Monday, December 24, 2007

Meeting with the American Jewish Committee

After lunch on Sunday 9 Dec 2007, our delegation met with Rabbi Ed Retting at the American Jewish Committee. He represented Rabbi David Rosen, who was travelling overseas.

According to its website, "the American Jewish Committee, established in 1906 by a small group of American Jews deeply concerned about pogroms aimed at Russian Jews, determined that the best way to protect Jewish populations in danger would be to work towards a world in which all peoples were accorded respect and dignity.Over 100 years later, AJC continues its efforts to promote pluralistic and democratic societies where all minorities are protected. AJC is an international think tank and advocacy organization that attempts to identify trends and problems early - and take action."

The AJC's key areas of focus are:
Combating anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry;Promoting pluralism and shared democratic values;Supporting Israel's quest for peace and security;Advocating for energy independence;Strengthening Jewish life.

Rabbi Ed Retting described the American Jewish Committee as a "de facto foreign office for the American Jewish community," and a "defense agency" (a US administrative category); it is politically and religiously unaffiliated, with a membership of about 180,000.

Of particular note in Rabbi Retting's briefing was his categorisation of Israeli settlers in the West Bank into three classes:

(a) 80 per cent "non-ideological non-exclusivists";
(b) 15 per cent "idealistic moderates" aware of the problem;
(c) 5 per cent "the biggest bunch of hooligans and nut-cases I have ever had the misfortune to know."

Some quotes:

"Jewish society is split roughly 80-20 between 'hawks' and 'doves'."

"The biggest problem is that the Palestinians don't know us on our own terms."

"The Palestinians treat us like a Mack truck that jumped the guardrail and caused havoc."

"Saving a life outweighs the whole Torah."

"Building hospitals and schools [in the West Bank] is not about justice."

On the Separation Barrier and the segregated road system in the West Bank: "Separation for a period, as often recommended in marriage counselling, is a good thing because it allows both parties to calm down and see things more rationally."

"Jewish leaders need to ... help the Palestinians reach into their hearts and turn things around."

On Rabbi David Rosen see also

Picture: Rabbi Ed Retting addresses the Australian delegates at the American Jewish Committee building in West Jerusalem.

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