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Brit Tzedek v'Shalom

Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace


Fulfilling the Dream

Kansas City Jewish Chronicle
May 27, 2005
By Allan Abrams

Just two weeks ago, Israel celebrated the 57th anniversary of its independence. As American Jews, we joined Israelis in celebrating the amazing achievements of this small but powerful country.

In the Declaration of Independence read by David Ben Gurion to the world, 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 to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land."

We, in the Kansas City chapter of Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, continue to celebrate the vision of Israel's founders by recommitting ourselves to supporting Israelis in fulfilling that dream. Who are we? We are you: your neighbors, your friends. Just like 70 percent of American Jews recently polled, we believe Israel should be willing to accept the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. What do we want? Like the majority of Kansas City Jews, we want to help strengthen Israel by standing alongside her in her peace-making efforts that both Israelis and Palestinians desire and deserve.

Illustrative of our work was bringing Rabbi Arik Ascherman from Rabbis for Human Rights here in November. Similarly, we hosted a February dinner for Dartmouth Professor and activist Susannah Heschel, daughter of the preeminent Rabbi Abraham J. Heschel. And just this past weekend, we helped coordinate a speaking tour at five regional venues for two women from the Parents Circle, one an Israeli and the other a Palestinian, each of whom lost a close family member in the current conflict. Our message sounds simple: "Pro-Israel! Pro-Peace! Progress!" It's a message that resonates with the vast majority 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. This marks 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 Palestinian state alongside Israel.

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

President George Bush has pledged that a viable Palestinian state will be established before he leaves office in early 2009. To fulfill that promise, the U.S. must give full support for the Gaza withdrawal, in conjunction with additional economic assistance to the Palestinian Authority. And it must oppose any unilateral actions by either side that might prejudice future negotiations. In short, U.S. support for the Gaza withdrawal must be combined with strong and clear initiatives aimed at bringing the two parties back to the negotiating table.

After all, that is the hope of the majority of American and Kansas City Jews, and we at Brit Tzedek v'Shalom are going to make sure that voice, that hope, is heard loud and clear. During the week of May 31-June 3, during our national grassroots Advocacy Week, many of our 30 chapters, including our own in Kansas City, will bring this message to members of Congress in their home-district offices. A month later, we will take the same message to Capitol Hill in meetings with key congressional leaders and representatives of the Bush Administration.

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.

Allan Abrams, chairperson of Kansas City Brit Tzedek, lives in Prairie Village, Kan.

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