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Brit Tzedek v'Shalom
Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace
New Haven Register
Moderates show peace is possible
We Jews are enslaved by the terror inflicted on us by Palestinian suicide bombers, which evokes for us the terror of the Holocaust and leaves us feeling that there is no hope for a partner for peace.
We are also enslaved by being occupiers of the West Bank and Gaza, draining Israel militarily and economically, and corroding our soul.
Even Ariel Sharon said: "I do not think that we have to rule over another people and run their lives. I do not think that we have the strength for that. It is a very heavy burden on the public and it raises ethical problems and heavy economic problems."
To set out on the journey toward peace, we can build on the work of Israeli and Palestinian peacemakers who negotiated the recent Geneva initiative, and on the work of the 60 Palestinian leaders who signed a statement urging nonviolent resistance to the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.
There are no guarantees on this path, but there are possibilities. And possibilities are better than the current continuous and bloody cycle of violence.
The Geneva initiative, negotiated over 30 months by Israeli and Palestinian military, political, and community leaders acting in a private capacity, shows that a detailed settlement can be reached, that Israel and the Palestinians can go directly to final phases of the "road map."
The tough issues of security, borders, refugees, and Jerusalem can be resolved to the satisfaction of moderates on both sides. Most importantly, the initiative demonstrates that there are Palestinians who are partners for peace, something the Israeli government denies.
This particular model most likely includes all the general principles of any future peace settlement, including the creation of a viable and nonmilitarized Palestine, no Palestinian right of return to Israel, and compensation for Palestinian refugees.
Not only is it possible to go forward on the journey to peace, but it is important for everyone to speak up. If we don't speak up, our government assumes we stand solidly behind the policies of the Sharon government.
As American Jews, we deeply want Israel to survive and flourish, and that is not possible unless Palestinians have a viable state in the West Bank and Gaza. So we need to speak out to say that for the sake of Israel as well as the United States, we want our government to actively support negotiations for two states.
Continuing settlement expansion and consolidation behind a wall cutting deeply into the West Bank is not in the interest of Israel or the United States. It takes away the land needed for a viable Palestinian state and takes away Palestinian hopes for a state. And it fuels the growth of ethnic and religious hatred in the world.
Avraham Burg, Labor Party member of the Knesset and former speaker of the Knesset, recently told Congregation Agudath Sholom in Stamford how his father, the late Josef Burg, founder of the National Religious Party, answered his grandson's question, "How can you trust the Palestinians to make peace?"
He replied: "When I was fleeing from the Nazis in 1939, I did not believe that Jews could ever be at peace with Germans, who did much more to us than the Palestinians have done. There will be peace with the Palestinians."
Just as it was necessary for Jews to step into the Red Sea with no guarantee that the waters would part, we must be willing to step forward into the unknown and speak out for peace negotiations. We may not reach the promised land of peace for a while, but we owe it to ourselves, to Israel, and to future generations to start out on the journey and to keep trying.
Deborah Elkin of New Haven is chairwoman of the Connecticut chapter of Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, the Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace, P.O. Box 6062, Hamden 06517.
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