Reform Jewish Movement Leader Criticizes the Destruction of 14 Palestinian Homes in East Jerusalem Refugee Camp & Praises the Israeli Supreme Court Decision of Affirmative Action for Israeli Arabs
Saperstein: "The destruction of homes is insensitive, disheartening, and, ultimately, counterproductive. Peace and security must remain the paramount goals, and actions such as this bring us no closer to those goals."
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Jerusalem, Israel, July 13, 2001 - Earlier today, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, criticized the destruction of 14 Palestinian homes in the East Jerusalem refugee camp of Shuafat.
Rabbi Saperstein, who is currently on a visit to Israel with his family, noted that "The destruction of homes is insensitive, disheartening, and, ultimately, counterproductive. Peace and security must remain the paramount goals, and actions such as this bring us no closer to those goals."
Rabbi Saperstein said further that, "These homes belonged not to criminals but to families who were trying to create better living conditions for themselves." According to press reports, the demolitions were ordered because the families did not receive building permits prior to their construction. On that point, Rabbi Saperstein continued: "Too many innocent people are trapped by this situation. On the one hand, in contrast to Jews who wish to build in Jerusalem, it is practically impossible for Arabs to get these permits. Yet, at the same time, their homes are demolished because they aren't built with prior approval." "Violations of the permit rules in Jewish West Jerusalem are rarely punished by demolition," he added.
In a related case, Rabbi David Saperstein praised the recent Israeli Supreme Court decision to ensure fair representation of Israeli Arabs on government bodies through affirmative action for them. "This is an indispensable example of fairness and justice set by the State of Israel. We commend the Supreme Court for this important and just decision. I hope this will help to pave the path for further equality for the one in five Israeli citizens who are Israeli Arabs."
Rabbi Saperstein concluded: "A lesson learned from the violence in regards to Israeli Arabs was that significant steps need to be taken to ensure equal citizenship and treatment for the Arab community of Israel. This decision by the Supreme Court is such a major step. Without such cases, Israel can not create the conditions necessary for peace."
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), whose 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) whose membership includes over 1700 Reform rabbis.