"Yes, you are welcome here. In the space between the brightest day and the darkest night there is room for all." This affirmation of welcome was recited by 1,000 Occupy Wall Street Jews during the Yom Kippur service last fall in Liberty Park, New York. It reflects the Republican and Democratic divide. In the Republican version of America, certain people are not welcome.
Republican official immigration policy calls for the self-deportation of 14 million human beings from the United States of America! No one voluntarily uproots his or her family from their home and puts their children at risk. Is this what Republicans mean by family values? I believe the Republican approach to governance impoverishes, degrades and endangers the health and livelihood of millions of people here and abroad. My personal critique of Democratic policies notwithstanding, I have a greater apprehension of a Republican majority in Congress and its party leader in the White House.
The Republican Jewish Coalition supports the GOP platform, which criminalizes women's right to choice, makes same-sex marriage illegal, takes away government support for health care, removes the right to collective bargaining, privatizes education, dismantles the EPA and the Department of Education, gets rid of energy regulations, permits automatic weapons on the streets of America, demonizes Islam, opposes a two-state solution to the Israeli and Palestinian conflict, and advocates going to war with Iran.
Republicans, including the Republican Jewish Coalition, have created a smoke-and-mirrors brouhaha around a few rabbis who have taken a public stance against Israel's Occupation policies. Funders of the RJC, Sheldon Adelson and Irving Moskowitz, accumulated their fortunes in exploitative industry (gambling) and, in return, have given millions to the Romney campaign via Republican PACs like the Clarion Fund to promote Jewish settlement expansion, prevent a two-state solution, keep Gaza isolated and go to war with Iran. Do they and their suit-and-tie attack dogs like Bill Kristol honestly believe it is legitimate to fund Israel's illegal settlements and private settler militias? Is it kosher to promote ethnic cleansing instead of a two-state solution, or go to war with another Muslim country? This same group of people fund anti-Muslim propaganda like "The Third Jihad," a film which was shown to New York City's "finest" and produced only negative results.
While a high percentage of the Jewish community is progressive in its social agenda, it is clearly divided on the question of Israel, settlement expansion, and whether or not to bomb Iran. Among those who believe the settlements are the biggest obstacle to peace, many support the boycott of settlement products. According to a recent Ha'aretz poll, the majority of Israelis think bombing Iran is a bad idea.
So why is the Republican Jewish Coalition attacking me? Apparently, leading a civilian diplomacy delegation to Iran and supporting the work of Jewish Voice for Peace is enough to make a person a pariah. The RJC is taking advantage of the Jewish divide on Israel to bring more people to Romney.
I am used to personal attacks because I have always advocated unpopular positions. I've advocated talking to Palestinians since 1966. I supported a two-state solution in the 1980s, when it was very controversial. I consistently oppose military solutions to conflict as a religious principle. I am a "shomeret shalom," a Jew committed to peace and nonviolent reconciliation. My religious beliefs prevent me from endorsing policies that I believe lead to war and human suffering. I learned how to resist militarism from the best.
My teacher is Rabbi Everett Gendler, who sat with his friend Martin Luther King Jr. in jail, and was invited by the Dalai Lama to start a school that teaches nonviolence in India. Rabbi Gendler introduced me to the Fellowship of Reconciliation, which has a long history of supporting nonviolent struggles for human and civil rights. Rev. Dr. King was a member. I joined the FOR in my 20s because I support FOR's core commitments of active nonviolence, people-to-people diplomacy, demilitarization and interfaith engagement. This is why I have led more than a dozen FOR peace delegations to Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan and Iran during the past 15 years. I believe it is better to talk than shoot.
Fear-mongering, slander and the spreading of hatred toward others on the basis of their race, gender or national identity violate my understanding of Judaism. I urge those of you who support Obama because you prefer to work with the Democratic Party not to be distracted by one woman rabbi's journey toward reconciliation and peace.