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Brit Tzedek v'Shalom

Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace


'Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace, Progress'

Atlanta Jewish Times
June 3, 2005
By Richard Breitkopf

When Israel celebrated the 57th anniversary of its independence recently, as American Jews we joined Israelis in celebrating the achievements of this small but powerful country.

In the Declaration of Independence read by Israeli Prime Minister David Ben Gurion to the world in 1948, he announced that the new country would extend its hand "to all neighboring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighborliness, and appeal to them establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land."

We in the Georgia chapter of Brit Tzedek v'Shalom continue to celebrate this vision by recommitting ourselves to supporting Israelis in fulfilling that dream. Our chapter, which began in the summer of 2003, continues to hold events around town ranging from potlucks to hosting prominent Israeli guest speakers.

Who are we? We are you: your neighbors, friends, rabbis and lay members of the community. Just like 70 percent of American Jews recently polled, we believe Israel should accept the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

What do we want? Like the majority of Atlanta Jews, we want to help strengthen Israel by standing alongside it in peace-making efforts that both Israelis and Palestinians desire and deserve.

Our message sounds simple: "Pro-Israel. Pro-Peace. Progress." It resonates with the majoirty of American Jews, but it's not a simple message, just as peace-making in the Middle East is never easy.

Israel has reached a pivotal moment as it prepares to disengage from Gaza and four West Bank settlements this summer. Such a move would mark the first time Israel has ever completely evacuated territory to be handed over to the Palestinians, setting what we hope will be a precedent for additional withdrawals toward the end of establishing a viable Palestinan state alongside Israel.

This disengagement plan initiated by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon -- father of settlement development for years -- will not be easy for Israel. Some of the settlers have lived in their Gaza homes for decades; some were transplants from the earlier Sinai evacuation. Although the majority of Israelis support the disengagement, just as they support a two-state solution to the conflict, the country is in turmoil as the day of disengagement approaches.

President Bush has pledged that a Palestinian state will be established before he leaves office. To fulfill that promise, the United States must give full support of the Gaza withdrawal as well as meaningful economic assistance to the Palestinian Authority. And it must oppose any unilateral actions by either side that migth prejudice future negotiations. In short, American support for the Gaza withdrawal must be combined with strong and clear initiatives aimed at bringing the two parties back to the negotiating table and keeping them there.

After all, that's the hope of most Amreican and Atlanta Jews, and we at Brit Tzedek v'Shalom are going to make sure that hope is heard. During our recent national grassroots Advocacy Week, many of our 30 chapters, including ours in the Atlanta area, brought this message to members of Congress in their home district offices. A month later, we will take the same message to Capitol Hill.

At this critical juncture in Israel's history, it is imperative that pro-Israeli, pro-peace American Jews support all efforts for peace and make sure that our collective voice is heard.

Richard Breitkopf is the Georgia Chapter leader for Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, the Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace (www.btvshalom.org) and a member of Congregation Beth Shalom.

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