Rabbi Liz Bolton on Values-Based Solidarity

Statement delivered by Rabbi Elizabeth Bolton at the Kairos USA Press Conference in Support of the American Christian Leaders’ Call for an End to Unconditional US Military Aid to Israel, Washington, DC, November 29, 2012:

My name is Elizabeth Bolton. I am a rabbi from Baltimore and a member of the Rabbinical Council of Jewish Voice for Peace, and honored to be here.

Along with my Jewish clergy colleagues, I stand in support of the church leaders asking Congress for review of military aid to Israel so that it complies with its own laws and legislation.

A core value in my rabbinate is the passage in Genesis – that we are all created b’tzelem elohim/in God’s image.  The people of Israel are my people, yet I abhor the deliberate debasement of the divine image through systemic violations of human rights committed in the name of Israel the people in the land of Israel.

Some in our communities have been falsely stoking fears that decades of Jewish Christian dialogue would be destroyed as a result of the call by the fifteen church leaders. This is a false prophecy.  Jews and Christians and activists and humanists must all be able to speak truth to power, to call out as witnesses, and hold our civic leaders to account for their stewardship of our resources.

This is consonant with the principle found in the Talmud – dina d’malhuta dina – the law of the land is the law. Applied in this context, the principle is an extension of my citizenship here, and enhances my personal understanding if the complexities inherent in faith-based, particularly Christian-faith-based, calls for justice in Israel and Palestine.  I understand this interest in, and concern for, the holy land, and believe that the motivation for these actions is thoughtful, deeply considered, and values-based.

True interfaith cooperation and dialogue starts with a commonality of principles and ideals, and a willingness to engage with open eyes and open hearts, especially when looking at the painful and tragic intersections of faith and history.  Jews, humanists and activists who stand with these churches do so because we share respect for law, for dignity, and self-determination based on human rights.

In that spirit, JVP has created another opportunity to echo the church’s call. At obamaletter.org, you can find a petition asking President Obama to ensure that American aid to Israel is in compliance with current US laws. Our president has identified himself as a person of faith, and I call that to our attention at this moment precisely because some of us at this table do this work as people of faith. Jewish Voice for Peace is just that – a Jewish voice speaking and seeking peace, and taking this opportunity to raise the voices in chorus.

Ten thousand voices have already declared their support for the churches’ call, in this petition to Congress:

We are Jews, Christians, Muslims,  and other people of conscience who wish to thank you for your principled stand asking members of the United States Congress to hold Israel accountable in its use of U.S. military aid as required by U.S. law.

May our solidarity continue to be driven by values, not tribal allegiances, motivated by the prophetic vision that demands we stand with the powerless and call out the powerful.

May our shared work be for a blessing.


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