Thursday, March 22, 2007

Iran Watch: Tehran Willies

George W. Bush may have gotten a thumpin’ in November’s midterm elections, but there are signs that the Bourbons in and around the White House have forgotten nothing and learned nothing from their Iraq quagmire, and have now set their sights on Iran. Chief among this clueless crowd are their cheerleaders among our domestic neocons and their extreme hard-right Israeli acolytes who are now beating their war drums for the U.S. to make the same mistake all over again.

Exhibit A. Joshua Muravchik’s article in the November/December issue of Foreign Policy entitled “Operation Comeback,” which is cast in the form of a memo “To: My Fellow Neoconservatives” about “How to Save the Neocons.”

Early on, Muravchik, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, acknowledges that both the Bush administration and the neocons “were glib about how Iraqis would greet liberation.” But nothing, it seems, is capable of defeating neocon hubris. Rather than finding that experience a reason to display greater humility — much less to call for scaling back or pulling out of Iraq — he’s off to launch the next war.

“Make no mistake,” Muravchik half prophesies, half prescribes, “President Bush will need to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities before leaving office . . . Even if things in Iraq get better, a nuclear-armed Iran will negate any progress there.” And what role should neoconservatism’s armchair generals play in preparing for Armageddon? Enlist their sons and daughters in the military? Nah. Cheerlead from the sidelines, as they have always done, of course: “We need to pave the way intellectually now and be prepared to defend the action when it comes.”

Neocons pride themselves on being “realists,” no matter how cold-blooded and crackpot their so-called “realism” may be, and so Muravchik seems almost rational when compared with his Israeli counterparts. Take for example Exhibit B: Michael Freund, an aide to former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose essay, “A Faith-Based Appeal to President Bush,” appeared in New York’s Jewish Press on Nov. 1.

Writing to the Decider as “one man of faith to another,” Freund apparently figures that an administration given to faith-based science and faith-based economics might just as easily adopt a faith-based foreign policy, too.

“I appeal to you now . . . ,” Freund wrote, “please strike Iran hard with military force, and dismantle their nuclear weapons program before it is too late.

“I know you believe, as I do, that God guides the destiny of men and of nations. And I know you believe, just as I do, that He raised you up to the helms of power precisely at this critical period, to serve as His agent and His instrument in this world.”

After advising “God’s agent” not to pay attention to “the opinion-mongers at The New York Times,” Freund reassures “His instrument”: “The one and only verdict — the one that really, truly counts — is the one penned in Heaven, by He Who gave each of us life. It is to Him, and Him alone, that we will all have to answer. . .

“Remember the promise that God made to Abraham in Genesis chap. 12: ‘I will bless those that bless you, and those that curse you I shall curse.’

“Note that when it comes to standing with Israel and the Jewish people, there is no middle ground. God delineates two categories and two categories only: those who bless Israel and those who curse it.”

Freund, however, need not worry — if Seymour Hersh’s article, “The Next Act,” in The New Yorker’s Nov. 17 issue is accurate. Heeding the adage that God helps those who help themselves, Israel apparently is up to its elbows in “helping” the Bush administration with Iran.
Item: Hersh reports that Israel is providing a Kurdish resistance group with “equipment and training” to make undercover raids into Iran (though, he notes, Jerusalem denies any involvement).

Item: Israeli personnel have cooperated with U.S. counterparts to station radiation-detection equipment close to Iranian sites suspected of producing nuclear-weapons components (though no appreciable radioactivity has been detected).

Item: Last summer Israel passed along a report that its agents operating in Iran had determined that the Iranians had produced and tested a device to trigger a nuclear explosion.
A former U.S. intelligence officer told Hersh that the Israeli tip, though sensational, was unverifiable: “We don’t know who the Israeli source is . . . there are no diagrams, no significant facts. Where is the test site?”

Nonetheless, the former official noted, hardliners within the White House latched onto the Israeli report as proving “the White House’s theory that the Iranians are on track” in developing a nuclear weapon.

But by far the most revealing insight contained in Hersh’s article is a quote from Ephraim Sneh, Israel’s deputy defense minister, who in November acknowledged to the Jerusalem Post that the greatest threat Israel faces at the moment is Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s mouth, rather than Iran’s nuclear development program. Said Sneh (quoting from Hersh):

“The danger isn’t so much Ahmadinejad’s deciding to launch an attack but Israel’s living under a cloud of fear from a leader committed to its destruction. . . . Most Israelis would prefer not to live here; most Jews would prefer not to come here with families, and Israelis who can live abroad will . . . I am afraid Ahmadinejad will be able to kill the Zionist dream without pushing a button. That’s why we must prevent this regime from obtaining nuclear capability at all costs.”

In 2003, the Bush administration stampeded Congress and compliant mainstream news media into going to war with Iraq after Colin Powell flashed photos of “mobile WMD laboratories” to the UN General Assembly. When the US military finally caught up with those “laboratories,” they turned out to be trailers — the kind that could have been shipped back to the States and retrofitted to provide housing in New Orleans for homeless refugees from Hurricane Katrina.

What the Bush administration, the neocons and jittery Israelis will never acknowledge, and what all too many American seem only vaguely to remember, is that there were no weapons of mass destruction in those trailers because Saddam Hussein had dismantled whatever WMD programs he’d had under the grinding pressure of a decade of internationally imposed economic sanctions.
True, the sanctions regime was porous, subject to corruption on the part of many of those nations that signed on to restrict or forbid trade with Iraq, and took a heavy toll on ordinary Iraqis. But it worked. Neocons and Israeli hardliners will never acknowledge this last fact because their worldviews are at once simplistic and apocalyptic.

If Iran produces a bomb, it could be a real danger to regional and world peace, given the regime currently ruling that nation. But before the U.S. or anyone else decides to launch another war in order to respond to that possibility, we would do well to remember — and to remind the White House and Congress — that nonviolence, in the form of sanctions, made it unnecessary to go to war with Iraq to dismantle its weapons program. And that the only thing we have accomplished by going to war in Iraq is to make this troubled world a more dangerous place.

— Adam Simms

Passover 5767: JPF Dares to Dream

The miracles that are recounted in the book of Exodus cannot be understated. I’m not talking about the plagues and the walls of water. Rather, as the book opens, the very idea of an Israelite people mobilized to leave Egyptian bondage seems like a laughable long shot.

After all, everybody is actively working against Heaven’s plan. Pharaoh struts easily across the world stage, believing himself divine. Moses the prophet is blocked in speech and in spirit, refusing his mantle of leadership. And the Israelites suffer that most dread of maladies, the “slave mentality.” They have given up hope of ever being anything than what they believe themselves to be — born slaves.

In a few chapters, though, everything is turned upside-down. As Passover approaches, it is vital for us to remember that the Exodus is a defining moment in history not just for Jews, but for the universe. It demonstrates that any and all present realities can be overturned and overcome. It stands as an eternal reminder that the way things are is not the way they must remain.

To the lowly Hebrew slaves, Egyptian power — with its technological prowess and military might — must have looked insurmountable. But slowly, the doubt and reluctance that had previously characterized the house of Israel dissipate. The established order crumbles.
So too with us. Dismayed by misery created by our government in two countries, with an assault threatened on a third, it may seem hopeless to us to work for peace. As with the doubtful and cynical Israelites, those of who look for liberation from violence are often demonized by our own people, condemned for daring to dream of liberation.

Still, today, the JPF dares to dream.

I have been asked to help the leaders of this storied organization move into the future as co-chair. I am humbled to stand on the shoulders of giants. But the time is short.

We must come together, bound by our belief in redemption. Your continued support of JPF is vital. Despite our spirit, our financial needs remain great. Among them:

• JPF is in need of an updated computer system. This is a substantial investment for our humble organization.

• We need a Moses or two. JPF cannot exist long-term without organizers. These should be paid, professional staff persons.

• We are taught that those who enter the Promised Land are the young, those who are born as free people in the wilderness. JPF must engage college students, who possess the passion and energy to do this holy work. Campus initiatives, too, need funding.

If you wish that your contributions be earmarked for one or more of these tasks, please direct us to do so. Alternately, I ask you: What else do we need to get out of the bondage of perpetual war and violence? I look to our members, old and new, to be part of this vital discussion. Please contact me to discuss your ideas, passions, hopes and wishes for the JPF.

May we make this miraculous vision a reality. And may we, together, cross the sea on dry land, marching arm-in-arm.

— Rabbi Michael Rothbaum

Friday, March 16, 2007

Obama’s “AIPAC problem”

The title of a Mar. 13 post on Ben Smith’s Politico blog caught our eye: “Obama’s Jewish Problem.

And just what is Barak Obama’s “Jewish problem”?

It turns out that if the junior US senator from Illinois has one, it is with AIPAC — the American Israel Public Affairs Committee — and not with American Jews in general.

According to Smith, David Adelman, a Des Moines attorney — and AIPAC member — released a letter to the senator in which he said that he found it “deeply troubling” that Obama, a Democratic presidential nomination hopeful, was reported to have told the Des Moines Register’s editorial board, in the course of describing his support for measures to loosen restrictions on US humanitarian aid to the Palestinians, that “nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people.”

And — surprise! surprise! — AIPAC just happens to have adopted a measure at its annual policy conclave this week that calls on the Senate to stiffen sanctions against the Palestinian Authority.

Ben Smith, savvy blogger though he may be, does neither his readers nor American political discourse any favors when he conflates “AIPAC” with “Jewish.”

Yes, AIPAC’s support base consists mainly of American Jews (though note that Pastor John Hagee, an evangelical Protestant minister in San Antonio and head of Christians United for Israel, was one of its conclave’s headliners).

But no, AIPAC does not by any means represent or speak for the opinions and preferences of American Jews.

That was made clear the following day — but only if you were paying close attention — when JTA reported that the liberal Zionist group Ameinu (formerly, the Labor Zionist Alliance) had blasted AIPAC for adopting “radically hawkish positions” at its gathering.

And Ameinu can’t be dismissed as some fringe element on the American Jewish scene: it is a member organization that has a representative on AIPAC’s executive committee.

Ameinu’s president Kenneth Bob outlined his organization’s critique:

AIPAC, which presents itself as ‘THE pro-Israel lobby’ representing the entire American Jewish community, has now adopted highly partisan new policies on the pursuit of Palestinian-Israeli peace,” Bob said. “The new approach aligns AIPAC more closely with neoconservatives, placing it in sharp opposition both to the Bush administration and the Israeli government.

Nor is Ameinu alone among organizations representing American Jews whose analyses of Middle East matters don’t toe AIPAC’s neocon line.

Americans for Peace Now (APN) has launched an action alert urging supporters to contact US senators and ask them to refuse to sign a letter being circulated by AIPAC that calls for a continued US boycott of the Palestinian Authority until it meets a set of preconditions: renouncing terrorism, recognizing Israel and accepting past agreements with the Jewish state.

On the face of it, AIPAC’s call appears reasonable. But as APN’s alert notes:

This cleverly-crafted “ask” is not about maintaining the current U.S. policy, but rather expanding it in a manner that is clearly inconsistent with the best interests of both Israel and the United States.

With this “ask,” Senators will be on the record urging the Administration to cut off all contact with President Abbas and any other Fatah members (or independents) that become part of a future Palestinian national unity government. Once Members of Congress are “on record” with this demand, they will find it difficult to oppose efforts to turn this non-binding letter into law.

At a time when there is growing recognition in Congress that engagement — even with imperfect or objectionable partners — is vital to U.S. national security interests in the Middle East and around the world, it makes no sense for the Senate to urge a wholesale U.S. boycott of contacts with longtime Palestinian interlocutors who recognize Israel, reject violence and terror, and are clearly committed to trying to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace based on two states living side by side in peace and with security.

So when Ben Smith and other political observers write about “Obama’s Jewish Problem,” they’ve got it wrong. Obama doesn’t have a “Jewish” problem — he has an AIPAC problem.

And so do the vast majority of American Jews who, despite more than 30 years of seeing their mainstream organizations hijacked by neocon hardliners, steadfastly continue their refusal to fall in line and remain steadfast liberals.

David Gradis

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Cheney mugs AIPAC — and American Jews

A Gallup poll released last month found that 77 percent of American Jews believe US military involvement in Iraq was a mistake from the get-go. (See our post of Feb. 28, “US Jews toughest foes of Iraq war.”)

Those findings, set against events emanating from this week’s annual policy conclave of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in Washington, DC, throw into stark relief the radical disconnect between American Jews and the people who claim to be our “leaders.”

And a strange style of “leadership” it is, too — one that “leads” by toadying to powers-that-be.

For those who play the game, it is exhilarating to hobnob with the real movers and shakers, bask in their reflected glory and delude yourself that, in a democracy, they do your bidding. Until, that is, they demand that you do their bidding.

So it was that AIPAC invited Vice President Richard Cheney to lend some luster to their Monday session. To all outward appearances, it probably looked to the AIPACers like a perfect fit: AIPAC favors a hard line toward the Palestinians and Iran, and the vice president is the hardest of hardliners in the Bush administration.

AIPAC undoubtedly expected a love fest. What it got instead was a dose of the veep’s well-practiced menace.

It is simply not consistent,” he intoned, “for anyone to demand aggressive action against the menace that is posed by the Iranian regime while at the same time acquiescing in a retreat from Iraq that would leave Israel’s best friend, the United States, dangerously weakened.

Translation: You want us to protect Israel from Iran? Fine. Quid pro quo: support us on Iraq.

An editorial in the Forward’s March 16 edition clearly and forcefully dissects the threats inherent in Cheney’s message:

… Cheney was telling the Jewish community that the war in Iraq had been launched and fought in considerable measure for their benefit and Israel’s. That’s precisely the message that Israel’s worst enemies have been peddling for the past four years as America’s blood and treasure have been poured wastefully down the sinkhole of a misconceived and unwinnable war. It was a lie then, and it is a lie now. And now he seems to be casting Iran in the same light: as the Jews’ war.

… It is not the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq that threatens disaster to the United States and the entire Middle East. The disaster is already here; it was precipitated by the entry of American troops into Iraq. The American-led invasion turned Iraq from a dreary dictatorship into a maelstrom of communal violence and a breeding ground of terrorism. The toppling of the tin-pot tyrant Saddam Hussein removed Iran’s worst enemy, unleashing the Islamic Republic as a regional superpower. The continuing presence of American troops as unwanted occupiers in the fabled city of Baghdad is inflaming rage in the streets throughout the Muslim world, putting Americans and Israelis alike at greater risk than ever.

The burning question for America and its allies in the region, Muslim and Jewish alike, is how to end the nightmare of the Iraq quagmire as quickly as possible, with the least damage to the torn fabric of civilization.

— David Gradis

Sunday, March 11, 2007

JPF joins March 19 Seattle march to end Iraq war


Jewish Peace Fellowship is one of 60+ organizations endorsing activities taking place in Seattle, Wash., on March 19, in conjunction with other local activities around the fourth anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq.

It is many years since the JPF banner has been seen in Seattle. This is momentous for Jewish activists here, who want to be known as Jews in pursuit of peace and justice, and all the more so with reference to the Iraq War, since so many Jewish organizations both locally and nationally have not joined in public opposition to this war.

I look forward to being more active with JPF locally, as I am sure do many others. I think it would be of interest to other members of JPF to know more about other local JPF activities.

For justice and reconciliation,
Shulamit Decktor

= • = • = • =


The results of this war

• Over 600,000 Iraqis dead.

• More than 3,000 U.S. service people killed.

• A world unable to marshal its resources to address pressing issues such as poverty, hunger and disease, or to face up to the imminent threat of global warming.

• Over $10.4 billion has been diverted from Washington State
(this means less for education, health care, housing and social services).

• Almost one billion dollars has been diverted from Seattle.

Looking for a different future

With resources from the people of Seattle that have been expended on this war, we could have provided four years of free health coverage for every uninsured child in the state, and granted a four-year university scholarship to every student who has graduated from a Seattle high school since the war began, and paid four years of salary for 1,500 additional public school teachers, and had money left over to provide 1,500 affordable housing units to deserving families.

Redirect war funding! Let's spend these next four years preparing a better future!

From the ground up…

Help convince the Seattle City Council and King County Council to pass anti-war resolutions that recognize the devastating effects war has had on our local communities. We are asking the City and County Council in turn to pressure our representatives in Congress to end the war in Iraq and bring the troops home.

Join us —3 PM, March 19

At the Federal Courthouse, 700 Stewart St

We will be marching to City Hall, where an anti-war resolution is under consideration, then on to the Federal Building, joining others in condemnation of the war and demanding an end to war funding.

info at, or phone 789-2684

Partial List of endorsers: Allyship, American Federation of Government Employees Local 3937, American Friends Service Committee, American Muslims of Puget Sound, Capitol Hill Neighbors for Peace and Justice, Cedar Tree Architects, Cloud City Construction, Church Council of Greater Seattle, El Comite Pro Amnistia General y Justica Social, Freedom Socialist Party, Green Party of Seattle, IBU Puget Sound Region, IBU R.37, International Socialist Organization, Jewish Peace Fellowship, L.D. Brown Framing, Legacy of Equality Leadership and Organizing, Lutheran Peace Fellowship, Lutheran Public Policy Office of Washington State, Mothers for Police Accountability, Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Committee, MLK Jr. County Labor Council, North Seattle Neighbors for Peace and Justice, Northwest Artisans, Not a Number Cards and Gifts, Okanogan Highlands Bottling Company, Peace Action, Peace and Justice Resource Center, Pride at Work (AFL-CIO), Radical Women, Rauschenbusch Center for Spirit and Action, Reclaim the Media, Seattle Fellowship of Reconciliation, Seattle Gay News, Seattle Peace Heathens, Seattle Women in Black, Seattle Young People's Project, SNOWFremont, Sound Nonviolent Opponents of War, Southend Neighbors for Peace and Justice, Thirty-sixth District Democrats, Trikkon NW, Troops Home Now Coalition, United Indians of all Tribes Foundation, University Unitarian Church, Urban Press, US Women and Cuba Collaboration, Veterans for Peace Chapter 92, Washington Association of Churches, Washington State Jobs with Justice, West Seattle Neighbors for Peace and Justice, Western Washington Fellowship of Reconciliation.

Is Syria next for Bush’s WMD treatment?

The following item is circulating care of something called Middle East Newsline. This excerpt from an undated dispatch was forwarded by Middle East Web.

Given the U.S. Department of Defense's recent history of “piping” and “cherry-picking” intelligence to support outcomes the Bush administration desires, perhaps it deserves to be treated with skepticism — a case of the boy who cried “Wolfowitz.”


WASHINGTON [MENL] — Syria has advanced in efforts to produce biological missile warheads.

The U.S. intelligence community has determined that the regime of President Bashar Assad was developing an infrastructure for biological weapons production. Officials said Assad has advanced the BW program through help from China and North Korea.

“Syria’s biotechnical infrastructure is capable of supporting limited biological agent development,” Defense Intelligence Agency director Michael Maples said. “DIA assesses Syria has a program to develop select biological agents.”

Maples said Syria has sought to install biological and chemical warheads on its missile arsenal. He said the programs were meant to deter Israel’s conventional force superiority.
Barnett Axelrad

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Iraq War: Profiles in timidity

While the Union for Reform Judaism’s leadership is proposing to take a stand against the Iraq war (see the post below), the rest of American Jewry’s mainstream organizations are having a hard time finding their tongues — much less their nether parts.

The Jewish Council on Public Affairs [JCPA] held its annual policymaking plenary session in Washington, D.C. from Feb. 24–27, and managed to discuss Iran and Syria. But somehow the delegates — who represent the major synagogue movements, the major “defense” organizations, and 122 local Jewish federation community-relations councils — never got around to addressing the war in Iraq.

Oh, wait. We take that back.

The Forward’s Nathan Gutman, reporting in the March 2 edition (click {here} to read his article), noted that there was a debate on Iraq — a rump session that began after midnight, in the early hours of Feb. 27:

Of the hundreds of delegates that filled the room Monday for the lengthy debates and votes on resolutions earlier in the evening, fewer than 20 remained to discuss the Iraq War. Sitting around empty tables with half-full coffee cups and leftover doughnuts scattered on them, the few delegates with an interest in the issue attempted to conduct a late-night debate.

“This room was filled with people voting on nonsense, and then they all walked out,” yelled 79-year-old Robert Zweiman of the Jewish War Veterans organization when he stepped up to the microphone. Looking around at the empty hall, Zweiman asked: “Does that give you an indication of how important this is?”

The JCPA's executive director, Rabbi Steve Gutow, perplexed: “It is very odd that the organizations have not taken stands on Iraq.”

Where is Maimonides when you really need him?

Barnett Axelrad

Iraq War: RJC vs. URJ = Pee Wee vs. Arnold

On Monday, the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) leadership meets to consider a resolution calling for a “timetable for the phased and expeditious withdrawal of United States troops from Iraq” and comes down against the Bush administration’s “escalation” of U.S. troop strength there. The policy statement, however, doesn’t demand that Congress cut off funding for the war. [For more details, see our post of March 6.]

Nonetheless, the Republican Jewish Coalition [RJC] is shocked — shocked! — writes James D. Besser in the March 9 edition of the New York Jewish Week. (Click {here} to read his article.)

According to Besser, an RJC spokesman sputtered that the Reform movement is being “hijacked by politically motivated efforts to undermine the war on terrorism.

But Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, isn’t fazed. Recent polls, he notes, show American Jews overwhelmingly oppose the war [see our post of Feb. 28.], and two-thirds of non-Democratic Jews currently line up against the war.

Ira Forman, director of the NJC’s counterpart, the National Jewish Democratic Council, gets the prize for pith. “I don’t get it,” he says.

If you read the polls these guys don’t even represent the views of most Republican Jews. Now they are picking a fight with the largest Jewish denomination in America — it’s like Pee Wee Herman trying to pick a fist fight with Arnold Schwarzenegger.”

Barnett Axelrad

Friday, March 9, 2007

Pundits on parade

Ha’aretz correspondent Shmuel Rosner writes a monthly column in which Israel’s pundits sound off about “whom the consider to be the best [US] candidate for Israel.”

But quite rightly M. J. Rosenberg, director of the Israel Policy Forum’s Washington office, finds this offensive.

“[I]t smacks,” he writes in his March 9 on-line column — click {here} to read it in its entirety — “of a bunch of non-Americans telling Americans how to vote.”

Moreover, as Rosenberg points out, Rosner's pundit panel is wildly out of touch with American Jews’ political sentiments:

The flaws in Rosner’s poll come through loud and clear in his most recent results. The three candidates deemed “best for Israel” are Rudy Giuliani, John McCain and Newt Gingrich. All the Democratic contenders rate well below this top tier. Newt Gingrich! Newt is a significant political figure but I doubt that 5% of American Jews would choose him for President.

And, if history is any guide, when the November 2008 election comes around, American Jews are going to vote overwhelmingly Democratic for President, no matter which Democrat or Republican is the respective party’s nominee.

We know that because since 1928, Jewish voters have chosen the Democratic candidate, usually with at least 75% of the total vote. This is not because they believe Democrats to be more pro-Israel but because, on the wide array of issues facing the American people, they have been more comfortable with the Democrats than with the Republicans.
“Candidates who address American Jews as if their only concern is Israel are out of line,” Rosenberg concludes:
In fact, they cross the line between pandering and out-and-out insulting the Jewish community.

We do care about Israel, and deeply so. That is why we want to see Israel living at peace with the Palestinians. Those who think they will win our support by offering policies that promise Israel nothing but more war – while assuming that their positions on domestic issues are less important to us – will soon learn otherwise. This community has been called many things. “Stupid” is not among them.
Posted by Adam Simms

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Union for Reform Judaism considers a resolution on the war in Iraq

The Union for Reform Judaism’s Executive Committee has circulated to congregational rabbis and presidents an advance copy of a proposed resolution on the U.S. war in Iraq, which is scheduled to be considered on March 14. (A copy can be downloaded in the form of a Microsoft Word .doc file by clicking here.)

Though the URJ does not take a pacifist position with regard to war, the resolution's discussion of “Jewish Values Regarding Rules for War” provides persuasive ethical considerations for determining that U.S. military action in Iraq has been misbegotten from its start.

Here are some highlights of the resolution:

Noting that its reading of Jewish tradition “offers ethical analysis as to the causes justifying the use of force (‘just cause’),” the resolution notes:

Nonetheless, just because a government has a right to do something does not make what it does right — or wise. Further, meeting one just war norm does not justify the violation of others.

. . .

The halachah is clear about the need to pursue vigorously peaceful options before the use of force could be justified (Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Melachim 6:1). This was a requirement that the 2002 URJ Executive committee decision called for and one that the 9/11 Commission found we had failed to achieve.

. . .

In conclusion, our failure to pursue all reasonable alternatives to war, to mobilize the kind of broad-based international cooperation we had in the first Gulf War, the array of faulty justifications for war offered, the woeful lack of planning for the aftermath of the traditional warfare component of the war, the disgraceful failure to protect the civilian infrastructure (bal tashchit), the abuses of prisoners, the alarming devastation wrought on civilians — all these and more raise significant abuses and failures of Jewish just war standards.

The URJ’s proposed statement concludes with the following resolutions to:

1. Reaffirm the principles stated in the 2005 Resolution on the War in Iraq, particularly:

A. Commending our service women and men (and their families) who have answered duty's call and served our nations honorably…and support generous benefits for them;

B. Encouraging the involvement and support of the international community towards a working democratic Iraqi government and rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure;

C. Ensuring the United States government provides sufficient armor, supplies, and security for our troops through the completion of phased withdrawal;

D. Providing diligent congressional oversight of the war and related expenditures;

E. Ensuring that the financial burden of the war falls not just on the poor and on future generations, but be shared equitably;

F. Immediately begin the process of phased withdrawal of our troops from Iraq now that Iraqi Parliamentary elections have occurred; and

2. Call on President Bush to:

A. Clearly set and announce a timetable for the phased and expeditious withdrawal of United States troops from Iraq;

B. Include the estimated cost of the war in the annual budget request and not through emergency supplemental bills; and

3. Oppose an escalation in troop strength; and

4. Call upon the United States and Canadian governments and the international community to:

A. Encourage Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Malaki to resume reconciliation talks with the full range of Iraq's political leaders;

B. Actively support a dialogue between Iraq and all its neighbors, especially in regards to helping to stop civil strife and terrorism and helping finance Iraqi job programs and reconstruction.

— Posted by Adam Simms

“I am not prepared to ... set aside my convictions and fundamental approach to life”

Ruth Hiller, of the Israeli organization
New Profile, has kindly forwarded the text of Hadas Amit's request for exemption from military service on grounds of conscience — a statement that is as eloquent as it is plainspoken.

Israel makes no provision for conscientious objection to military service. As noted in our previous post of March 4 (below), Hadas Amit was recently sentenced to her fifth term in prison for refusing to serve in the armed forces.

Hadas Amit

October 2006

Re: Request for an exemption from military service on grounds of conscience

Dear Sir/Madam

By writing you this letter I want to let you know that I request an exemption from military service. I state hereby that I am not prepared to serve in any military organization and set aside my convictions and fundamental approach to life. Below is a signed statement, in compliance with your regulations.

If I were to be drafted into military service this would stand in absolute and total contradiction with my beliefs and my way of living which do not tolerate killing, violence, nationalism and destruction. I am not prepared to wear the uniform of an organization which is responsible for death and destruction and which acts in ways that are damaging to its surroundings. All countries, including Israel, should act in peaceful ways only, and when under attack they should refrain from returning fire. It is wrong, under any circumstances, those of Israel included, for a state to maintain an army which is trained for war and killing. Such an approach runs totally counter to any striving for peace and co-existence with our neighbors in the Middle East.

I am aware that I am writing this at a late stage. My enlistment date is 24 October, 2006. There are several reasons for my lateness, which I shall explain below. But this delay should not give you the wrong impression: I have objected to violence and to military activities from the very start. –even if, to begin with, I didn’t find the right words to express my thoughts.

No aim, under any circumstance, justifies acting harmfully toward human beings. Even when I was very young, I understood that violence is of no use and that the only solution is peace with those who surround you. I have always tried to be helpful and constructive, and I have never taken part in any violent activity.

I hope there is no need for me to explain why it isn’t right to use violence. After all, that’s a general and absolute principle: those who don’t believe in it should open their history books, or just get out into the street to see for themselves. Isn’t it obvious that violence is a base and barbaric way of behaving? That someone who lashes out does so from fear or weakness? That a healthy society is a society without violence? In no case, at no point in time, and in no language, is violence the way to solve a problem. Instead, it in fact creates problems and entrenches those that already existed more deeply.

I appeared for my first call-up towards enlistment in spite of my opposition to the very essence of the military. Even at that early stage, I expressed a deep lack of motivation, undermining the whole process repeatedly, so that they eventually arranged for me to see the mental health officer. My main dilemma, at the time, was whether it would be right for me not to serve in the army while all my friends did: wasn’t it my duty as an Israeli citizen?

This question preoccupied me for a long time, but eventually I began to see how things should be tackled. I understood that what I owe society is nothing like joining any sort of military venture, even though that’s what the law says. Nor is any other person bound to do so. I understood that there is no such thing as military “defense” forces and that soldiers who have been trained to kill cannot defend a state. I also saw that if a country were seriously interested in defending itself, it would have to opt for radical change in its own approach. I saw that it is a fearful, neglected and tense society that hides behind an army. And even the strongest and best trained army cannot defend a society, for only a thriving society does not need defense and is secure.

No society, including that of Israel, can hope to entertain untroubled relations with its neighbors if it suffers from illness and disorder within. If we look at the world at large, we see many weak spots with suffering, poverty and violence almost everywhere, we see disempowered populations and repressed societies, marginal groups and minorities who are deprived of their rights as human beings and as citizens, and a sick environment that pollutes those who live in it. If a state wants to be secure, it must first look after its citizens and land and reconstruct itself on a just and equal basis.

I have understood that my true duty to the state is the same as my duty towards all the citizens of the world. I must make my contribution in truthfulness and with a pure heart towards social change and improvement and to heal the above mentioned ills.

Once the state is healthy, when all citizens lend each other a hand, there will be no need to worry about defense. This will then take care of itself. For when a state does not harm anyone, then no one in turn will want to harm it. And a country which treats other countries justly and considerately creates its own natural defense as other countries, surely, will only wish it well.

I believe in this wholeheartedly and act accordingly.

In recent years I have volunteered for the community in a number of places, and participated in many social and environmental struggles. I took part, for instance, in a big project of the Hashomer Hatsair youth movement, setting up five summer camps in five deprived neighborhoods all over the country. We took care of the funding and then volunteered as counselors. This is moreover the 15th month of my voluntary based, full time “community service year” (shnat sherut) at Kfar Rafael, a rehabilitation village for cognitively disabled adults.

I would also like to mention here that I am quite determined to do two years of civic “national service” beyond my “community service year”, as a way of expressing my values and ideals, and to fulfil my obligation to Israeli society.

The chaos and violence in society find direct and painful expression in our way of treating our environment, which itself, in turn, is no doubt violent too. Just like no person has the right to harm his or her fellow human being, no human being has the right to harm her or his environment, because nature is not our property. In all this, armies and wars play a major role, killing the environment in the name of the murder of other humans. The ecological damage caused by the army cannot be justified: the use of natural resources through ongoing depletion, and unrecyclable waste production caused by the arms industry, the destruction of nature for the sake of military exercises.

Ecology is a crucial issue for me and has a central place in my life. So far I have always tried as best I can to preserve and maintain the environment. I worked as an environmental coordinator at the High School for Ecological Education at Ben Gurion College, where I studied.

Unlike civic service, military service causes damage and destruction. If I have to serve in the army, regardless in what role, I will not be able to live according to my convictions – worse, this will clash completely with my principles.

I will not change my mind, even if the army offers me a function that seems to reflect my values, like community or environmental activity. Because I would still be doing the job as part of the same organization which operates against my above mentioned principles, and for what I believe is a despicable purpose – and this I am not prepared to support. I won’t fight as a soldier, and nor will I support a disabled person as a soldier. I do this work right now, and I will continue doing it in the future, but as a civilian.

Also, I don’t think soldiers should be part of community activity, because in this way the army presents itself as if it were a healthy thing for society and an organization that is friendly towards people, when the opposite is the case. Most emphatically, soldiers should not be involved in educational work with children. When a child receives educational support from a soldier, the child will be grateful to the soldier, unable to separate the person from his or her uniform. Even a soldier who does not wear a uniform will have this effect. The presence of soldiers teaches the child to admire the army, because the child has not yet gained the ability to think critically for her or himself.

I went through many initial doubts, I drew my conclusions and made my decisions – as I have described above – and finally I began writing this letter as a first step.

In fact, I already made up my mind about military service about one year ago, but didn’t yet write this letter due to practical reasons. One of them is the very demanding work load at Kfar Rafael: about 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, with very brief breaks only, once every few months. This intensely demanding work got in the way of formulating a letter. Often I was simply exhausted. Or else, there was no time. I would like to add that I officially completed my community service in August, but because of staff shortages they did not find a replacement for me, and because people are dependent on me for doing their most basic daily things, I chose not to leave. I continued my voluntary work full time, after the official end of my community service.

This is why this request is submitted at such a late stage. Nothing in this delay should be taken to cast doubt on the genuine nature of my conscientious beliefs (on the contrary – my late writing is the result of my dedication to these beliefs, as I just explained), and it should not affect my right to refuse to enlist for military service on grounds of conscience. However, because time is short, I would like to ask you to consider my request as soon as possible, and to allow me to appear before an exemption committee, before my official enlistment date. If this is not possible, I would like hereby to request a postponement of my enlistment date until a final decision has been made regarding my appearance before the exemption committee (or an appeals committee).

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Israeli Conscientious Objector Hadas Amit sentenced to 5th term in prison

(Note to readers: This is a long posting. Please bear with us.)

Tal Hayoun, of the Israeli peace organization New Profile, reported on Feb. 27 that Israeli Conscientious Objector Hadas Amit was sentenced on Feb. 18 to 21 more days in military prison.

This is the fifth prison term for Hadas.

However, she was sent home because the prison was full, and had to return to the military Induction Base several times, and sent home for the same reason. On Thurs., Feb. 22 she was sent home, and then called back on the same day to be imprisoned. She had to spend the night at the Induction Base and then was sent to prison on Friday (Feb. 23).

Imprisonment of conscientious objectors such as Hadas Amit is a violation of international law and of basic human rights. Repeated imprisonment of conscientious objectors is an especially grave offence, as it means sentencing a person more than once for the same offence, and has been judged by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to constitute a clear case arbitrary detention.

In a letter to the military authorities, announcing her refusal to perform military service, Hadas wrote:

"If I were to be recruited into the army, this would absolutely and in all respects contradict my convictions and my way in life, since violence, killing, nationalism and vandalism are not part of them. I am not willing to wear the uniform of an organisation responsible for killing and destruction, acting in a way detrimental to its environment. Every State, the State of Israel included, should act by peaceful means alone, and even if attached, not to respond with fire. In any situation, Israel's case included, it is wrong to sustain a military force trained for war and killing -- this is altogether contrary to the pursuit of peace and coexistence with our neighbours in the Middle East."

Hadas appeared before the military Conscience Committee in November 2006, but was rejected. Hadas reported that during her hearing she was constantly interrupted and had to suffer degrading and disrespectful comments. A member of the committee demonstratively left the room, and two other members were exchanging notes, with her sitting between them, while she was trying to answer questions directed to her.

In a statement made on the eve of imprisonment Hadas wrote:

“I refuse to enlist in the IDF [Israel Defence Forces], as the D of ‘IDF’ symbolises nothing but killing to me. Who is it that decided that I am not seeking peace, and put me with my back to the wall? I could either lie or pay the price of my principles. It is for morality and justice and the love of humankind that I shall be sitting in prison.”

War Resisters International notes that since early 2005, women COs in Israel are referred to the same internal military Conscience Committee as male COs (despite official legal recognition of women’s right to CO), and there is no right of appeal on the Committee’s decisions. Accumulating evidence strongly suggests that the military Conscience Committee is fundamentally biased against women. It seems difficult for the members of this committee (four men and one woman; all but one of the men are military career officers) to perceive a woman as a person with principles, with a conscientious stance, and with commitment to this stance. As a result (although official figures are not released), the committee rejects a far higher percentage of applications by women than by men, and many of the women applicants describe their committee hearings as a degrading experience.

Letters of support to Hadas are extremely important to help her maintain her morale.

Letters of support to Israeli government and military officials, as well as news media, will alert them that there is international awareness of this fundamental violation of the right to conscience.

Hadas Amit’s prison address is:

Hadas Amit

Military ID 6175691

Military Prison No. 400

Military Postal Code 02447, IDF


Fax: ++972-3-9579348

Prison authorities block some of her mail from reaching her. Therefore, letters of support and encouragement can also be sent to Hadas via e-mail to These will be printed out and delivered to her on a family visit.

Here is a model letter (suggested by New Profile) that may be adapted for transmittal to Israeli officials and news media outlets. (Fax numbers and e-mail addresses are noted below.):

Dear Sir/Madam,

It has come to my attention that Hadas Amit, Military ID 6175691, a conscientious objector, has been imprisoned again for her refusal to perform military service, and is held in Military Prison No. 400.

The imprisonment of conscientious objectors such as Hadas Amit is a violation of international law, of basic human rights and of plain morals. The repeated imprisonment of conscientious objectors is an especially grave offence, as it means sentencing a person more than once for the same offence, and has been judged by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to constitute a clear case arbitrary detention.

Moreover, Hadas Amit's imprisonment comes after she had to undergo a degrading and unfair hearing procedure by a military committee, naturally biased against her as a conscientious objector, and doubly biased against her as a woman conscientious objector. Enacting such a procedure is in its own right a violation of the basic standards of fairness.

I therefore call for the immediate and unconditional release from prison of Hadas Amit, without threat of further imprisonment in the future, and urge you and the system you are heading to respect the dignity and person of conscientious objectors, indeed of all human beings, in the future.


Letters to Israeli government officials may be sent (preferably by fax, because Israeli officials tend to ignore their e-mail boxes, and e-mail often bounce; a letter sent by fax would probably be more effective.) to:

Mr. Amir Peretz

Minister of Defence

Ministry of Defence

37 Kaplan St.

Tel-Aviv 61909


E-mail: or

Fax: ++972-3-696-27-57 / ++972-3-691-69-40 / ++972-3-691-79-15

In addition, War Resisters International has set up a web-based mailing service through which a standard e-mail letter (with added comments) may be sent to the Israeli Minister of Defence on Hadas' behalf. The form is available on the WRI website at:

Copies of letters should also be sent to the commander of the military prison at:

Commander of Military Prison No. 400

Military Prison No. 400

Military postal number 02447, IDF


Fax: ++972-3-9579389

Copies should also be sent to the Military Attorney General:

Avichai Mandelblit,

Chief Military Attorney

Military postal code 9605, IDF


Fax: ++972-3-569-43-70

In addition, it will be useful to send copies of letters to the Commander of the Induction Base in Tel-HaShomer. It is this officer who ultimately decides whether an objector is to be exempted from military service or sent to another round in prison, and it is the same officer who is ultimately in charge of the military Conscience Committee:

Amir Rogowski

Commander of Induction Base

Meitav, Tel-HaShomer

Military Postal Code 02718, IDF


Fax: ++972-3-737-60-52

Letters to media in Israel and in other countries will be useful in pressuring the military authorities to let release conscientious objectors, as well as bringing their plight and their cause to public attention.

Here is contact information for the main media outlets in Israel:


2 Karlibach St.

Tel-Aviv 67132


Fax: +972-3-561-06-14


Yedioth Aharonoth

2 Moses St.



Fax: +972-3-608-25-46

Ha'aretz (Hebrew)

21 Schocken St.

Tel-Aviv, 61001


Fax: +972-3-681-00-12

Ha'aretz (English edition)

21 Schocken St.

Tel-Aviv, 61001


Fax: +972-3-512-11-56


Jerusalem Post

P.O. Box 81

Jerusalem 91000


Fax: +972-2-538-95-27

e-mail: or

Radio (fax numbers)


+972-2-531-33-15 and +972-3-694-47-09

Galei Zahal


Television (fax numbers):

Channel 1 +972-2-530-15-36

Channel 2 +972-2-533-98-09

Updates about Hadas Amit and other Israeli COs may be found on New Profile’s Web site (

-- Posted by Adam Simms