While we appreciate the Jewish love of Israel and our need to defend its legitimacy, we do not support the occupation of the West Bank, the expansion of settlements, the blockade of Gaza, and any unequal treatment of Palestinians who live under Israel’s jurisdiction.
Furthermore, we believe that, while there are disturbing elements in both Israeli and Palestinian society, the Jews and Palestinians are both great peoples, equal in the eyes of God.
So we were troubled to see that this newspaper’s response to Anti-Apartheid week, especially in Dore Gold’s March 1 piece, “Hatred: Coming soon to a campus near you,” was basically to suggest that we should fight perceived propaganda with more propaganda — as if
Israel can’t withstand even the slightest criticism — and to quibble over whether “apartheid” is the right term for what is happening in Israel — as if injustice by another name is not as unholy.
In Gold’s piece, there was no mention of the Palestinian people whatsoever, which seems to be the trend in this newspaper. For a long time, we’ve sensed, despite all of the articles about the “conflict,” almost no curiosity about, let alone compassion for, the Palestinians or other Arab peoples. Do you think this lack of respect, however “understandable” it may seem, really serves the Jewish cause?
We challenge the editors, columnists, and readers of this newspaper, whatever your political stripe, to meet and report on the individuals in Students for Justice in Palestine and the Palestinians who live among us in the United States; to look with honesty at what is really happening in the lives of Palestinians in the Middle East; and to ask yourselves if, had you been born a Palestinian and not a Jew, you would be satisfied with Israel’s policies. And if you don’t like what you hear from the people you meet (which is going to happen sometimes), would it not be better to propose fair solutions over and over again than to dismiss their pain and fall back on rationalization and name-calling?
Controversial cover explained
We at JFilm would like to respond to Fern Moscov’s March 1 letter regarding the Yiddish words on the cover of our 2012 program guide (“JFilm cover a disgrace”).
We understand that people will have different reactions to the cover based on their personal taste and experience. A handful of others have expressed concerns similar to Ms. Moscov’s.
At the same time, we have received dozens of compliments from Jewish communal executives and workers, filmgoers and members of the community who found the cover funny, fresh and effective. A number of them said they enjoyed it so much, they read it multiple times and laughed every time.
Humor is subjective and sometimes risky. The same is true for art. If we pushed the boundaries with this year’s cover — although that was not our intention — it was in the service of finding an original way to draw people in for our 19th annual festival instead of playing it safe. And if the final product wasn’t universally appreciated, well, not many things in art and humor are.
We are proud of being Jewish. One way to show that is by spoofing ourselves. We regret that some people took offense and feel bad that any feelings were hurt. That is certainly not what we were going for.
The JFilm Festival runs from opening night March 15 through April 1. With 20 films from seven countries, it offers something for everyone. There’s even a documentary about Sholem Aleichem, the great Yiddish writer, March 25. Hope to see you at the movies.
(The authors are chair and vice-chair respectively of JFilm.)
Petition drive for Gross
In anticipation of Pope Benedict XVI’s upcoming trip to Cuba from March 26 to 28, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington has launched a nationwide online petition drive humbly appealing to him to make whatever efforts necessary so that he may obtain Alan Gross’ release from Cuba while he is there.
Alan Gross, a resident of the D.C. Metropolitan Area, was arrested in Cuba in December 2009 while working with the small Jewish community there to improve their Internet access and to create an intranet for them. He has been incarcerated ever since. He languished in prison for over a year until the Cuban government finally charged then convicted him in a Cuban court of “actions against the integrity of the State,” and sentenced him to 15 years in prison. His subsequent appeal to the Cuban Supreme Court failed, exhausting all of Alan’s legal remedies. His only avenue left is commutation of his sentence by Cuban President Raul Castro.
Alan and his supporters have fervently rejected all accusations that he did, or intended to do, anything to harm the Cuban government. Quite to the contrary, his work in Cuba was meant to help the Cuban Jewish community improve its access to information through the Internet and intranet. The president of the United States, senior administration officials, several high-ranking members of the U.S. State Department, members of Congress, various national leaders, and newspaper editorials have all called for his immediate release.
We too are urging Alan’s immediate release on humanitarian grounds. Alan has lost approximately 100 pounds and is suffering from several ailments. Since his incarceration, his wife Judy has undergone surgery for an undisclosed medical issue and his two daughters, one of whom was recently diagnosed and treated for breast cancer, fear they will never see their father again. Alan’s 89-year-old mother is fighting inoperable lung cancer and is also afraid that she may never see her son again. The Gross family continues to suffer greatly — physically, economically, emotionally and spiritually — and we must do everything we can to bring this to an end.
Please help us fulfill the primary Jewish value of pidyon shivuim, redemption of the captive.
(The authors are respectively the president and executive director of Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington. The online petition can be accessed at freealangrossnow.com.)