Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
Letter To President Concerning Human Rights In International Coalition Building

October 26, 2001

The Honorable George W. Bush
President of the United States
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20504

Dear Mr. President:

On behalf of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, a joint instrumentality of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, we want to express our support for your efforts in the battle against terrorism. In the wake of horrific terrorist attacks, you have led our nation by encouraging compassion and denouncing violent hate crimes against innocent Americans. You have also sought out effective ways to engage the world in an international campaign to end terrorism.

While we strongly believe in the power of coalition-building and understand the importance of cooperation between a diverse group of states, we urge you not to compromise on basic human rights principles. In particular, the need for alliances must not lead us to condone – implicitly or explicitly – violations ofhuman rights, preaching of hatred, violence against women, gays and lesbians, and religious or ethnic minorities, or other repressive conduct by some of the regimes that have allied themselves with the United States.

Equally important, our pursuit of alliances in the war against terror must not be allowed to impair our support for Israel in her battle against terrorism and her quest for a just, secure, and lasting peace with her neighbors.

Jewish tradition teaches us that we have human rights obligations that apply to all people, regardless of race, religion, or ethnicity. The Talmud teaches that "in a city where there are both Jews and Gentiles, the collectors of alms collect from both Jews and Gentiles; they feed the poor of both, visit the sick of both; bury both and restore the lost goods of both, for the sake of peace." (Tractate Demai 4:6). From this we learn that all people are afforded the same basic human rights and that it is our responsibility to ensure that these rights are not denied.

We urge you not to ignore basic human rights principles in your efforts to bring various countries into the anti-terrorism coalition. As the Universal Declaration of Human Rights notes, "recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace." These are, of course, the very values that the battle against terrorism seeks to protect.

Rabbi David Saperstein
Co-Director, Commission on Social Action

Judge David Davidson
Chair, Commission on Social Action

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