LOS ANGELES - March 19 - On the fourth anniversary of the war on Iraq, a coalition of Jewish leaders announced the launch of “Jews Against the War” (JAW), an organization dedicated to ending the Iraq war and preventing one with Iran. The group will also focus on mobilizing the overwhelming majority of Jewish Americans opposed to the war - demonstrated by a new Gallup poll showing 77% of Jews believe the Iraq War was a mistake, compared with 52% of the general American public.
This strong anti-war sentiment indicated in the poll is reflective of the Jewish community’s long history of standing up for social justice and human rights. Prominent Jewish leaders played an active role in protesting against the Vietnam War and supporting the struggle for civil rights in the South. The problem JAW sees is the disparity between these poll numbers versus the lack of an active and united Jewish effort to end the war. JAW will seek to give voice to this emerging consensus among Jews that America’s occupation of Iraq must end, something that hasn’t been done by leading pro-Israel lobby groups.
“We couldn’t continue to remain silent on one of the most catastrophic, immoral and tragic foreign policy decisions in the history of our country,” said Aryeh Cohen, Asst. Prof. of Rabbinic Literature at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles. “The Talmud teaches that silence is akin to assent. Jews that oppose this administration’s illegal war must come together, speak in one voice, and say loudly and clearly: Bring the troops home and stop the endless cycle of violence.”
The trillions of taxpayer dollars the Iraq War will waste is compounded by an ever increasing human tragedy. Already, 3,100 Americans will never see their families again, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians have died, more than 2 million refugees have been forced to flee their own country, 1.5 million people are still displaced within Iraq, and a major new study shows terrorist attacks have increased by 600 percent around the world since the war began.
"I know that many pulpit rabbis, myself included, have shied away from speaking out publicly against the war, in my case because it is safer to not talk about it, for fear of being divisive within the congregation," said Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater. "But, like the prophets of Israel, I can no longer take the 'safe' road. This war is wrong and it needs to end. Our country's moral voice in the world has vanished under the weight of torture, secret tribunals and occupation; our beloved Israel is in greater danger now, with Iran emboldened; and our nation's budget has been sacked, in large part to fund this war. As a student of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, I can no longer be silent on the war in Iraq."
“The Talmud Bavli Tractate Shabbat states, ‘One who is able to protest against a wrong that is being done in his family, his city, his nation or the world and doesn't do so is held accountable for that wrong being done,” said Adam Rubin, Asst. Prof. of Jewish History, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles. “Our choice then is a clear one: we either try to stop this war or we’re complicit in its continuation.”
JAW goals include: building a nationwide coalition of hundreds of Rabbis and Jewish leaders to lobby Congress and the Presidential candidates to end the war; persuading Jewish Americans to take a more active role in opposing the occupation and preventing an attack on Iran; and creating a sign on letter urging Congress to support legitimate plans to withdraw from Iraq, ones that will utilize the power of the purse, like HR 508 (Lee, Woolsey, and Waters) and S 448 (Feingold, Boxer, Leahy).