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Brit Tzedek v'Shalom

Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace



Rabbis Petition Bush to Aid Palestinians

Jewish Ledger

March 16, 2006
By Judie Jacobson

Nearly 400 American rabbis, including ten from Connecticut, have signed a letter to President George W. Bush, urging him to maintain a “cautious approach” to the new Palestinian government, while continuing “indirect” financial aid to the Palestinian people.

The letter, signed by a conglomeration of Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist rabbis from across the country, is organized and promoted by Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, a left-wing group that has been aggressively lobbying Congress not to approve a bill that would severely restrict U.S. aid to the Palestinians. Introduced by Reps. Ros-Lehtinen (F-FL) and Lantos (D-CA) (H.R. 4681), the proposed legislation comes in response to the victory of the terrorist group Hamas in the recent Palestinian Authority elections.

“As leaders of the American Jewish community, we are deeply troubled by the recent victory of Hamas in the Palestinian legislative elections,” write the rabbis, noting that despite the terrorist group's victory, “recent polls indicate that the majority of Palestinians remains committed to a peace agreement with Israel.”

A curtailment of humanitarian aid, they suggest, could result in an erosion of that commitment. “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.”

Not all of the signatures on the bottom of the Brit Tzedek v’Shalom letter indicated an alliance with the grass roots organization.

Citing his general alignment with what he called "the peace camp, such as it is,” Rabbi Jon Jay Tilsen of Congregation Beth El-Keser Israel (BEKI) in New Haven explained "I signed the letter because I feel strongly about progress toward peace in Israel.” However, he added, “I do not agree with all of Brit Tzedek v’shalom positions.”

Although Tilsen does not feel strongly about the Ros-Lehtinen/Lantos Bill (HR4681) and is not convinced that, in actuality, any aid should be provided, he does believe that the Bush administration should maintain the “potential” to provide aid as a bargaining chip in future discussions with the Palestinian Authority, as well as to provide support for Palestinian democratic or humanitarian institutions “as a means of encouraging democracy and fighting racism and violence in Palestinian society.”

“No matter what your time frame - twenty years or two hundred - eventually Palestinian and other Arab societies and Israel must coexist peacefully,” he points out.

“How can we help foster that long-term project? It means that all of those non-governmental programs that aim to foster mutual respect and understanding have to continue, even though many people feel animosity. Peace is simply a goal that we strive for - it is a way of behaving and relating to others.”

In addition to Tilsen, the letter, which also appeared as a full-page ad in the Jewish newspaper The Forward, is signed by several prominent rabbis, including Hebrew Union College Dean Lewis Barth and University of Judaism Rector Elliot Dorff.

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