Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb’s letter to the commissioners at the United Church of Canada Conference

August 13, 2012

Dear Commissioners of the UCC,

I have enjoyed spending time with members of the United Church of Canada these past few days. Your devotion and commitment to peace and justice is a beautiful witness to your faith.
I am writing you to encourage you accept the full report of the ME Committee on Israel and Palestine. I have read this report and concur that it is a very important document and it shines a positive light on the prospects for peace.
 As one of the first ten women rabbis in history, I’ve served the Jewish Community in the United States and Canada for 40 years. I initiated the Interfaith Peacewalk in Toronto, Nelson and Vancouver which brought hundreds of members of the UCC together with Muslims and Jews to give public witness to our shared values and our belief that peace, and not violence is the best path to living well together.
I speak for hundreds of thousands of Jews around the world from a wide spectrum of affiliations who oppose Israel’s policy of settlement expansion and military occupation. We want to see real change. By supporting Palestinians in their struggle for justice, you are also supporting us, the Jewish people, because the fruit of justice is peace. Peace for everyone in the region.
My rabbi and teacher, Rabbi Everett Gendler, convinced the great human rights advocate Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel to walk with Martin Luther King. I stand in their legacy of nonviolent direct action. When the African American community called upon us to support the Montgomery bus boycott, I stood with them. When the Mexican American community called upon us to support the grape boycott, I stood with them. When women from poor countries around the world called for a Nestle’s boycott I stood with them. When Arizona’s racist immigration laws were passed, and the immigrant community asked us to boycott Arizona, I stood with them. So did the majority of the Jewish community. Now that 171 Palestinian organizations and scores of Jewish groups have called for a boycott of settlement products, I am standing with them. The boycott aligns my values with right action. It accords with my religious beliefs.
The boycott of settlement products has come about because all other avenues of nonviolent struggle to end Israel’s policy of settlement expansion  have failed. Neither negotiations nor dialogue have put an end to settlement expansion which is the heart of the conflict. Settlement expansion has nothing to do with security. Israel wants the land. If Israel was serious about a two state solution, then settlers would not be invited to settle. They would not be given houses at reduced loans, there would be no infrastructure of roads, water, electricity, schools, universities, hospitals or other institutions in the West Bank which are for Jewish people only. Settlement expansion is illegal and unethical. No one leaves their home, their land, willingly. They are forcibly driven out.
What would you do to stop home demolition? If you’re among tens of thousands of Palestinians, you can put your body in front of the bulldozer. You and your children will be beaten, arrested and then Israel will force you to pay for destruction of your own home. That is why Palestinians have turned to a time honored nonviolent tactic: boycott of settlement products. What would you do if a government suddenly put up a wall and denied you access to farm your land? Villagers protest nonviolently every week in dozens of villages and are met with tear gas, arrest, and the destruction of their homes. What would you do?
 The Talmud teaches, “You shall not derive profit nor benefit from products used to promote violence. You shall not buy them, nor sell them.” According to Jewish law, products produced on stolen land are not kosher for use.
Take courage. Give prophetic witness. Vote to join the campaign to stop settlement expansion through the boycott of settlement products. Jews, Palestinian Christians and Muslims who support human rights law are calling upon your support.  Ground  all your interfaith relationships on principles of universal human rights. This is how we avoid anti-semitism. By applying equal human rights standards for all people.
Adopting the report makes an ethical statement about Israel’s state policy. It is not a condemnation of Israel as a whole. You can criticize Canadian policies without being accused of delegitimizing Canada. The same principle applies. According to Miko Peled, Avrum Burg, Neve Gordon, Dalit Baum, Rabbi Jeremy Milgrom and thousands of other Israelis, it is Israel’s own policy of settlement expansion enforced by military occupation that is delegitimizing Israel. Since Israel claims to be a Jewish State, those of us in the Jewish community who view settlement expansion as a destructive and violent policy are duty bound to speak out. So should you.  Send a clear message to your partners in the holy land which we both share and love. Stop settlement expansion, stop the destruction of homes, stop removing Palestinians from their land. Until settlement expansion stops, agree to the boycott of settlement products.  I am inspired by the story of Jesus entering the Temple in Jerusalem and overturning the tables. He took direct action. He sent a clear message. It wasn’t the only way he delivered his message, but it was part of his approach. Turn the tables on settlement expansion. Vote to adopt the proposal that includes boycott of settlement products. It will be a sign of hope for all of us.
Thank you for your witness,
Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb
Jewish Voice for Peace
Cofounder of the Shomer Shalom Network for Jewish Nonviolence


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