WASHINGTON, Mar. 12 (JTA) — Arab Americans have launched a nationwide campaign to protest Israeli plans to build new Jewish housing in eastern Jerusalem. The campaign, led by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and endorsed by major Arab American organizations, scheduled teach-ins in about 100 cities around the country aimed at pressuring the U.S. government to intervene in “Israel’s settlement-building policies.” In a joint statement issued Wednesday, Arab American groups called the building of Har Homa a “flagrant violation of international law” that is “making a mockery” of peace negotiations. “Through this nationwide campaign,” the statement said, “we hope to educate the American public about the devastating consequences of Israel’s policies of apartheid and to send a message to our elected representatives calling for an immediate cut in U.S. aid to Israel.” In response to the campaign, the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council advised local communities and national agencies to monitor the gatherings and assure that there is a balanced and accurate representation of the issues. At a news conference announcing this week’s teach-ins, Arab Americans elevated their rhetoric to a level that riled Jewish leaders. “These expansionist policies are part of an elaborate plan of ethnic cleansing in Jerusalem and have intensified since Netanyahu came to power,” the groups said in a statement released at the news conference here Wednesday. Martin Raffel, associate executive vice chairman of NJCRAC, called the language “scurrilous” and “deeply offensive.” “To falsely accuse Israel of ethnic cleansing is beyond the boundaries of acceptable discourse,” he said. “I would hope that Arab Americans in general would not accept the characterization in this document and would repudiate it.” Khalil Jahsan, president of the National Association of Arab Americans, which endorsed the statement, defended use of the term “ethnic cleansing,” but said it was only used in a “narrow kind of context.” “It doesn’t refer to any crimes against humanity, implying massacres,” he said in an interview. “It simply is a political term which refers to Israel’s policies and actual practice of emptying as many of Jerusalem’s Arab inhabitants as possible.” Jahsan added, however, that “ethnic cleansing” was not a term his organization has used in the past or intended to use again in the future.
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