Jewish Group Issues Call To Bring Settlers Home

American Jews who want to see Israel withdraw from its settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are joining an online call to “bring the settlers home to Israel.”

Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, a national grassroots membership organization founded in 2002, debuted its online signature campaign in May 2003. As of October, the online call had over 8,500 signatures from Jews throughout the U.S., crossing all ranks and denominations, from rabbis to laypeople and from Reform and Orthodox Jews alike.

Believing that the settlement issue is one of the most serious threats to Israel's security and a major obstacle to achieving a negotiated settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Brit Tzedek v'Shalom (literally “a covenant of righteousness and peace” in Hebrew), wants the Israeli government to reverse its policy of providing financial incentives to settlers and use that same money to re-settle them back within the pre-1967 borders of the Jewish state.

In a May 2003 letter to the membership, Brit Tzedek President Marcia Freedman estimated it would take between $2 and $3 billion to relocate all of the roughly 200,000 settlers currently living in the territories. U.S. aid to Israel is about $3 billion per year.

While the amount Israel spends on the settlements is unknown, Freedman has concluded that the Israeli government spends twice as much on each settler as it spends on an Israeli living within the pre-1967 Israeli borders. An Israeli who moves to the West Bank or Gaza receives approximately $4,000 in tax breaks and subsidized down payments and mortgage interest rates.

“We believe that many American Jews share this perspective, but are reluctant to express themselves for fear they may bring harm to Israel and the Jewish people,” says the group's website. While Brit Tzedek strongly disagrees with Israel's settlement activity, the group wants it to be known that it is just as committed to the well-being and safety of Israel as pro-Israeli groups.

After signing the call, members can join one of the 20 chapters already organized in cities around the United States or they can start a chapter in their own city.

For more information, go to . Janis Siegel is a freelance writer who lives in Seattle.

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