More than 600 rabbis, cantors and seminary students from across the country have signed on to a public letter warning that the Israeli government’s threatened unilateral annexation in the West Bank “would be a catastrophic mistake…violate human rights, weaken democracy, and make Israelis and Palestinians less secure.”
The letter, signed by clergy representing the entire range of the Jewish community, including the Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist and Renewal movements, is just the latest demonstration of the American Jewish community’s overwhelming opposition to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s West Bank annexation plan, which could move forward as early as July 1. It was organized by the Progressive Israel Network, a coalition of ten progressive pro-Israel groups.
“[Annexation] gambles with long-established peace agreements in exchange for enacting a messianist and ultra-nationalist fantasy that violates Jewish values of dignity for every human being, legal equality for all people, and the commitment to pursuing peace,” the clergy members write. “Such a move will also drive more and more young people in Jewish communities away from Israel, as the most visible expressions of Zionism become ever more divorced from the principles of democracy and neighborliness expressed in Israel’s Declaration of Independence.”
The letter builds on the nearly across-the-board public opposition to annexation from major Jewish organizations including the Anti-Defamation League, the National Council of Jewish Women, Reconstructing Judaism, the Union for Reform Judaism, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and many others. A regularly-updated list of communal statements can be found here.
Jewish student activists are also joining this chorus. A newly-released letter encouraging the entire Jewish community to oppose annexation, organized by J Street U, has been signed by over 225 Jewish campus leaders — including many leaders of local Hillels. The writers observe that “as Hillel presidents and board members, leaders of pro-Israel groups, minyan leaders, and others who are devoted to Jewish life on campus and beyond, our Jewish values and our commitment to Israel’s future compel us to speak out.”
“The fact that such a wide range of Jewish clergy, communal organizations and campus leaders are speaking out in unified opposition to annexation shows just how dangerous and extreme Netanyahu’s plan is,” said Shaina Wasserman, National Director of Rabbinic and Community Engagement at J Street. “While doing tremendous damage to the future of Israel and the rights of Palestinians, annexation would seriously harm the relationship between Israel and American Jews.”