A group of college age Jews asserting that they are “deeply committed to the welfare of Israel and the advent of peace in the Middle East” has launched an international petition campaign to protest “the Israeli government’s policy of civilian settlements in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.”
The name of the group is “Yaish Breira” (“There is an alternative”) and its headquarters is at the University of California in Berkeley. Ian Lustick, spokesman for the group, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the petition campaign “is a grassroots attempt to develop a consciousness-raising effort with respect to the entire Palestinian national question, the policies of de facto annexation that are seemingly being pursued, and the dangers involved with regard to the future health and harmony of Israel.”
Noting that Israel’s policy in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip is “myopic,” Lustig said the campaign is also an effort to alert diaspora Jewry to the possible tragic consequences this policy may have. “By allowing Jewish civilians to settle in these areas, the Israeli government is locking the Jewish State into a political dungeon from which there will be, in five to ten years time, no escape,” he said.
GOING TO ROOTS OF THINGS
As evidence for the views of “Yaish Breira,” Lustig cited “facts”, such as the construction of the 250 Jewish housing units in Hebron; civilian settlements in the Etzion block, along the Jordan Valley, in the Raffah section of the Gaza Strip and near the city of Gaza. The petition being circulated notes that “civilian settlements in these areas prejudices the chance for peace and ignores the national rights of the Palestinian people,” and calls upon the Israel government “to pursue a policy which will encourage the emergence of a non-belligerent Palestinian State on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.”
Lustick, a member of the editorial collective of the Berkeley Radical Jewish Union which publishes a quarterly, “The Jewish Radical,” said the petition campaign in some 50 countries will continue until the spring. At that time the signatures collected will be given to Israeli Consul Generals in the various cities and copies will be sent to the Knesset. He said that the drive has already received a good response in this country and “already bears the names of leaders of more than a score of North American Jewish-Zionist groups.”
Lustick noted, by way of clarification, that the term “radical,” does not refer to any affinity with the New or Old Left but rather the classical meaning of radical as going to the roots of things. He also stressed that “it is important to note that the petition does not call for the establishment by Israel of a Palestinian State now or in the future. Rather the suggestion is that a policy be pursued which will encourage rather than preclude such a settlement.
Additionally, he noted, the petition does not “categorically proscribe civilian settlement on the West Bank. Rather, the establishment of Jewish settlements at the present time constitutes a tremendously dangerous political act.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.