BERLIN (JTA) — A new European Jewish lobby modeled after J Street will present a petition criticizing Israeli policies while defending Israel’s right to exist.
JCall will present its "European Call for Reason" petition in the European Parliament in Brussels on May 3. The document underscores Israel’s right to exist "as a Jewish and democratic state" but criticizes Israeli policies and calls for a "viable and sovereign Palestinian state" alongside Israel. It has collected more than 2,000 signatures online.
The petition was launched in the Le Soir newspaper on April 20, Israel’s 62nd Independence Day.
JCall co-founder David Chemla, chair of Peace Now in France, told JTA that J Call was inspired by J Street, the U.S. lobby group that calls itself pro-Israel and pro-peace.
"Diaspora Jewry is not monolithic," Chemla said in a telephone interview, adding that members of JCall — for now primarily in France, Belgium and Switzerland — had fought against European attempts to boycott Israeli scholars and trade, but "we also criticize the politics of Israel in the territories."
The Coordinating Committee of the Belgian Jewish Organizations issued a statement "deploring" the campaign and the timing of its launch on Israel’s Independence Day with no mention of Israel’s achievements.
The committee suggested that Muslims and Arabs launch their own "call for reason," urging their brethren to recognize Israel.
Several pro-Israel groups have launched a competing petition roughly translated as "Keep Your Reason" (in French at www.dialexis.org/php/index.php). A co-sponsor, the Algerian-born French scholar Shmuel Trigano, calls the J Call initiative "totally outdated," giving "the feeling that Israel is the sole obstacle to peace."
Chemla described J Call supporters as Zionists who want to "debate openly and not leave it to the radicals."