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Brit Tzedek v'Shalom
Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace
The Rabbis Respond
The Philadelphia Jewish Voice
Nearly four hundred rabbis from across the country and the denominational spectrum of American Judaism sent a letter Friday to President Bush, urging him 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.” 34 Philadelphia area Conservative, Reconstructionist, Reform and Renewal rabbis signed on to the letter.
The letter, whose lead signers include prominent national pulpit, academic, and organizational rabbis, urges the President to pursue policies of constructive engagement of moderate Palestinians and sustained humanitarian aid.
While the letter does not address specific legislation, it comes at a time when Congress is considering imposing severe sanctions and restrictions on the Palestinian Authority in response to Hamas' victory in the Palestinian elections. If enacted, these restrictions would remain in place indefinitely regardless of the make-up of the Palestinian legislature in the future, thereby tying the United States' hands as a broker of future negotiations.
These rabbis from across the country and the spectrum of American Judaism have united to pomote the constructive engagement of moderate Palestinians and continued humanitarian aid “as the best response to Hamas’ electoral victory,” says Rabbi John Friedman of Durham, North Carolina, who chairs the Rabbinic Cabinet of Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, which organized the letter.” The letter challenges the perception that American Jews uniformly believe that the best way to protect Israel’s security interests and combat Hamas’ extremism us through the complete isolation of the Palestinian government.”
“It is critical that the US find ways to constructively engage Palestinians, such as President Abbas who seek peace with Israel,’ adds Rabbi Amy Small. “Treating all Palestinian as though they are members of Hamas plays into the hands of the extremists and marginalizes the moderates,’ she says.
The rabbis specifically address the need for sustained humanitarian aid, as a tangible means to try to mitigate the radicalization of the Palestinian population. “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.”
“To remove humanitarian aid from the Palestinian civilians who so desperately need it is morally wrong and politically unwise. It is abundantly clear that the dire conditions of the Palestinian population are responsible for Hamas’ victory in the first place,” says signatory Rabbi Rolando Matalon, Senior Rabbi of Congregation B’nai Jeshrun of New York City. “It is possible to ensure that humanitarian funds do not reach the hands of those who engage in terror,” he adds.”
Letter to President
Dear Mr. President:
As leaders of the American Jewish community, we are deeply troubled by the recent victory of Hamas in the Palestinian legislative elections. Hamas's charter calls for the destruction of Israel, and Hamas has repeatedly perpetrated horrific acts of terror and violence that target innocent civilians. Yet in this challenging hour, 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:
During this period of deep concern for the future of Israel, we call on you to maintain determination in the face of those who deny Israel’s right to exist and, at the same time, to leave open the door for those Palestinians who are committed to working for a negotiated, two-state resolution of this conflict.