Press Release: Jewish Voice for Peace urges Jewish leaders to denounce Israel's increasing violations of human rights and dignity.

From Jewish Voice for Peace
Friday May 28, 2010 - 10:59:00 AM

In just 24 hours, over 3,000 sign open letter to Abe Foxman, David Harris and Marvin Hier 

[San Francisco, May 28, 2010] National peace group Jewish Voice for Peace is taking its call for equality and freedom for Israelis and Palestinians directly to the leaders of the American Jewish community. Appalled by a dramatic increase in the Israeli government's anti-democratic actions against both Palestinians and Israeli citizens, combined with silence from Jewish leaders, Jewish Voice for Peace urges its supporters to sign an open letter addressed to the heads of leading Jewish human rights organizations: Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, David Harris of the American Jewish Committee,and Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.  

The action is already JVP's most successful ever with over 3,000 signatures in just 24 hours. 

JVP launched the campaign on May 27 with a letter from Deputy Director Cecilie Surasky saying: 

These Jewish organizations came into existence at a time when my family - and so many others - needed them desperately,and their contributions and achievements on behalf of Jews and non-Jews made me proud.But times have changed, and the missions of these groups have changed. All too often, advocacy for universal human rights has taken a back seat to their belief that they must support the Israeli government unconditionally.

For example, as I write this, it has been22 days since Israeli citizen and human rights activist Ameer Makhoul was brutally taken from his home in the middle of the night,held without charges, denied a lawyer for 12 days, and most certainly tortured.All under cover of an Israeli media gag order.Regardless of the charges against him, which were only announced today, it is hard to imagine these groups remaining silent in the face of such outrageous repression in a modern democracy. Especially against an Israeli citizen.

Yet they say nothing. The pattern is not new.

It is painful for me to say that today these organizations - organizations with such a proud history of civil and human rights - for many of us have come to stand for the exact opposite. Sadly, I now find myself opposed to the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, and the Simon Wiesenthal Center for dismissing criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic, for putting Israeli foreign policy above Armenian genocide recognition, for vilifying Muslims and Arabs, and for building a "Museum of Tolerance" on top of a Muslim cemetery in Jerusalem.  

Jesse Bacon, editor of JVP's blog The Only Democracy? said : 

"Since we started ourblogin March,documenting the struggle for democracy in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, things have gotten steadily worse. Every day brings news of another midnight raid, torture, and detention without charge of another human rights activist. What's more, often these abuses can't even be reported on in Israel because of media gag orders.We're documenting increased crushing of non-violent protests, attempts to silence NGO's in the Knesset, and even the banning of international visitors simply because of their ideas. And yet American leaders who support Israel remain silent. Their silence in the face of increasing government repression serves no one, least of all Israelis and Jews."  

The campaign will also include call-in days and other attempts to bring the message to leaders until they speak out against these human rights abuses. Because they still have the ear of high level Israeli officials, JVP believes their words could make an impact. 

About JVP: 

Jewish Voice for Peace is the only national Jewish organization that provides a voice for Jews and allies who believe that peace in the Middle East will be achieved through justice and full equality for both Palestinians and Israelis. With offices in New York and California, 100,000 online activists, chapters across the country and an advisory board comprised of numerous prominent Jewish thinkers and artists, JVP supports nonviolent efforts here and in Israel-Palestine to end Israel’s Occupation, expand human and civil rights, and implement a US policy based on international law and democracy. JVP opposes anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim, and anti-Arab bigotry and oppression and seeks an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem . 

Full Text of the Open Letter  


An Open Letter to the leaders of the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Congress, and the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Dear Abe Foxman, David Harris, and Rabbi Marvin Hier:

As leaders of major Jewish organizations that defend human rights, democratic values and civil rights for all, you have rightly and vigorously condemned repression where it occurs around the world.

That’s why your silence as Israel becomes more and more repressive each day deeply concerns us.

As Israel uses anti-democratic tactics against Palestinians and increasingly, its own citizens, what will you do to stop it?

Will you remain quiet while Israel rounds up its own citizens like Dr. Omar Said and Ameer Makhoul(1), who was arrested in the middle of the night in front of his children, held without charges, denied a lawyer for 12 days, tortured, and then disappeared under a strict media gag order which was partially lifted after widespread protest?

Will you say nothing about the arrests of Palestinian nonviolent leaders like Omar Alaaeddin(2) and Abdallah Abu Rahmah(3); the lethal shooting with tear gas canisters of people like Bassem Abu Rahmah(4); the incarceration of Israeli Jewish nonviolent leaders like Ezra Nawi(5); and harassment of the members of Israeli peace groups like New Profile(6)?

Will you stand by and allow legislation(7) to criminalize the human rights organizations that are the best representatives of Israeli democracy?

We call on you to speak out against the repression of the civil and democratic rights of Palestinians and Israelis. We ask you to call for an end to the crackdown on nonviolent human rights activists and organizations, both in Israel and in the Occupied Territories.

We are Jews and Muslims, Americans and Israelis, Christians and atheists, parents and grandparents. We are united by our belief that all people deserve equality and freedom. And like you, we each have a personal stake in a peaceful future for Israelis and Palestinians.

We ask you to heed the words of Elie Wiesel who said, "We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented."

We are waiting.

(1) Ameer Makhoul is the director of "Ittijah," the network of Arab NGOs in Israel, and a human rights activist. Were a civil society leader representing a minority group in a democratic state to be arrested and tortured by his own government in any other state, we would count on our Jewish organizations to protest.  

(2) Omar Alaaedine's arrest and torture.
(3) Abdallah Abu Rahmah's Letter From Ofer Jail./
(4) Bassem Abu Rahmah's shooting.
(5) Ezra Nawi's Website.  

(6) New Profile's letter about their harrassment

(7) Adalah on the proposed legislation to restrict NGO's.