Some seem not quite able to believe what is happening to them, but many American Jewish peace activists find themselves lining up these days behind the Israeli leader they have most reviled over the years: Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.Speaking to an audience of about 500 here last week at the annual meeting of Brit Tzedek V’Shalom, a national organization founded three years ago with the aim of introducing a dovish perspective into the Jewish organizational world, Brit Tzedek President Marcia Freedman remarked, “We may gag on it, but we have to support the Sharon government over the next months” in its evacuation of Israeli settlers from the Gaza Strip.“What else can we do? We certainly can’t support the settlers,” Freedman said.
Freedman, a former member of Knesset and founder of the Israeli feminist movement during the 1970s, who now resides in Berkeley, Calif., said she remains deeply concerned that Sharon is pulling out of Gaza as part of a strategy he hopes will enable Israel to permanently retain half or more of the West Bank. It’s a strategy Freedman said the Israeli and American Jewish peace movements must stoutly oppose.
Still, Freedman acknowledged, “It’s going to be hard for us to talk about that during the next few months, because it will be more fun to be talking about the new Sharon and the new Palestinian Authority.” Other members of Brit Tzedek, an organization with a membership of about 7,000 and 30 chapters across the U.S., expressed similar perspectives.
“We have made no bones that we will never accept a program of ‘Gaza first and last,’ but for the moment Sharon is the only game in town and we support him,” said Gil Kulick, a New York-based activist who is a member of the Brit Tzedek national board. Nadav Kadar, a graduate student in Near Eastern and Judaic studies at Brandeis, said he has no compunctions about supporting Sharon in the present situation because, “The reality is that only Sharon is strong enough to uproot settlements. If Labor tried it, it wouldn’t fly.”
“Israel is a democracy and Sharon, as a smart politician, is reading the national will for a peaceful resolution with the Palestinians by pulling out of Gaza,” said Rebecca Hartman, head of the Brandeis branch of Brit Tzedek. “But if Sharon tries to stop after that and flouts that desire for peace by most Israelis, he may be voted out in the next election.”