NEW YORK (Feb. 4)
A statement of “unity and identification” with Israel was released Thursday by 51 U.S. Jewish organizations, including four publicly critical of Israel’s use of beatings to quell Palestinian violence in the administered territories.
The statement was circulated by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, a coordinating body of 42 organizations.
The statement said the signators had “received assurances from the president and prime minister of Israel that the policy of restraint continues,” that they “have expressed to them our concern regarding any departures in contradiction” of the policy and that they “trust that this policy will be uniformly implemented.”
The statement voiced regret at the loss of life in the territories and welcomed the efforts of the United States and others “to move the peace process forward to a just and lasting peace.”
It also noted that for decades the Arab world “exploited and victimized” the Palestinians by refusing “to come to the peace table to negotiate a settlement with Israel.”
“The security of Israel,” it continued, “is a prime concern to Jews everywhere.”
The signators said, “We believe we speak for the overwhelming majority of Jews across the country and around the world in this expression of unity and identification with the embattled nation of Israel.”
A spokesman for the conference said the statement was meant to “reassure the Israeli community that it hasn’t been abandoned and reassure the American Jewish community that Israel has the support” of the major American Jewish organizations.
Organizations critical of the beatings policy have come under criticism themselves from Israel and U.S. Jewish organizations either supportive of the policy or uncomfortable with public condemnation of the beatings policy.
Among the 42 constituent members and nine observer groups of the conference signing the statement were the American Jewish Congress and two Reform organizations — the United of American Hebrew Congregations and the Central Conference of American Rabbis.
All three organizations had previously issued statements critical of a policy announced two weeks ago by Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin of “might, force, beatings” to subdue Palestinian rioters.
A third Reform organization that signed the conference statement also voiced on Thursday its “alarm and distress” over the beatings.
Rabbi Charles Kroloff, president of the Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA), said in the statement that Israel’s use of “excessive force” in maintaining order is “contrary to the moral values of the Jewish community and to the principles on which the State of Israel was founded.”