A small but increasingly vociferous group of American Jews has begun arguing that U.S. and Israeli policies -- particularly the building of more Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank -- are contributing to the climate for violence in the Holy Land.
They are being joined by American Christians who believe that the only way to reach a peaceful solution is to change U.S. policies toward Israel.
Ned Hanauer, director of the Massachusetts-based Search for Justice and Equality in Palestine/Israel, a leading critic of U.S.-Israeli policies, is in the Upper Midwest this week, lecturing at churches and colleges in the Twin Cities, Northfield, and Fargo-Moorhead.
"We should insist that Israel abide by international laws and human rights covenants and cease oppressing Palestinians," Hanauer, who is Jewish, said in Minneapolis Monday.
Yasser Arafat and the Palestinians want peace, Hanauer said, but they don't want it at the cost of "selling out Palestine." Hanauer said that most of the new settlements built for Israeli settlers in the West Bank are "illegal under international law."
He said the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem has also said that the settlements are illegal under the U.N. Universal Declaration on Human Rights.
B'Tselem sees the settlements "in the occupied territories as a violation both of international law and of the human rights of Palestinians."
Hanauer's group believes that Israel can find a way to give Palestinians control of most of the West Bank, while creating demilitarized zones to protect Israeli land. A similar deal was made between Egypt and Israel in the Sinai.
"Of course, then the settlements on the West Bank would have to go," he said, "or the Israelis living in them would have to agree to live under Palestinian authority."
Hanauer was invited to the Upper Midwest by a group of Minnesotans that is working for peace in the Holy Land. Chuck Lutz, a longtime Lutheran peace activist, is coordinating Hanauer's visit. Lutz said that groups of American Christians are acting as international observers in Israel, monitoring Israeli army actions against the Palestinians.
Hanauer will be a guest from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday at a public reception at Lutheran Church of Christ the Redeemer, at 55th and Penn Ave. S., in Minneapolis.
Lutz and Hanauer acknowledge that their stands are not popular with many Americans, including many American Jews. They insist that the only way to achieve peace to is hold the Israeli government to international agreements and laws for peace.
Shep Harris of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas said Hanauer "has to be a realist and understand what is happening right now before we can get back to peace talks. The Jewish community wants a peaceful resolution, and peaceful coalition with the Palestinians and their Arab neighbors. But [Hanauer] is turning a blind eye to the extreme security issues Israel has to deal with on a daily basis."
Hanauer said: "You can't have peace without justice, and the United States, by blocking efforts to give Palestinians rights peacefully, leaves the Palestinians no choice but to turn to violence."
© Copyright 2001 Star Tribune