Im ein ani li, mi li?

If I am not for myself, who will be for me?

We in Israel are living in fear and pain. Every day creates a new drama of loss, as Palestinian suicide bombers enter our buses, our hotels, our restaurants, our supermarkets, our homes. Israelis should not and cannot live under constant threat in their own country.

As human rights activists, we want to reiterate that the killing of innocent civilians is the most extreme violation of human rights. We are outraged at the Passover massacre of Israelis in Netanya and the ther murderous attacks on Israelis by Palestinian terrorists that have taken place over recent weeks and months. We ask human rights organizations and people of good will around the world to join us in our utter condemnation of these attacks on innocent civilians. We call upon our fellow Jews to stand with the people of Israel at this time, empathizing with those families who have been decimated by Palestinian terrorism and with those families who have sent their sons, husbands, and fathers to combat it. We ask that they concern themselves with the body of Israel, as well as its soul.

U'che'she'ani l'atzmi, ma ani?

If I am only for myself, what am I?

Standing with Israel requires concern for her moral, as well as her physical well being. We cannot let our moral humanity be compromised, no matter how threatened we are. The need to defend ourselves is both real and necessary.

However, we in Israel must never use the lowest common denominator as a yardstick to measure our behavior or justify our actions. In order to maintain our self-respect as Jews, we must preserve our moral dignity, without which our fight for protection from terror would be diminished.

We are told: "Justice, justice, you shall pursue" (Deuteronomy 16:20). Why is the word justice said twice? Because, according to our tradition, one is to pursue a just cause by just means. In defending ourselves, we must always hold on to the prophetic vision of decency and humanity. The survival of the Jewish people will be determined not only by its physical acumen, but also, by its moral steadfastness.

We remain deeply committed to seeking reconciliation with our Palestinian neighbors, and believe that a just peace can and must be pursued.

Im lo achshav, eimatai?

If not now, when?

We of Rabbis for Human Rights feel compelled to speak out, along with other Israeli human rights organizations, to call on our government to cease violations of Palestinian human rights, even in times of war. We are aware that many soldiers are taking personal risks in order to avoid civilian casualties. Yet we are also aware that human rights violations are taking place. Some acts are the aberrant behavior of individuals, but others are a matter of official policy. While the limitations placed on human rights workers by Israeli security forces limit our ability to provide our usual standards of documentation, we are aware of or have good reason to believe that the human rights violations and forms of collective punishment include:

 

- denial of access to medical care for the injured, the seriously ill, and women in labor

- demolition of homes

- disruption of the supply of water, food and medicines from large portions of the civilian population.

- looting and wanton destruction of property

- torture of detainees

- shooting and, in some cases, killing innocent civilians and medical workers (sometimes simply for violating a 24 hour curfew)

As members of Rabbis for Human Rights:

We call upon our government to give clear instructions to the army that these sorts of actions will not be tolerated, no matter how extreme the situation in which our soldiers find themselves.

We call upon our government to end the limitations placed upon the press and to cease attacks on Palestinian human rights groups.

We call upon these very same Palestinian human rights groups to condemn suicide bombings, and the continual murderous attacks on Israeli civilians -- without qualification. We call upon Palestinian Christian and Moslem clergy to decry such actions from their mosques and churches.

We welcome a joint Palestinian-Israeli declaration condemning violent actions and human rights violations on all sides.

We call upon all people of conscience to condemn, in the clearest language possible, the anti-Semitic attacks carried out against Jews and their institutions outside of Israel's borders.

We rededicate ourselves to continuing to work and pray for a better future. Our tears cannot become so bitter that we are blinded to the Jewish passion for peace, as articulated at the end of our sacred mourning prayer, the Kaddish: "God who makes peace in the heavens will bring peace upon us and all of Israel." We face Jerusalem three times daily and pray for peace -- a peace for all who live here: Jews, Christians and Moslems; Israelis and Palestinians.

We urge all peoples, their governments and their respective leaders to work diligently to achieve that peace.

For more information contact:

Rabbi Arik Asherman Or Rabbi Brian Walt

Rabbis for Human Rights Israel Rabbis for Human Rights North America

2 Yitzhack Elhanan St 4101 Freeland Ave