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Israel’s Occupation Violates Traditional Jewish Values of Justice and Equality, Says Tony Klug at J Street Conference

Allan C. Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
April 2017

Speaking to the J Street annual conference in Washington in February, Tony  
Klug, a special adviser on the Middle East at the Oxford Research Group,  
said that support for Israel’s “never-ending” occupation is changing the  
nature of what it means to be Jewish. “We used to be people devoted to  
justice,” he declared. “Now we have become enablers of Israel’s injustices.”  
Klug told J Street that, “If Israel does not end the occupation sharply, and  
if organized Jewish opinion in other countries appears openly to back it,  
there will indeed almost certainly be a further surge in anti-Jewish  
sentiment … Israel’s never-ending occupation of the land and lives of  
another people, is not just seriously endangering Israel, not to mention  
deepening the despair of the Palestinians. But it is also making the  
situation of the Jews around the world increasingly precarious … Time  
honored Jewish ideals — justice, freedom, equality, peace, mutual respect —  
have made an extraordinary contribution to human civilization. They lie at  
the very core of Jewish identity … We now face the major reality of a state  
that describes itself loudly and often to be Jewish as … withholding  
fundamental human rights from millions of people indefinitely. A standpoint  
that is in total defiance of quintessential Jewish principles.”  
In Klug’s view, “If we are not prepared to speak out resolutely, we may be  
on the cusp of Jewish identity being redefined for all of us. To start with,  
supporters of Israel could openly clarify that their affection for the  
country, however deep, does not extend to supporting the occupation. They  
could consider adopting a slogan like, ‘Love Israel, Hate Occupation.’ …  
When all is said and done, the bottom line is that the conflict with the  
Palestinians has dominated and distorted the Jewish world for too long. It  
is time to bring it to an end and stop the infamy of a half century of  
military occupation of another people and allow us all to get back to the  
business of being ourselves.”  
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont also addressed the J Street conference and  
noted that one could be sharply critical of the Israeli government’s  
policies but still be supportive of Israel. He criticized President Trump  
for retreating from a commitment to a two-state solution and discussed the  
time he lived on a kibbutz near Haifa in 1963 and recalled “the progressive  
values” nurtured there.  
“But,” he declared, “as you all know, there was another side to the story of  
Israel’s creation, a more painful side. … the founding of Israel involved  
the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people already living there,  
the Palestin¬ian people. Over 700,000 people were made refugees … We can  
oppose the policies of Netanyahu without being anti-Israel.” •

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