coverage on Takoma Park

Regarding “Shame on the city of Takoma Park” (Editorial, Aug. 1), thank you so much for taking a stand for the senseless and thoughtless actions of Takoma Park. Your coverage has been thorough.

A.J. CAMPBELL
Takoma Park

Could have been a learning moment

Over the past several weeks, Washington Jewish Week ran several articles, including a strong editorial, that were critical of the city of Takoma Park’s decision to screen the documentary “The Occupation of the American Mind: Israel’s Public Relations War in the United States” at the Takoma Park Community Center. Sadly, prominent elected officials, as well as the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington (JCRC), made a concerted effort to limit debate on Israel-Palestine and prevent this educational film from being shown by hurling false accusations of anti-Semitism at the film, at one of the panelists and at the mayor of Takoma Park.

We unequivocally oppose anti-Semitism and all forms of racism and bigotry. It is inappropriate to conflate criticism of the policies of the government of Israel with anti-Semitism (bigotry against and oppression of Jews). A government can be criticized and its policies debated, in accordance with our First Amendment right of free speech.

We can all learn from this event. The panel had only two discussants: a representative from American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) to voice the pro-film position, and a representative from J Street to voice critical and “mixed” perspectives on the film. This framing created a false impression that Jewish opinion is monolithic and, by default, united in its support of Israel (a myth that was corrected during the Q&A, during which many Jews vocally supported the film’s message). It also placed the burden of refuting false charges of anti-Semitism solely on the lone Palestinian-American representative. It is important that the community understand that there are Jews who agreed with this film.

Unfortunately, conflating legitimate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism is a commonly used ploy to intimidate people, shut down debate and silence dissent on this issue. We are grateful that the City of Takoma stood up against pressure to cancel this event, and created space for the community to learn something new, hear points of view outside the dominant narrative, and initiate dialogue about Israel-Palestine, a matter that is of great concern to us all.

Steven Sellers Lapham, Voices from the Holy Land Film Series Chase Carter, Jewish Voice for Peace—DC Metro Chapter Tom Johnson, Washington Episcopal Holy Land Committee Zainab Chaudry, Council on American-Islamic Relations

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