Readers React

Is anti-Semitism to blame for harsh criticism of Israel?

To the editor: I wholeheartedly concur with Michael Douglas that anti-Semitism is reprehensible and that it must be combated theologically, socially, culturally and politically. All human beings have an inviolable right to live in peace and dignity. ("Michael Douglas finds Judaism and faces anti-Semitism," op-ed, March 14)

However, we should not conflate anti-Semitism with criticism of Israel. Not all criticism of Israel is irrational and misplaced.

It is true that Israel's journey from the ashes of the Holocaust — witnessing oppressive poverty, persecution and the horrible deaths of generations — toward an oasis of vibrant democracy and a global hub of technology, science and creativity has been inspirational. But it has come at an unbearable price for Palestinians since 1948.

Successive Israeli governments have denied Palestinians their inalienable rights of independence, self-determination and sovereignty. They have bombed the Palestinians' civilian neighborhoods, indiscriminately killing innocent people and destroying clinics, schools, hospitals, United Nations installations, mosques and churches, all with impunity.

In a nutshell, Israel has been unfair toward its own history, its ethnic minorities, its neighbors and the current Palestinian leadership led by Mahmoud Abbas, without whom peace becomes more elusive than ever.

Munjed Farid Al Qutob, London


To the editor: Hooray for Douglas for standing up against anti-Semitism. As I recently buried my sweet Holocaust survivor mom, this article is truly poignant to me.

I would like to add two points. The first is that much of the relentless Israel-bashing transcends normal criticism and has entered the world of true anti-Semitism. The second is that history has shown time and again that hatred that starts with the Jewish people never ends only with them, as some Christians, Muslims and Buddhists are sadly finding out.

Thanks to Douglas for shining a light on the strong resurgence of anti-Semitism.

Klara Shandling, Los Angeles


To the editor: Douglas' article is an inspiration. My family experienced egregious anti-Semitism in central Oregon, where we had moved to escape what we perceived to be the difficulties of living in the urban sprawl of Los Angeles.

Swastikas were drawn on my daughter's notebook and papers by other students while she was in class. Kids yelled "heil Hitler" and "Jew!" with outstretched arms whenever one of the few Jewish kids walked by at the middle school. The school did nothing, and the superintendent refused to take the matter seriously.

Needless to say, eventually we moved back to L.A. Traffic and urban sprawl are no longer an issue — we feel fortunate to live in a place where religious and ethnic diversity are accepted and appreciated.

Rebecca Gundzik, Studio City


To the editor: Douglas' second root cause of anti-Semitism misses the point that the hatred of Israel's internationally condemned treatment of its disenfranchised, occupied Palestinians, and its intractable illegal displacement of them through inexorable settlement expansion — anathema to recognized international laws and arrogantly racist — is a natural and justifiable reaction of citizens from Japan to Iceland.

What's so difficult to understand?

Brian Hart, Santa Monica

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