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Jewish groups sign letter on lifting Gaza closure

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Jewish and Israeli groups have signed on to a letter urging President Obama to press Israel to lift its closure of the Gaza Strip.

"Due to Israel’s policy of severely limiting passage of essential goods and materiel through its crossings, the suffering in Gaza continues," said the letter sent to the White House last week and signed by Americans for Peace Now, B’Tselem, J Street and Rabbis for Human Rights-North America. "We believe this policy is strategically unsound, harms Israel’s security, and exacts an unacceptable toll on innocent Palestinians. It offends American humanitarian values, and is collective punishment that violates international law."

Israel says the closure helps preserve security, pointing to the drop in rocket attacks since the end of last winter’s Gaza war. U.S. officials have said that some of Israel’s strictures lack security justifications; a notable example last year was Israel’s allowance of rice, but not pasta, into Gaza.

The other signatories are the Arab American Institute, Churches for Middle East Peace and the Foundation for Middle East Peace.

The letter follows a similar letter sent recently by 54 Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

One of the Democrats, Yvette Clarke of New York, subsequently removed her signature following visits from Jewish groups in her Brooklyn district. That effort was led by Agudath Israel of America.

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