Carolyn Eisenberg, a history professor in Brooklyn, N.Y., grew up in what she describes as a Zionist family, with “a great deal of affection for Israel.” Last week, as co-chair of Brooklyn Parents for Peace, she was organizing an Aug. 9 “Brooklyn Walk for Peace,” calling for an immediate cease-fire by all sides in the Israel-Lebanon-Gaza crisis. An alert issued by the organization said, “Enough! War is not the answer!”

She is one of a growing number of Jewish Americans appealing for a cease-fire since Israel launched a massive military attack on Lebanon July 14.

On July 31, the progressive Jewish group Tikkun published a full-page ad in The New York Times, headlined, “Stop the slaughter in Lebanon, Israel and the Occupied Territories.” It also ran in the Los Angeles Times Aug. 6. The ad, posted on the Tikkun web site with an appeal for additional signers, initially had 1,500 names. The number has since risen to 3,500.

Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun magazine, said responses he has received following the ad’s publication have ranged “from people who say if they could find me they’d kill me” to “people saying ‘I was about to leave my Judaism until I read your ad’” to “Muslims who said all their life they had never heard Jews speak with compassion” until this ad.

Lerner, interviewed by phone, cited articles in the San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere reporting that “there is no dissent” on this issue in the U.S. Jewish community and labeling those who do dissent as “marginal.”

“The pressure is so intense,” Lerner said. “The line that’s put forward” is that “you’ve got to kowtow or you’ll be attacked as a ‘self-hating Jew.’” As a result, he said, very few Jews are willing to take the risk, to say “Wait a minute, is this really helping Israel?”

The corporate media have “simply blacked out the voices of those of us who are challenging this war, calling for an immediate cease-fire,” Lerner said. “It is making people feel like they are the only ones.”

The ad’s 3,500 signers “are an indication that there are a lot of people out there who feel this way,” he said. A needed step, he said, is to become a political force that can be an alternative to AIPAC — the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the powerful right-wing Jewish lobbying group.

Nichola Torbett, Tikkun national organizer, told the World, “I think congressmembers are afraid. I think they really need to hear from their constituents, especially Jewish constituents, who don’t share the views of AIPAC. They need to know that there is a Jewish voice for peace.”

Debra Hirschberg, a co-coordinator of the Cleveland Tikkun Community, said her organization is supporting the resolution introduced by Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich, H. Con. Res. 450, which calls for an immediate cease-fire. The group, with a mailing list of some 150, has joined in two rallies by a coalition of peace and justice organizations in Cleveland in the last few weeks. “We’re into ending the violence and disempowering the terrorists,” she said.

Other Jewish groups working for a cease-fire and peaceful solutions include Jewish Voice for Peace and Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, the Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace, both with chapters around the country.

In Brooklyn, Eisenberg said she feels an obligation to speak out. “For me it is especially tragic to see people who have been victimized throughout history victimize others,” she said in a telephone interview, referring to Israeli bombings of civilian homes and infrastructure. “As a Jew, I do feel implicated in this.”

Speaking of Jewish concerns for Israel’s right to defend itself, she said, “I feel enormous sorrow that this very legitimate human concern has been transformed into a very ugly position.”

“I would emphasize it is horrible for Israel, it is horrible for America,” Eisenberg said. “You could not draw up a more self-destructive behavior.”

“Israel would be a lot more secure in defending itself if it would live harmoniously with its neighbors,” she added. “Through diplomacy, Israel can be better protected, Lebanon can be better protected, ultimately the Palestinians can be better protected.”

As of Aug. 8, according to the UK Independent, 932 Lebanese people had been killed in the Israeli military assault, with dozens missing and 3,293 wounded. Forty-five percent of the casualties have been children. The paper said 913,000 Lebanese have been displaced, including 300,000 children. News reports say 103 Israelis have been killed in the crisis, both Jews and Arabs, with close to 2,000 wounded and thousands evacuated.

Israel has flown 8,700 bombing raids over Lebanon, destroying 146 bridges and 72 roads, the Independent reported. Damage caused to Lebanon’s infrastructure is estimated at $2 billion. Up to 30,000 tons of oil have spilled into the Mediterranean since an Israeli air strike on a power station. Hospitals face shutdowns as fuel supplies dwindle.

According to the Independent, Hezbollah has fired 3,000 rockets at Israel, with the daily numbers increasing. The rockets, filled with anti-personnel ball bearings according to news reports, have hit Israeli villages, its third-largest city, Haifa, as well as some West Bank areas.

Some 10,000 Israeli soldiers are currently in southern Lebanon.

The Associated Press reported Aug. 9 that Israel’s Security Cabinet had authorized a wider ground assault.

Brooklyn Parents for Peaces notes that “weapons for this carnage are being supplied by the U.S. government, with a green-light by the Bush administration to use them.”

The group has a network of some 1,000 people across the borough. Many are Jewish, and support Israel’s right to exist, Eisenberg said. “What we’re united in is that violence and destroying a country is not a solution.”



Susan Webb
Susan Webb

Susan Webb is a retired co-editor of People's World. She has written on a range of topics both international - the Iraq war, World Social Forums in Brazil and India, the Israel-Palestinian conflict and controversy over the U.S. role in Okinawa - and domestic - including the meaning of socialism for Americans, attacks on Planned Parenthood, the U.S. as top weapons merchant, and more. Previously she taught English as a second language and did a variety of other jobs to pay the bills. She has lived in six states, and is all about motherhood, art, nature and apple pie.