JPF STATEMENT ON THE MIDDLE EAST
The Jewish Peace Fellowship has always strongly supported Israel's right to exist, while at the same time recognizing the right of Palestinians to their own country and government. We support peace forces in Israel and in Palestinian areas and deplore both Israeli and Palestinian violence and all efforts to scuttle the peace process. We believe that both peoples can only survive in peaceful coexistence and cooperation with one another as well as with their neighbors.
STATEMENT AGAINST PREEMPTIVE MILITARY ACTION
Our Next War?
Preemptive Military Action
Against Iran’s Nuclear Facilities
February 2012 Shalom: Jewish Peace Letter
The current Iranian government’s continued lack of transparent compliance with the international community’s nuclear control regime, and its president’s statements, that Israel should be “wiped from the face of the earth,” present serious challenges to world peace.
Preemptive military action, however, is an unacceptable response to these challenges.
The Jewish Peace Fellowship opposes violence in all forms, especially war, and was founded in 1941 to support the right of conscientious objection to military service.
Our objection to war is based on Jewish religious tradition, which commands us to seek peace and to pursue it (Psalms 34:15), and that shalom, the Hebrew word for peace, is the Name of God and the Name of the Messiah (Tractate Derekh Eretz, Perek “Hashalom”). Though Hebrew Scripture contains many accounts of wars fought, Jewish tradition teaches that Scripture is not to be taken literally, but rather is mediated by commentary.
Our reasons for opposing preemptive military action against Iran are based, in part, upon a commentary issued by the Central Conference of American Rabbis in 5762 (2002), in response to a question regarding the legitimacy of “preemptive military action when there is suspicion but no prima facie evidence exists, that a perceived enemy will attack.” We do not follow the CCAR responsum’s conclusions in all instances, and we acknowledge that other commentaries on Jewish sources regarding similar constructions exist. We are confident, however, that many of the sources cited in the CCAR responsum provide grounding for our stance.
Jewish tradition, holding peace to be humanity’s highest commandment, deems armed conflict to be a final resort in the preservation of peace.
Indeed, our biblical tradition teaches that David, the leader under whose military ventures the kingdom of Israel was created, was denied a role in building the Temple because “you have shed much blood and fought great battles; you shall not build a house in My name for you have shed much blood on the earth in my sight” (I Chronicles 22:8).
Therefore, far from teaching that war is a normal and, therefore, acceptable human activity, Jewish tradition teaches that all efforts must be pursued to preserve and peace before resorting to military action.
Thus, before a state resorts to war, Jewish tradition teaches that a foe must first be offered peace. (Rambam, Yad, Melakhim 6:1, commenting on Deut. 20:10). All efforts through diplomacy to maintain the condition of peace must be exhausted before resorting to armed conflict may be considered.
Moreover, if leaders of a state believe armed conflict is necessary to preserve peace, they must appear before the state’s governing body and obtain its permission before taking military action.
The current situation in Iran that underlies calls in some U.S. foreign policy circles for preemptive military action against that nation is complex, based on highly technical assumptions about Iran’s nuclear capacity, and highly interpretable assumptions about Iran’s intentions toward other nations. All of these assumptions are based on fragmentary intelligence that is open to a wide variety of contradictory interpretations.
The implications for preemptive military action by the U.S. against Iran are further complicated by the following facts:
1. The strongest, and most strident, calls for preemptive action against Iranian nuclear capability come from leaders of the current government of Israel. These calls are echoed by prominent figures in American Jewish organizations, as well as from elected officials and numerous Christian spokespersons, who together constitute our nation’s amorphous “Israel lobby.”
2. Nevertheless, this support for preemptive war flies in the face of judgments by senior figures in Israel’s intelligence community, who have publicly stated that available information does not indicate that Iran poses an “existential” threat to Israel.
3. While Iran’s compliance with the international nuclear control regime overseen by the International Atomic Energy Agency has been by no means transparent or forthright, that regime permits Iran to proceed with nuclear development for peaceful purposes. The mere existence of a nuclear capacity on the part of Iran does not constitute a prima facie justification for U.S. or Israeli military action to eliminate that capacity.
4. Under these conditions, Iran does not represent a threat to the American people. An attack on Iran by the United States or Israel would be unwarranted and may well have catastrophic consequences throughout the Middle East and elsewhere.