Jewish groups back Israel on Hebron


WASHINGTON (JTA) — U.S. Jewish groups for the most part backed Israel’s evacuation of settlers from a Hebron building and condemned settler violence.

"The attacks against Palestinians, their farms, cemeteries and other Muslim property by Jewish extremists are deeply troubling and unacceptable," the Anti-Defamation League said in a statement Dec. 5, a day after the evacuation of settlers from a disputed Hebron building sparked rioting. "These attacks and those against Israeli soldiers and police, who were there to enforce a Supreme Court order to evacuate a contested building, are a direct assault on the rule of law and only serve to undermine Israel’s democratic institutions."

David Harris, the American Jewish Committee’s executive director, echoed the stance.

"Israel cannot permit a small minority to challenge its legitimate institutions through violence," he said. "We fully support Israel’s government and security forces in their resolve to maintain order in the West Bank city of Hebron, whether the protagonists are Jews or Arabs."

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the leading pro-Israel lobby, does not routinely comment on internal Israeli matters. However, the top story on its Web site over the weekend, headlined "Upholding court order, Israeli troops evict squatters," quoted Defense Minister Ehud Barak as saying "what was tested today was the ability of the state to enforce its laws and its essence upon its citizens."

Dovish pro-Israel groups, including Americans for Peace Now, Ameinu and J Street, also backed the evacuation, as did the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center and the American Jewish Congress.

Some groups, including the Orthodox Union and the Zionist Organization of America, were silent on the matter, although the ZOA had distributed an appeal last week on behalf of the settlers occupying the building.

Only one group, the National Council of Young Israel, directly criticized Israel’s actions.

"Watching Jews forcibly remove their Jewish brothers and sisters from their home and their community was a painful reminder of the Israeli government’s lack of understanding and compassion towards their own," the council said in a statement.  "Dragging their fellow Jews through the dirt in an attempt to evict them from their home is a deplorable and despicable act of cowardice."

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