Aipac might like America to believe that Jews march in lockstep with their hard-right views of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But I’m pleased to say that Brit Tzedek V’Shalom, the national Jewish group advocating for Israeli-Palestinian peace, is marching to a different beat. It organized a national effort among rabbis to tell President Bush that America’s rabbis do not want him to criminalize Hamas, thus making life for the Palestinians even harsher than it already is. 400 rabbis have signed on. Here is a major excerpt:
…We urge you to maintain a cautious approach to the new Palestinian government, so as to preserve the future possibility of bringing Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table, which is the only path to achieve true peace and security for both peoples.
As you formulate U.S. policy towards these ends, we urge you to keep the following points in mind:
1) According to international observers, the Palestinians conducted a free, fair, and democratic election, something that is still too rare in this region.
2) Nevertheless, for the new Hamas-led Palestinian government to achieve international recognition and standing, it must “recognize Israel, disarm, reject terrorism, and work for lasting peace,” just as you specified in your State of the Union address.
3) Despite Hamas’s victory, recent polls indicate that the majority of Palestinians remains committed to a peace agreement with Israel. With this in mind, we urge constructive engagement with the new Palestinian government, in ways that bolster moderates such as President Mahmoud Abbas and sustain the ceasefire that has allowed for relative calm over the past year.
4) The immediate and short-term needs of the Palestinian people are pressing. We know that the deterioration in their plight only increases support for extremism, which, in turn, endangers Israel. Continued funding for indirect assistance to the Palestinian people via NGO’s, with the appropriate conditions to ensure that it does not reach the hands of terrorists, is essential.
During this period of deep concern for the future of Israel, we call on you to…leave open the door for those Palestinians who are committed to working for a negotiated, two-state resolution of this conflict.
It is important that American Jews and the White House know that our spiritual leaders are not as hard-hearted and close-minded as the refuseniks (“nyet” to the Palestinians) at Aipac. If you are a rabbi and have not signed the letter you may do so by visiting the Brit Tzedek site.
I also urge anyone reading this post to write or call your representative and senators to tell them to vote against the Ros-Lehtinen-Lantos Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Bill H.R. 4681. It severely restricts the US’s ability to constructively engage with moderate Palestinians and to provide critical aid to the Palestinian people.