Reform movement head calls on Israel to prevent harm to Gaza protesters
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Reform movement head calls on Israel to prevent harm to Gaza protesters

Rabbi Rick Jacobs says ‘Ongoing escalation on the Gazan border is tragic and dangerous for both Israelis and Palestinians’

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, addressing delegates at its 2017 Biennial in Boston, December 7, 2017. (Courtesy of the Union for Reform Judaism/via JTA)
Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, addressing delegates at its 2017 Biennial in Boston, December 7, 2017. (Courtesy of the Union for Reform Judaism/via JTA)

The president of the largest Jewish movement in the United States called on Israel to “take all necessary and effective precautions” to prevent harm to civilians during the Gaza border protests.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs of the Union for Reform Judaism said in a statement issued Monday that the “ongoing escalation on the Gazan border is tragic and dangerous for both Israelis and Palestinians. There appears to be no doubt that Hamas has made cynical and violent use of those Gazans who seek a more hopeful future.

“But, at the same time, we call on Israel to take all necessary and effective precautions so that innocent civilians will not be harmed. Additionally, the press — especially when marked clearly as such — must be protected as non-combatant civilians.”

Thus far, 30 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli troops during the Gaza border clashes over the past two weeks, according to the Hamas-run Gazan health ministry, including one reportedly shot in the torso while wearing a vest emblazoned with the word “press” and filming in an area engulfed in thick black smoke caused by protesters setting tires on fire.

The protests are part of the planned six-week “March of Return” that will end in mid-May with the anniversary of Israel’s founding, which the Arab world calls the Nakba, or catastrophe. The Palestinians have said the protests are peaceful, but Israel’s military counters that protesters have thrown rocks and firebombs at Israeli troops on the other side of the border fence and attempted to damage and cross the border fence into Israel.

On Sunday, the Israel Defense Forces General Staff opened an investigation into the Israeli military’s response to the Gaza border protests.

Jacobs’ statement called for a “just solution” to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

“We are concerned about the lack of a hopeful timeline for Gazans to experience a different future,” it said. “Israelis on the Gazan border deserve, too, the guarantee of a peaceful life. The continued tragedy of Gaza shows the strong need for a regional agreement, including Egypt and other Arab states, and for the US to play an arbiter’s role in finding a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian situation.”

Jacobs previously called publicly for a “comprehensive plan for a peace process” after US President Donald Trump announced that he would move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

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