Distinguish between Judaism and Israel
Regarding Devora Liss’s 4/26/01 letter “Appalled by SJP symbolism”: As a member of Students for Justice in Palestine, at Tuesday’s rally I confronted the individual with the sign equating the Star of David with the swastika to inform him that this symbolism was unacceptable. The individual was not a member of SJP. Ms. Liss could have at least mentioned that within minutes after this sign was displayed, it was removed, at the insistence of SJP members.
While I agree with Ms. Liss that the Star of David is “a collective Jewish symbol, not specifically a pro-Israel sign,” those who defend Israel’s indefensible record of atrocities have not themselves made this distinction clear. Indeed, pro-Israel activists assert that Jewish identity is inseparable from the colonization of Palestine. Israel still calls itself a state of all the Jews in the world, rather than a state of its citizens, one-fifth of whom are not Jewish. The symbolism on the flag is entirely Jewish, even though the native population of the land is overwhelmingly non-Jewish. Courageous Jews who protest Israel’s brutality have been marginalized and derided by their co-religionists.
While I distinguish between Judaism as a religion, and Israel as a state, it is unfortunately very easy to see how one might think that the massacres, home demolitions, assassinations, land expropriations, settlement building, imprisonment, and torture committed by the Israeli regime against the Palestinians are somehow Jewish in nature. One need only consider the illegal settlers who rampage through Arab villages chanting “Death to the goyim (non-Jews)” to realize that Israel’s colonization of Palestine has engendered hatred on both sides of this conflict, including hatred manifested in the name of Judaism and supported by the Israeli state.
Judaism existed for thousands of years before the Zionist project to colonize Palestine and it is my belief that it will continue to exist after Zionism has been thoroughly repudiated. While pro-Palestinian activists must continue to make this distinction, some burden also falls on Jews to remind the public that Israel’s abysmal human rights record is not a manifestation of the Jewish faith.
Address Palestinian exclusion from homeland
Devora Liss misses the point completely (“Appalled by SJP symbolism” 4-26-01). The Students for Justice in Palestine and their rally cannot be categorically dismissed based on the content of one sign or one idea out of hundreds.
She picks the most trivial aspects that SJP has the least control over, and attempts to use them to discredit an entire movement. When organizers saw the sign she mentioned, they asked him to remove it. He did. She never mentioned that.
Similarly trivial, she claims that inconveniencing some students is another reason SJP’s claim “lacks validity.”
None of her voiced concerns engage the fundamental issue at hand – Israel as an Apartheid state. Perhaps because “the Jewish state” is so essentially based on the exclusion and expulsion of the Palestinians, that she has no choice but to attack irrelevant and minute details. Her letter made clear that she was less interested in learning about the Palestinian-Israel conflict from the viewpoint of the victims, than she is in defending the indefensible: Israel’s brutal Apartheid policies.
Neighbors support 2 or 3-story project on San Pablo Ave.
It was most thoughtful of Mr. Kennedy to thank his supporters at Panoramic Interests’ website – you’ve done well to point that out. Mr. Kennedy’s thoughtfulness has its limits, however. He continues to misrepresent those who disagree with his plan – he seems to thrive on mischievous misrepresentation.
From the start, Neighbors for Responsible Development has argued for a two-three-story building at 2700 San Pablo and continue to support additional housing, including affordable units, at the site. We object, however, to inappropriate height and four to five stories is too high for the surrounding context of one-story and occasional two-story buildings.
Maximum zoning height limits are not directives to build to a particular height, but are “maximums,” and the Zoning Adjustments Board is responsible for adjusting the height of a project to limits appropriate to the surroundings and project needs. The ZAB unanimously denied Mr. Kennedy’s project.
NRD has repeatedly presented alternative three-story designs that would meet the city’s desire for housing and a developer’s reasonable profit margin, but Mr. Kennedy insists
that he doesn’t build anything less than four stories. At the hearing, we offered an example of a three-story building with as many bedrooms as Mr. Kennedy’s most recent design and with an occupancy rating about the same as his first plan. Faced with a model of the area, clearly demonstrating how physically mis-scaled his project is, Mr. Kennedy proceeded brazenly and publicly to vandalize it, audibly tearing two buildings from the display’s base to examine them, and then appeared to object when I rescued the display from his grasp. It was a display of arrogant disregard for the property and welfare of others that has characterized his attitude to those who live and work in this neighborhood: he would as happily tear away the character and identity of our neighborhood. We welcome a project at 2700 San Pablo and hope it will provide housing—but at a scale appropriate to the neighborhood that surrounds it.
People don’t know that fluorescent lights use only 20 percent of the energy used by regular lightbulbs; they don’t know that electric cars use 50 percent of the energy used by internal-combustion engined cars; they don’t know that standard air-conditioning uses ten times more energy than water-evaporation coolers; they don’t know that all these old, standard technologies produce a lot of environmental heat, which is one of the causes of global warming. People don’t know that the burning of octane puts eight times more greenhouse gas in the atmosphere than the burning of natural gas. High carbon fuels like heating oil, diesel, and coal are far worse.
Even if they do know all of this, they will only reduce their energy usage if their indulgence becomes too painful, financially, to keep it up.
For the utilities which deliver gas and electricity to our homes, the basic structure of a two-tier pricing structure, baseline usage and over-baseline usage, is already in place, but does not induce conservation because the price difference is too small. All we have to do now to make it work, to induce conversation, is to make the over-baseline unit price three or four times higher than the baseline unit price. Only then will people try not to exceed their baseline quantity: Turn off lights, heat or cool moderately only one or two rooms of the house, only use their dryers in emergencies, keep the refrigerator on a lower setting, etc.
As for gasoline, diesel, heating oil and coal - a hefty carbon tax will result in less usage of these products and induce people to switch to less polluting systems. The more carbon there is in a fuel, the higher the tax will be. Yes, four dollars a gallon for gas and six dollars a gallon for diesel is no fun, but it will, in ten years time, make our cities livable again.
These conservation inducing measures will of course be fought by the energy corporations who only want us to buy more energy at a higher price and a bigger profit margin for themselves. But the people, by reducing their usage of energy, have it in their power to turn a situation of excessive demand and high prices into one of excessive supply and lower prices.
Jan H. Visser