US Jewish groups send letter to Bennett against rise in settler violence

Palestinians from the West Bank village of Beita argue with Israeli soldiers as they protest against the creation of a new road for Jewish settlers (AFP)

Edna Mohamed

Middle East Eye  /  January 26, 2022

The ADL and J Street condemn recent violence against Palestinians and argue that the attacks undermine Israel’s image.

Seven American mainstream Jewish groups have sent a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett urging action against settler violence that is damaging to Israel’s image and relations with the United States, Mondoweiss reported on Wednesday. 

The rise in violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank resulted last week in the killings of two elderly men, including a Palestinian-American, a settler attack on Palestinians planting trees, and the nighttime eviction of Palestinians from their Jerusalem home, which Israel then demolished, all of which has drawn international media attention. 

In the letter, the major Jewish organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League, the Israel Policy Forum, the National Council of Jewish Women and the Union for Reform Judaism, highlighted the steady increase, in both rate and intensity, of settler violence against Palestinians in the past year.

“As pro-Israel Jewish organizations, we are deeply concerned by these trends and request that you address them. These attacks serve as an affront to Israel’s rule of law, to Israeli democracy, and to Jewish values, while undermining Israel’s image and relations with the United States government, American people, and American Jewry,” the letter read.

“They make it more difficult to appreciate Israel’s legitimate and ongoing security needs and efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

The letter came in concurrence with a Twitter thread by the president of the liberal Zionist group J Street, Jeremy Ben Amin, addressing Dan Diker, a spokesperson for the Israeli right at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, in which he criticizes the Israeli occupation and highlights recent incidences of violence.

“The occupation blackens the soul of the Jewish people, undercuts the values on which we raise our children as Jews and threatens the legitimacy and place of the state of Israel in the community of nations,” Ben Amin wrote. 

He also honoured the two elderly Palestinian protesters killed by Israeli forces, referring to the reports by MSNBC and the New York Times. 

While these Jewish groups represent different factions of the Israeli lobby, their statement signals that American Jews are growing impatient with the violence of the expansion of Jewish settlements.

Last week, Israeli settlers seized a plot of land in occupied East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood. The area had already been on high alert following the demolition of the house of the Palestinian Salhiya family in the neighbourhood, which had been widely condemned. 

Sheikh Jarrah has been a simmering flashpoint over the past year after Israel tried to expel Palestinian families from the site last May to make way for Israeli settlers.

Edna Mohamed is a freelance journalist focusing on international politics and development