07/21/2006 11:44 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

American Jews Call for Ceasefire in Lebanon

The Israel bombing campaign in Lebanon and Gaza could not go on without American support.

Some time in the next week or more, after a nod from the Israeli military, the Bush administration may step in to arrange a ceasefire. But for now, the United States is an enabler of the violence.

The Guardian reports that the United States has blocked efforts for an immediate halt to the fighting, and has given Israel a "green light" to continue bombing Lebanon. The Washington Post reports that the Bush administration has "endorsed Israel's campaign" and that it is "letting Israel's military strategy ... play out." The New York Times reports that the Administration has agreed that Israel "would continue to bombard Lebanon for another week or so" (though developments over the last two days suggest the leave may extend longer).

In the United States, this is clearly not a partisan issue. And, no doubt supporters of letting Israel maintain the bombing campaign have diverse motivations.

It has long been the case that, while wanting to support Israel's well-being, the American Jewish community is divided over basic peace and justice issues in the Middle East. This remains true today, with divisions over the Israeli bombing of Lebanon and the issue that must be resolved for peace to come to the region -- the Israel-Palestine conflict.

However, it has also been true that more hard-line elements have been far better organized -- far more effective at shaping the political debate and influencing policy.

This places an extra obligation on pro-peace and justice American Jews to speak out, and to work to instill a measure of balance in U.S. Middle East policy.

If you are a Jewish American, you take a first step by adding your name to a sign-on letter that Robert Naiman of the new organization Just Foreign Policy and I have initiated. Just click here.

Here's the text of the letter:

Dear President Bush:

As American Jews, we are horrified by your apparent support for the bombing and destruction of Lebanon, and your opposition to international demands for an immediate ceasefire.

We condemn the violence by all sides, especially against civilians. But we cannot accept your attempt to justify and abet the collective punishment of the people of Lebanon -- including thousands of Americans trapped there -- as part of "Israel's right to defend herself."

The vast majority of Lebanese now suffering the destruction of their country, along with hundreds of civilian deaths from the Israeli bombing campaign, had nothing to do with Hizbollah's attacks on Israeli soldiers, nor subsequent rocket attacks on Israeli cities.

The same is true in Gaza, where the capture of Israeli Corporal Gilad Shalit on June 25 -- the original alleged pretext for Israel's incursions and detention of the territory's elected leaders -- was preceded just the day before by the abduction of two Palestinian civilians from their home by Israeli forces, as reported by Gideon Levy in the Israeli daily Haaretz. Here, too, it is wrong to portray this ever-widening conflict as a "war against terrorism." According to the Israeli human rights organization B'tselem, more than 100 Palestinians who were not engaged in hostile actions were killed by Israeli forces since Israel withdrew from Gaza, and before the recent escalation of violence.

The idea that the cycle of violence will come to an end by means of more violence, and especially attacks on civilian areas, is wrong and immoral.

We ask you to support an immediate cease-fire and a negotiated solution to the conflict.