NEW YORK (Jan. 24)
The leader of the congregational body of Reform Judaism on Sunday urged Israel to halt what he called the “indiscriminate beating of Arabs” by Israeli soldiers in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
In a cable to Chaim Herzog, president of Israel, Rabbi Alexander Schindler, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, called the Israeli policy of using pre-emptive corporal punishment to quell Palestinian unrest “an offense to the Jewish spirit” that “violates every principle of human decency” and “betrays the Zionist dream.”
“Far from bringing order, it will only in crease the cycle of violence and intensify hatred,” said Schindler of the policy, which was launched last week.
The policy already has drawn criticism from the U.S. State Department, which a spokesman said last week “was disturbed” by its adoption. Over the weekend, Israeli soldiers were reported seen beating Palestinians in street clashes and during house-to-house searches.
In his cable, Schindler acknowledged that “every proposal by governments, international organizations and Israel itself to resolve the refugee situation has been rejected for four decades.”
But the new policy, said Schindler, would serve only “to shift responsibility for the neglect and abuse of the Palestinians from the Arabs to the shoulders of Israel.”
“Clearly, the decision must be yours,” wrote Schindler. “Still, we owe you the truth as we see it. . . . We plead with you to bring this madness to an end.”
Schindler has been one of the most out. spoken of major American Jewish leaders since unrest in the territories erupted more than a month ago.
In December, the Reform leader released a statement, later amplified in an op-ed piece published in The New York Times, saying the outbreak of violence “should shock Israel’s government” into ending the status quo in the administered territories.