VandalisedOliveTree (2)

Vandalised Olive Tree in the West Bank

Rabbis from the Jewish settlements in the West Bank have strongly condemned the violence and vandalism of Jewish extremists who have attacked Palestinians and Christians and their property.

Analysts declared the joint statement, signed by some of the most influential rabbis, to be “one of the most significant statements about peace ever to come from the rabbinic leaders of the religious right in Israel”.

The document adds clarity on the unsanctioned use of force, the rule of law, respect for non-Jews in Israel, the sanctity of trees, respect for property and the centrality of peace to the vision of the Torah.

Rabbis representing some of the biggest settlements and towns, including Ramat Gan, Kiryat Arba, Itamar and Hebron, were responding to a request from Talking Peace, an educational project based in Jerusalem.

The rabbis, while “committed to the return of the Jewish people to Judea and Samaria,” say “we should actively seek peace, and do things for the sake of peace that we would not normally do”. They also say Jews are “obligated to avoid damaging the property of others” and “must behave morally towards Gentiles”.

“The tone and content of this letter are such that this has force and meaning in the circles of the religious right in Israel and it is signed by very significant leaders in that community,” said the co-directors of Talking Peace in a statement.

“We hope that this can change attitudes and create openings for more productive engagement with a community which we believe has to be part of any solution.”

It comes amid growing international criticism of so-called ‘price tag’ attacks in the West Bank, carried out by extremist Israeli Jews, originally in reprisal for Israeli government action against illegal settlement activity.