Letters the Week of January 9, 2014


Readers respond to the Swarthmore Hillel's dispute over Israel programming guidelines, the American Studies Association’s boycott and the latest release of Palestinian prisoners.

Unanswered Questions About Swarthmore

I am following with interest the story of Swarthmore Hillel’s student leaders rejecting Hillel International’s guidelines on speakers who don’t support Israel. My first reaction is to side with the parent organization. If you want to be in the club, you adhere to the club’s rules. If you reject the rules, feel free to start your own club. A flaw in this approach is that with this choice, Swarthmore’s student leaders may be pushed farther away from Judaism.

The Jewish Exponent’s Dec. 19 editorial calls for a dialogue to balance student rights and Hillel’s rights. I agree. However, part of the balancing requires attention to this issue: To what extent does a current group of students, whose participation in a college organization will last generally from one to four years, have the right to permanently alter the nature of that organization? I don’t have the answer to that question, but I believe that it needs to be on the table. Present at the table should be Hillel International, Hillel of Greater Philadelphia, current student leaders, Swarthmore administrators and graduates who helped build Swarthmore Hillel during their time on campus.

If because of this dispute there is no longer a sanctioned Hillel at Swarthmore, what impact would that have on Swarthmore’s ability to attract Jewish students? What impact would that have on support of Swarthmore by Jewish alumni?

 Steven Stone | Maple Glen

Israel Got a Raw Deal on Prisoner Release

Regarding your editorial (“Talks, Not Terror,” Jan. 3), I have become exceedingly upset with the U.S. government over this issue. Israel didn’t receive enough in return for releasing these murderers. Still, Israel accepted this deal.

But when there was one murderer who killed an American citizen on the list, the United States asked to have him removed from the list. The message is: Israeli citizens’ blood is different than that of Americans’.

And now the United States is ready to squash an agreement with Afghanistan because of its plan to release Afghans suspected of killing NATO forces. The reason: “They might kill again.” This is the same government that persuaded Israel to release more than 100 convicted — not suspected, but convicted — murderers. Might there be a chance that they will kill again?

If this is the way our “best friend” behaves, we are in real trouble.

Bernie Dishler | Upper Gwynedd

Pro-Boycott Academics Deserve Contempt

The current spectacle of the American Studies Association’s boycott (Cover Story: “Local Academics, Leaders Speak out Against Boycott,” Jan. 2) is nothing more than good old-fashioned anti-Semitism masquerading as “academic freedom.”

The association members deserve our contempt and revulsion at this obvious effort to discredit Israel — whose standards are probably higher than anything the members have achieved in their collective lifetimes. It’s time to send the teachers back to school.

The American Studies Association can now take its proper place alongside the Palestinians who call for Israel’s destruction.

James Warren | Wyncote


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