JEWS FOR JIMMY
We the undersigned Jews reject the attempt to dismiss Jimmy Carter\'s critique of Israeli policy toward Palestinians as anti-Semitic. The tendency by a section of the organized Jewish community to respond to criticisms of Israeli policy by attacking and attempting to discredit the people raising those criticisms--Jews are labeled as \"self-hating\" and non-Jews as \"anti-Semitic\"--is not only morally reprehensible, but also self-destructive. Too many Jews walk away from the organized Jewish community precisely because it treats dissent with this kind of disrespect. And too many non-Jews of good will, people who would otherwise be supportive of our safety and who would fight against anti-Semitism, may become genuinely angry at the Jewish people if Jews continue to place criticism of Israeli policies toward Palestinians outside the realm of permissible discourse. The suppression of debate and the blanket rejection of any vigorous criticism of Israeli policies must stop. The message that the Jewish community gives to elected officials that they will be labeled \"anti-Israel\" if they have criticisms of the Occupation of the West Bank or of Israeli human rights violations, must stop. Unless it stops, true anti-Semitism cannot be fought effectively, because the larger community will be so used to Jews throwing the term around to include many who consider themselves pro-Jewish and pro-Israel that they will find it hard to take those charges seriously when they are actually true.
President Jimmy Carter, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for helping Israel and Egypt negotiate a lasting peace, is a perfect example of a non-Jew who has no hatred of the Jewish people, but does have strong and legitimate criticisms of Israeli policy. Debating the content of his critique is expected and encouraged; attacking him as an anti-Semite, like all similar attempts to demean and undermine the legitimacy of others with strong criticisms of Israeli policies, must stop. We acknowledge the tireless efforts of President Jimmy Carter to create a just and lasting peace in the Middle East and do not subscribe to the notion that his book Palestine: Peace or Apartheid constitutes a deviation from his undying committment to peace. Debate: Good for the Jews. Careless use of the term \"anti-Semite\": not good for the Jews.
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The following petition is sponsored by American Jews who have been shocked and dismayed by the vicious attacks against Jimmy Carter regarding his book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. A vocal segment of the Jewish establishment has responded to the book as if we Jews speak with one monolithic voice which equates criticism of Israel\'s policies with anti-Semitism. We belive this knee-jerk reaction to criticism of Israeli government policies not only stifles debate, but inflames fear in the Jewish community and increases tolerance for militarism. What we need is rational debate, courage and moral vision to imagine what it would take to bring peace and justice to Israel and Palestine and to de-escalate terror and violence in the region without falling victim to cynical assumptions about the \"inevitability\" of regional war. With the United States poised for \"surgical military strikes\" on Iranian nuclear facilities, it is more important than ever that we respond to this moment in history with a deep willingness to engage in open-minded dialogue and debate and to imagine that the future can transcend the fear, distrust and reactivity so characteristic of modern politics.
We also ask that people actually read President Carter\'s book BEFORE deciding that it and he are anti-Semitic. Too often we take the words of our \"leaders\" instead of forming opinions of our own. Unfortunately, most of our American Rabbis have remained silent or, worse, joined the madding crowd in their uncritical slander against President Jimmy Carter. We must step up and have courage to speak an unpopular truth, knowing that we may be attacked in our own communites for doing so. However, there is just as likely a possibility that we will find each other and form a powerful collective conscience of our own to correct for the damage already done in our name. Let us stand up and be counted!
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