Rabbi Pesner: "We reject wholeheartedly the notion that effective anti-racism work can only be done by denouncing and excoriating Israel."
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Washington, D.C., August 4, 2016 – In response to the release of the Movement for Black Lives Policy Platform, Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement on behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, ARZA: The Association of Reform Zionists of America, the American Conference of Cantors, Men of Reform Judaism, Women of Reform Judaism, and the North American Federation of Temple Youth:
The Reform Jewish Movement is deeply committed to addressing the structural racism that exists in the United States and to doing so in partnership with activists and communities of color – including those who proudly identify as Reform Jews. While we commend many aspects of the recently released Movement for Black Lives platform that effectively target structural racism, as deeply committed Zionists we condemn in the strongest possible terms the platform’s language on Israel and the Palestinian Territories.
As a Movement, we have consistently expressed our ongoing commitment to Israel’s safety and security, our profound concern for the suffering of the Palestinian people and our support for a two-state solution that would bring about peace and justice for both peoples.
The Movement for Black Lives platform’s claim that U.S. support for Israel makes it “complicit in the genocide committed against the Palestinian people” and labeling of Israel as “an apartheid state” are offensive and odious. In calling for divestment from Israel, the platform ultimately does little to advance peace between Israelis and Palestinians. This language also wrongly and harmfully conflates the urgent need to address the systemic racism faced by people of color in the United States with another challenging and related but different set of moral and political questions within the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
We recognize that the Movement for Black Lives is working to address deeply rooted societal challenges. As they do so, we urge them to reject the platform’s characterizations of and positions related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We stand ready to work in relationship to achieve shared goals of a racially just society, nation and world.
Anti-Israel rhetoric like that found in the Movement for Black Lives policy platform is especially troubling because it falsely suggests American Jews – both of color and white – must choose between their commitment to combatting racism in the United States and their Zionism. We reject wholeheartedly the notion that effective anti-racism work can only be done by denouncing and excoriating Israel. Rather, as progressive Zionists committed to the future of a Jewish and democratic State of Israel, we see it as our fundamental responsibility to stand up in the face of injustice and fight against the evils of racism, extremism and intolerance wherever they exist.
The Reform Movement is committed to advancing civil rights and racial justice, including ensuring that black lives matter in all aspects of our society, from the criminal justice system to the voting booth and beyond. We will continue to work in relationship across lines of race, faith and class to dismantle structural racism and build a more just and equitable society.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose nearly 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 2,000 Reform rabbis. Visit www.rac.org for more.