Arabs and Jews call for Middle East peace

WASHINGTON – Arab and Jewish Americans are speaking with one voice in denouncing terrorism in the Middle East and calling for strong action to defend the peace process based on the co-existence of two states, Palestine and Israel.

The Washington-based Jews for Peace in Palestine and Israel (JPPI) sent a delegation to Israel and the West Bank Dec. 16 for a demonstration against the rising war danger.

Led by Joshua Ruebner, the delegation laid down in front of Israeli tanks in Ramallah, headquarters of the Palestinian Authority, to demand the withdrawal of the Israeli military occupation forces.

The JPPI delegation then met with Palestinian President Yasser Arafat to express “support for a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in Palestine and Israel based upon the implementation of applicable United Nations resolutions and international law.” The delegation told Arafat JPPI “supports an end to Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem.”

Laurie Eichenbaum, a spokesperson for JPPI, told the World the group had originally planned to stage a rally during Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s visit to Washington Dec. 3. It was cancelled when a Hamas suicide bombing killed 26 people in Israel. Sharon cut short his visit and rushed home.

JPPI held a candlelight vigil in Lafayette Park across from the White House “to express our sorrow at the tremendous loss of life suffered by both Israelis and Palestinians recently,” she said.

The delgation met with Palestinian President Yasser Arafat to express “support for a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in Palestine and Israel based upon the implementation of applicable United Nations resolutions and international law.”

The Arab American Anti-discrimination Committee (ADC), meanwhile, sent a message to President Bush urging him to take “meaningful steps to ensure that Israel’s attacks against the Palestinians stop.”

The ADC also called on Bush to respond positively to Arafat’s recent televised speech to the Palestinian people. In his speech, Arafat strongly denounced terrorism, called for a complete and immediate end to all attacks against Israeli civilians and demanded a comprehensive cease-fire between Palestinians and Israelis.

ADC President Ziad Asali said, “President Arafat has gone the extra mile to establish the conditions for calm and a resumption of peace negotiations. However, no progress can be possible as long as the Palestinian people and Authority remain under Israeli siege and are subjected to constant attacks.”

Bush must exert influence on Israel to “lift its siege” and stop its attacks and assassinations.

“Ultimately, there can be no peace under conditions of military occupation,” Asali said. “What is needed is new negotiations based on an understanding that will result in a complete end to the occupation, the establishment of a Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem and peace and security for Israel and freedom and independence for the Palestinians.”

He decried the U.S. veto in the United Nations Security Council of a resolution that called for “all concerned to establish a monitoring mechanism” to lessen tensions between the two sides. The resolution also condemned all terrorist attacks, executions without trials, excessive use of force and the destruction of property.

“ADC is categorically opposed to all attacks on civilian targets including suicide bombings no matter who the perpetrator or victims are,” Asali said.

The Arab American Institute (AAI) released a statement expressing its concern over the Dec. 5 vote in the House of Representatives calling for a termination of relations with Arafat.

“The terrorist attack was not only an attack on the people of Israel,” the AAI statement said, “it was also a challenge to the leadership of the Palestinian Authority and more importantly, the hope for a just and lasting peace.”