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Bloom Wrong to Criticize UCLA Cartoon as Anti-Semitic

February 17, 2017

Dear Editor,

As a member of Jewish Voice for Peace and a recently-elected Democratic Party delegate to Richard Bloom's 50th assembly district, I respectfully disagree with our assemblyman's use of the term anti-Semitic to describe a provocative political cartoon critical of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ("Santa Monica Assemblyman Condemns 'Anti-Semitic' UCLA Newspaper Cartoon," February 15, 2017).

In fact, I would argue that the cartoon paints Netanyahu as the betrayer of Jewish values, the one who would go so far as to deface the Ten Commandments, to undermine Biblical tenets, to advance a political agenda that seeks to retroactively legalize settlements on Palestinian land. The cartoonist is not mocking the Jewish faith but rather suggesting that Netanyahu has no respect for deeply-held Jewish values that would not sanction Israeli bulldozing of Palestinian homes.

I am concerned that lambasting the UCLA student newspaper for publishing a searing critique of political policy and leadership only serves to chill speech and provide cover for the far right in Israel that seeks to annex the entire West Bank and force Palestinians to live forever as second class citizens. This would further inflame tensions in the Middle East and jeopardize the safety of those living in the region.

Just as "Thou shalt not steal" is a deeply held Jewish value, freedom of speech is much-cherished American value to vigilantly protect, particularly in the face of repeated efforts to silence debate.

That's why I campaigned against Assemblyman Bloom's 2016 legislation on Israel, which in the end did not prohibit California from doing business with contractors that boycott Israel. After a vigorous statewide campaign by hundreds of free-speech activists, Jewish Voice for Peace, and Palestine Legal, the bill - which initially banned Israel boycotters from state contracts -- was watered down to only require companies to certify that their business actions vis-à-vis Israel do not violate California's anti-discrimination laws in housing and employment.

Most importantly, we must not conflate criticism of Israel or support for the right of Palestinian return with anti-Semitism. There is nothing wrong and everything right with supporting equality and justice for all.

Marcy Winograd

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