WASHINGTON (Aug. 22)
Over 1,000 American Jewish students, studying for a year at Israeli colleges and high schools, expressed their concern for Israel’s defense by signing a petition calling on the U.S. to refrain from selling arms to Jordan, it was reported today by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). The petition was later delivered to Sen. Edward Kennedy (D. Mass.) who sent it on to Secretary of State George Shultz.
The petition drive was organized by a dozen student activists, according to AIPAC. The petition stated: “We, the undersigned American students, oppose the sale of America’s most sophisticated weapons to Jordan or to any other country that has not recognized Israel’s right to exist and endorsed the Camp David peace process.”
The petition was circulated over the entire country in less than a week’s time by students at Tel Aviv and Hebrew Universities who has participated in Israel-based Political Leadership Training Seminars sponsored by AIPAC.
The activists said they found willing signers not only in the large university programs at Haifa, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem, but also in yeshivot and the “High School in Israel” program at Hod HaSharon. Signers included residents of all 50 states.
The petition organizers designated AIPAC interns Laur Strauss of Brandeis University and Julie Bergman of the University of Pennsylvania to present the petition to Kennedy. Kennedy and Sen. John Heinz (R. Pa.) have introduced a resolution in the Senate opposing arms sales to Jordan as long as Jordan “opposes the Camp David peace process.”
It is unusual for American students to engage in political action from Israel. “Normally, the students wait until they return to the States to get involved in political activism. This year, they wouldn’t wait,” said Jonathan Kessler, head of AIPAC’s Political Leadership Development Program.
The students involved in the petition drive reported that they were excited by their experience. “In circulating this petition, we raised consciousness,” said one. “There are now over one thousand students returning to hundreds of American campuses committed to blocking this transfer of weapons.”
“This is the high point of my Israel experience,” another declared. “The AIPAC seminars have shown us how to translate what we’ve been experiencing into political action.”