The Israeli organization Rabbis for Human Rights and its American support group are parting ways, largely due to a disagreement over the American group’s desire to address human rights issues beyond Israel.
In a January 15 press release, Rabbis for Human Rights-North America announced that it will now be known as T’ruah: The Rabbinical Call for Human Rights, thereby ending organizational and fundraising ties to its sister organization.
Rabbi Sid Schwarz, who sits on the board of T’ruah, sees the split as an amicable divorce. “As the years have gone on, it became obvious that both organizations weren’t exactly on the same page,” he explained.
Schwarz stressed that the two groups were not at loggerheads. “There’s not a single issue in terms of policies that RHR has pursued in Israel where we differ,” he said. “The division is between an organization that is exclusively concerned with Israel and the Middle East, and an organization that wants to be a voice for human rights in the world. That voice is larger than Israel.”
A recent contributing factor in the split appears to have been a disagreement over the American group’s decision to team up with J Street and Americans for Peace Now to protest Israeli settlement plans in the occupied territories as an obstacle to a two-state solution to Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians.
Both groups oppose the construction of new settlements in territories occupied by Israel since the 1967 Six Day War. But RHR in Israel has opposed them on human rights grounds. And it disagreed when the North American group co-sponsored a letter condemning the government’s plans for exclusively Jewish housing in the so-called E1 corridor, adjacent to Jerusalem, as an obstacle to a viable Palestinian state — a political position on which the Israeli group takes no stand.