Tell Malcolm Hoenlein: Denounce settler pogroms

December 15th, 2008

Prime Minister Olmert's description of the recent violent riot of Jewish settlers through Palestinian areas of the West Bank city of Hebron as a "pogrom" [1] is both powerful and disturbing.

While many American Jewish organizations denounced the extremist settlers' actions - there was one notable omission: the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the self-proclaimed "central coordinating body for American Jewry." [2]

Despite public calls for a statement on the settlers' actions, the Conference, and its leader Malcolm Hoenlein, have refused. It's time to make our voices heard, particularly with other provocative settler actions and marches in the works.

Click here to demand that the Conference of Presidents condemn the violent settler riots in Hebron.

What the settlers did was shocking. They shot two Palestinians, burned fields and homes, assaulted Israeli soldiers, and defaced Muslim graves. [3]

Israel's political leadership - Defense Minister Ehud Barak, outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni - have denounced the violence and the extremist settlers' disregard for the rule of law in the strongest possible terms.

American Jews have a real obligation to speak out on settler extremism. Because, while mainstream Israelis recognize the necessity of reining in the settler movement, a large part of the money supporting the settlers' presence in Hebron is coming from right here in America. The Brooklyn-based Hebron Fund, for instance, has raised at least $6.6 million since 2002 to support the extremist Jewish community in Hebron [4] - and is actively undermining the possibility of a two-state solution with the Palestinians.

American friends of Israel must not only condemn Palestinian terrorism and vile threats from Iran, we must also speak out against extremist settler violence. The settler movement and settlement construction poses an existential threat to Israel's survival as a Jewish and democratic state.

Too often, the American Jewish community turns a blind eye to the damage being done with funds and support raised here that propel the settlers and their destructive agenda.

That's why the American Jewish community must send a strong and unified message on settler violence in the West Bank. The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations should be silent no longer. It's time for Malcolm Hoenlein and the Conference to condemn the recent violence in Hebron.

Click here to send a message to Malcolm Hoenlein right now and demand that he condemn the settler violence in Hebron.

This isn't the first time that Malcolm Hoenlein has misrepresented American Jewry from his post at the Conference of Presidents.

In September, Hoenlein and others invited Sarah Palin to speak at an Iran Unity rally for the American Jewish Community. After intense pressure from many (including J Street) who cringed at the idea of Sarah Palin speaking to American Jews on Iran, Hoenlein and the rally organizers disinvited Sarah Palin. [5]

Sarah Palin was stopped from speaking at the Iran Unity rally in part because we gathered tens of thousands of petition signatures within 24 hours. Grassroots pressure works - and that's why we want to turn up the heat.

Please take a moment to send a message to Malcolm Hoenlein and spread the word to your family and friends.

[1] "Israeli PM: Settlers' actions tantamount to 'pogrom'," by Shira Medding. CNN, December 7, 2008.
[2] "About the Conference." Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations Website, accessed December 15.
[3] "Israel braces for settler violence in wake of Hebron house evacuation," by Nadav Shragai and Amos Harel. Haaretz, May 12, 2008.
[4] "Tax Form 990," submitted by Hebron Fund Inc. Guidestar (requires registration). 2006.
[5] "Palin disinvited from Iran rally," by Ben Smith. Politico, September 18, 2008.