Reform Rabbis Issue Statement Deploring Beatings Policy

The Central Conference of American Rabbis, the rabbinical body of Reform Judaism, issued a statement Monday saying it “deplores” the Israeli policy of beating Palestinian Arabs as a method of controlling unrest in the administered territories.

The statement, passed by the CCAR executive board by a vote of 17-3, and released by Rabbi Eugene Lipman, the group’s president, says, “The policy of deliberate beatings ordered by Defense Minister (Yitzhak) Rabin in the territories” is “beyond the bounds of Jewish values.”

In addition, the statement calls on all parties, “including the Arab states, to convene a peace conference on the Middle East.”

The CCAR statement is the second by an American Reform body to criticize the Israeli policy, which was announced two weeks ago by Rabin. The defense minister said at the time that Israel would use “might, force, beatings” to quell the rioting.

On Jan. 24, Rabbi Alexander Schindler, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, representing 810 Reform congregations, issued a statement calling the beatings policy “an offense to the Jewish spirit.”

Since that statement appeared, Jewish organizations have been split over whether American Jewish leaders should publicly criticize Israel.

A number of rabbis who voted in favor of the CCAR statement did so with reservations, the group said. Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk, president of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, the Reform seminary, went as far as to disassociate himself publicly from the statement.

Reached at his office in Cincinnati, Gottschalk said that he agrees with “three-quarters” of the statement, including its criticism of the beatings, but that “this is not the time to take this position,” when Israel is receiving harsh criticism from around the world.

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