JCRC Statement on Today’s Events in Jerusalem and Israel

May 14, 2018

Minneapolis, MN — Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC), issued the following statement today:

“The Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC) welcomes the opening of the United States Embassy in Israel’s capital of Jerusalem while our hearts ache in response to the ongoing violence along the Gaza border.

“Today, the United States fulfilled the promise of the bipartisan Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 (‘the Act’), which stated, ‘[e]ach sovereign nation, under international law and custom, may designate its own capital [and] [s]ince 1950, the city of Jerusalem has been the capital of the State of Israel.’

“Notably, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who helped pass the Act, emphatically stated today, ‘in a long overdue move, we have moved our embassy to Jerusalem. Every nation should have the right to choose its capital. I sponsored legislation to do this two decades ago, and I applaud President Trump for doing it.’

“Similarly, in an op-ed published over the weekend, Ambassador Dan Shapiro, who served as the American ambassador to Israel under the Obama Administration, wrote that ‘the move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem can actually help advance an end to the conflict.’ Shapiro argues that ‘moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem will help strengthen the principle that Israel’s claim to the city, born of centuries of Jewish connection to the city, is legitimate and must be recognized. It probably should have been long ago.’

“However, Shapiro also maintains that ‘[w]hat will help complete the picture is similar clarity by the US that the Palestinians, with their own historical and religious ties, have a valid claim to East Jerusalem. Trump has signaled this step by saying that, despite US recognition, the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty will only be determined in negotiations. No doubt, that will include Israel retaining control over key holy sites, like the Western Wall, and creative arrangements elsewhere.’

“Like Minority Leader Schumer and Ambassador Shapiro, the JCRC sees no contradiction between recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and our ongoing commitment to a two-state solution. This will necessarily entail difficult negotiations, including the final status of Jerusalem.

“Finally, with respect to the embassy move, the JCRC notes that the Trump Administration invited Pastor Robert Jeffress to deliver the prayer that opens the United States Embassy. In the words of former Republican Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney, Mr. Jeffress is ‘a religious bigot,’ who ‘should not be giving the prayer that opens the United States Embassy.’ Specifically, Mr. Jeffress is on record as making bigoted comments about Jews, Muslims, and Mormons. The JCRC does not believe that such an individual represents America, and that his participation in this dedication tarnishes what is otherwise a historic day for both Israel and the United States of America.

“According to news reports, as many as 50,000 Palestinians have amassed today at Israel’s internationally recognized border. Approximately, 45 people have lost their lives today and hundreds more have been injured.

“These same reports indicate there is a concerted effort to violently breach the border with Israel as evidenced by the placement of a bomb at the fence which divides Israel from Gaza, the firing of shots at Israeli soldiers stationed in the area, and the infiltration of flying flaming kites into Israel, which have already caused at least one rapidly spreading wildfire near Nahal Oz kibbutz.

“Hamas’ cynical use of unarmed protestors as human shields is deplorable and should be broadly condemned.

“While the JCRC strongly supports the right of Israel to defend itself against Hamas’s efforts to violently infiltrate its border, we are saddened by the ongoing loss of life, including that of any innocent civilians who were caught up in the crossfire between Hamas operatives and the Israeli Defense Forces.

“We expect the international community will demand that Hamas puts an end to these violent activities along the border, which include the destruction of critical infrastructure that facilitates the flow of humanitarian goods into Gaza.

“Now more than ever it is imperative that we move forward with constructive measures to improve the quality of life for the ordinary people of Gaza who are living in great hardship due to circumstances beyond their control and a massive failure of leadership.

“Clearly, our efforts for peace and coexistence have yet to be fully realized. Despite the ongoing violence, the JCRC remains committed to the realization of a two-state solution and welcomes good faith efforts to bridge the widening gulf between Israelis and Palestinians. Be that work at the negotiating table, through investment and commerce, or at the more personal level of simply listening to each other’s narratives to foster greater understanding.”

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The JCRC… the public affairs voice of the Jewish community fighting anti-Semitism and prejudice, promoting tolerance and social justice, and representing Jews, individually and collectively, here and abroad.