an American Jewish Peace
MovementWe can't win people over if we
don't give them a place to go. That is the work of Brit
The following piece was adapted from
a plenary of the same title at Brit Tzedek's Western Regional
Conference. A full conference report will follow next
Brit Tzedek v'Shalom was founded to organize
American Jews to advocate for a peaceful solution to the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Our involvement in this issue is
one of Jews deeply committed to the well-being of Israel,
seeking a just solution for both peoples. However, we are not
involved merely as Jews who happen to live in the United States,
but as American Jews, with our own unique interests and need to
organize to have an impact on US foreign policy.
as we may identify with and support Israel, our base, and our
home, is here. Building our base means reaching out to American
Jews and communicating to them why it is important for us to
have a distinct, American voice for peace.
Each of us
brings to this organization a unique, dual identity, both Jewish
and American. In earlier generations we had more distinct Jewish
communities with a shared identity. Today we are everywhere and
for the most part fully integrated as Jews into U.S. society. We
are diverse economically, religiously, politically, racially,
Some broad generalizations can be
drawn, however. The majority of Jews in post-World War II
American tend to be politically liberal, valuing a diversity of
opinions and concerned with the fate of the disenfranchised.
Social justice has been a primary value among American Jews, and
Jews have been leaders of many of this country's social
While as Jews we have generally valued a
diversity of opinions as well as identities, on the issue of
Israel we appear to be monolithic, under the leadership of one
lobby in Washington. To many outsiders, it appears as though
American Jews control U.S. foreign policy as it relates to
Israel. The so-called "Jewish lobby" plays a role, but certainly
is not the most powerful influence on US policy. It also creates
a misleading impression that American Jews do not have diverse
opinions on the conflict.
Brit Tzedek's pro-peace
advocacy expresses a deep and authentic Jewish-American voice
for social justice and reflects a distinct perspective on what
it means to be pro-Israel. We are building a movement with a
powerful voice that recognizes that the majority of American
Jews would like to see a negotiated two-state final status
resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
us is an advocate - even if we talk to only one person. Each of
us has a right and a responsibility to develop our own voice on
the conflict. Indeed, if we don't speak in our own voice, we
will not find the passion we need to win people over.
Moreover, in articulating our vision, we create an
alternative for the many American Jews who seek something other
than the received wisdom of the Jewish lobby. We can't win
people over if we don't give them a place to go. That is the
work of Brit Tzedek.
Our voice not only gives expression
to our personal opinions, but as it grows ever more audible and
influential, it helps to break an unhealthy silence. If we truly
have Israel's best interests at heart, we must be confidently
pro-peace. We need to be organized, we need to be visible, and
we need to be vocal. We need to face this issue directly and
openly, and we need to act to make a difference particularly
within Jewish communities.
The American Jewish peace
movement finds itself in a difficult time in the wake of the
recent Palestinian elections. The situation seems more complex
than ever and some argue that with Hamas' recent victory, peace
advocates have lost their credibility.
Yet we know that
this is not true. We know that the Hamas victory was not a case
of Palestinians rejecting peace, but of voters rejecting a
corrupt government, deepening poverty and growing insecurity.
When 84% of Palestinians say they hope their government will
achieve a peace agreement with Israel immediately following the
Hamas victory, how can it be otherwise? We must educate
ourselves and move forward boldly. At a time when the notion of
"starving the Palestinians" as a way of "breaking" Hamas has
legitimacy in the halls of Congress, if we do not speak up, who
As Brit Tzedek continues to organize and grow,
there are sure to be disagreements. This is healthy. This is
human, this is Jewish. But we all agree on one thing: justice
demands a negotiated two-state solution. Nothing else will
provide real, lasting peace and security for Israel and the
Social activism is deeply embedded in the
American Jewish experience. We need to continue to be effective,
Jewish social activists today. If we are truly pro-Israel, we
can scarcely do otherwise.
Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, The Jewish
Alliance for Justice and Peace
11 E. Adams Street, Suite
Chicago, IL 60603
Phone: (312) 341-1205
Become a member: Help build our grassroots base of
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