Letter to the Conference of Presidents

7/28/14

Stop the war on Gaza. End the Occupation. Freedom and dignity for all.

Dear Mr. Hoenlein,

We are here to demand that the Conference of Presidents join our call to stop the war on Gaza, end the occupation, and forge a path towards freedom and dignity for all in Israel and Palestine.

We are witnessing Israel’s third military operation in the Gaza strip in the past six years. We are alarmed and horrified by the death and destruction being committed in our name. This is a moment of truth for the Jewish community, a moment that demands action. Hillel, the Jewish sage of the 1st century, posed three questions that ring out across millennia. We come together to answer Hillel’s call.

If we are not for ourselves, who will be for us?

We are Jews who live our Judaism in diverse ways. Our tradition compels us to a particular commitment, born of shared texts and a shared history, to the notion that every human being is valuable, and that all people deserve freedom and the opportunity to forge their own future. Our own history of oppression has taught us that our freedom cannot be achieved absent the freedom of our neighbors.

If we are only for ourselves, who are we?

As we were dehumanized by the oppression we faced, we are now dehumanized by the oppression we are inflicting. The military campaign of recent weeks offers a brutal reminder that Jewish liberation cannot and will not be complete so long as Palestinians are not also free.

So long as the Jewish people are caught in an endless cycle of violence, we are not safe. So long as the Jewish people occupy and rule over another by the force of military might, we are not secure. So long as families in Sderot and Tel Aviv run to bomb shelters, we are not free. So long as Israelis demonstrating for peace are attacked by mobs who claim to share our tradition but chant “death to Arabs, death to leftists” we have not achieved dignity. So long as young Israeli men and women are sent into battle every two years, to kill and be killed, we are not liberated.

We grieve for those who have died. Over 1034 Palestinians, and 42 Israelis, to date.

As we grieve, we are outraged. Outraged that so many speak of Palestinians as if their lives were worth less than our own, outraged at the justifications offered for the killing of so many. And outraged at those who have missed opportunities to stop this nightmare, and have resigned themselves, and their country, and their people, to perpetual occupation and violence.

If not now, when?

We reject the view that “we have no choice,” that this violence is necessary and inevitable. We act because too many in our community endorse this dangerous view in our name. In a moment that demands courage and foresight, too many abdicate responsibility. We come together to say — enough. Too many lives have been lost.

Today, we visit the office of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, which claims to represent us. It does not. We will recite the Mourner’s Kaddish for those who have died over the last weeks, we will consecrate their memory by reading their names, and we will call on the representatives of our community to join us as we demand an end the war on Gaza, an end to occupation, and freedom and dignity for all people of the region.

Join with us. Stop the war on Gaza. End the Occupation. Freedom and Dignity for all.

If not now, when?