Rabbinical Support for the End of Unconditional Military Aid to Israel

The undersigned members of the Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbinical Council stand with our American Christian colleagues in their recent call to “make U.S. military aid to Israel contingent upon its government’s “compliance with applicable US laws and policies.”

We are as troubled as our Christian colleagues by the human rights violations Israel commits against Palestinian civilians, many of which involve the misuse of US – supplied weapons. It is altogether appropriate – and in fact essential – for Congress to ensure that Israel is not in violation of any US laws or policies that regulate the use of US supplied weapons.

The US Foreign Assistance Act and the US Arms Export Control Act specifically prohibit assistance to any country which engages in a consistent pattern of human rights violations and limit the use of US weapons to “internal security” or “legitimate self-defense.”  The Christian leaders’ letter points out, in fact, that the most recent 2011 State Department Country Report on Human Rights Practices covering Israel and the Occupied Territories detailed widespread Israeli human rights violations committed against Palestinian civilians, many of which involve the misuse of US – supplied weapons such as tear gas.

It is certainly not unreasonable to insist that foreign assistance be contingent on compliance with US laws and policies. Mideast analyst MJ Rosenberg has rightly pointed out that during this current economic downturn, Congress has been scrutinizing all domestic assistance programs -– including Social Security and food stamps –- to ensure that they are being carried out legally in compliance with stated US policy.  Why should US military aid to Israel be exempt from the same kind of scrutiny?

While some might feel that requiring assistance to be contingent with compliance would compromise Israel’s security, we believe the exactly the opposite is true. As Israel’s primary ally, the US alone is in a place to create the kind of leverage that might challenge Israel to turn away from policies that impede the cause of a just peace for Israelis and Palestinians – – and true security for all who live in the region.

As Jews we acknowledge that the signers of the letter, and the churches they represent, have ancient and continuing ties to the land of Israel just as we do, and that their concerns for the safety and dignity of Christians in Israel and in the occupied Palestinian territories is as compelling as our concern for the safety and dignity of Jews there.

We are troubled that several Jewish organizations have cynically attacked this faithful and sensitive call – and we are deeply dismayed that the Anti-Defamation League has gone so far as to pull out of a scheduled Jewish-Christian dialogue in protest.  We believe that actions such as these run directly counter to the spirit and mission of interfaith dialogue. True dialogue occurs not simply on the areas where both parties find agreement, but in precisely those places where there is disagreement and divergence of opinion. We call on all of our Jewish colleagues to remain at the table and engage our Christian colleagues on this painful issue that is of such deep concern to both our communities.

We express our full support for the spirit and content of this statement and likewise call upon US citizens to urge their representatives to end unconditional military aid to Israel.

Signed (list in formation):

Rabbi Brant Rosen
Rabbi Margaret Holub
Rabbi Alissa Wise
Rabbi Elizabeth Bolton
Rabbi Lynn Gottleib
Rabbi Brian Walt
Rabbi Julie Greenberg
Rabbi David Mivasair
Rabbi Joseph Berman
Cantor Michael Davis
Rabbi Shai Gluskin
Rabbi Tirzah Firestone
Jessica Rosenberg, Rabbinical Student
Ari Lev Fornari, Rabbinical Student

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21 thoughts on “Rabbinical Support for the End of Unconditional Military Aid to Israel

  1. Pingback: JVP Rabbinical Council stands with churches challenging US aid to Israel | Mondoweiss

  2. The letter is missing a reference to the Symington Amendment (1976) which bans “U.S. economic, and military assistance, and export credits to countries that deliver or receive, acquire or transfer nuclear enrichment technology when they do not comply with IAEA regulations and inspections. This provision, as amended, is now contained in Section 101 of the Arms Export Control Act (AECA).”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symington_Amendment

    Israel is not a member of the NPT and, as such, has never hosted a team of IAEA inspectors. In view of the public secret that is Dimona, and the danger it may pose to citizens who live within its destructive range, perhaps its high time to investigate what has happened to the 40+ year old stored spent fuel.

  3. As a person who is dismayed by the direction of current American policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian issue, I also want to salute this courageous and much needed action.

  4. Thank you for supporting this statement. It means a lot to me personally to have a Jewish perspective that coincides with my views on the need to decrease violence in Israel/Palestine. This can’t happen unless the volume of weapons is decreased when used against innocent people.

  5. You are not Rabbis. Shame on you. Do you make statements about what is going on in Syria? In Libya? In Saudia Arabia? In Iran? Of course not, because you are self-hating Jews. You only teach hatred, and work for the destruction of your own people. G-d have mercy on you, you terrible human beings.

    • It’s great to see all the positive messages of support to our letter.

      It used to be that the supreme political value that united all Jews was unconditional support for Israel. When that was the case, it indeed made no sense for Jewish clergy to object to Israeli military policies. As you write, that stance would have disqualified us to be Jewish leaders.
      Thankfully, that is no longer the case. There is a growing movement of Jews and Jewish leaders who are attuned to the currents of change in the world today. The exposure of Israel’s discriminatory system and the revelations of American complicity in the Israeli military system are known and felt inside the Jewish community.

      So, as Jewish leaders, we are proud to speak out. I see our movement as standing in the tradition of the Reform rabbis who opposed slavery before the U.S. Civil War, through the Jews who marched with Martin Luther King in support of the civil rights movement.

      These Jews were attacked with the same kind of language that Mr. Jones uses here, and worse. Yet that did not deter them from speaking out.
      Obviously, it’s not going to slow us down either.

      For over 150 years, Palestinian Christians have been denied the support of western Christians and Jews. I applaud the Protestant leaders for their courage. This letter was much needed. As Jewish clergy who care deeply about the fate of Israelis, this Christian intervention is most welcome. I hope this is the start of a new relationship between western Christians and Palestinian Christians and between Christians and Jews in the U.S.

  6. As a Christian with Jewish ancestry I applauld the letter to Congress. It is shameful that our country has turned a blind eye to human rights abuses against the Palestinians for decade after decade. How long should a people be denied a state and identity? Guilt over the suffering of Jews by a facist German regime should not excuse the ethnic cleansing and apartheid that Palestinians endure. Rabbis who fight for human rights are NOT “self-hating” Jews. They espouse Jewish values that have endured for centuries. Zionism and all the violence it may espouse and justify against defenceless villages, olive groves, and churches and mosques does not equal Judaism!

  7. Thank you for standing up for universal human rights. Anyone who would call you “self-hating” Jews clearly believes “never again” only applies when non-Jewish groups are at fault. Apparently only others should be called to task. And while I do not know whether you speak out against human rights abuses in other places, the abuse of Palestinians is one that we as Americans actually pay for and support through our UN veto! It’s a chronic and dire situation we have a lot of responsibility for.

  8. I agree totally. How come during the presidential debates nobody ever brings up this aid which goes out to Israel and Egypt, and questions this?? What a hot topic and so needed!

  9. what are the acceptable conditions for Israel to receive aid for self-defense? only 36 years ago this day, that the Yom Kippur War ended. Like the ‘Chinese Farm’, too many misread and contrived mistakes on both sides. one may say, US govt support for Israel is unconditional period

  10. thank you, we need more American Jews to speak out against the racist, Jewish state of Israel. While you’re at it, Rabbis should call for full (economic, cultural and academic) boycott of Israel until they stop their on-going crimes of ethic cleansing, colonization and apartheid.

  11. I support this proposal to require accountability and contracts toward Peace and Freedom
    as a condition to our aid to Israel.

  12. I stand in solidarity with those that work for peace and tolerance. The mother of a good friend of mine was evicted, along with her family, from their family house in Akra, Palestine. The fact that these Rabbis felt the calling to undergo such a brave and important feat is a testament to their wish for world peace.

  13. Pingback: RESPONSE TO KAIROS PALESTINE: “The Letter of 15” and the use of U.S. military aid by Israel in Palestine – Katherine Cunningham | Ecclesio.com

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