Bernard-Henri Levy
French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy in Geneva on April 20, 2009. Photo by AP
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JCall, a new leftist European Jewish group, released over the weekend a petition signed by more than 3,000 Jews calling for an end to the occupation and Israeli expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The signatories, including important French philosophers Bernard-Henri Levy and Alain Finkielkraut, say the settlement policy undermines prospects for peace with the Palestinians based on a two-state solution. They express fear for the future of Israel as a Jewish, democratic and ethical state and are concerned by the global delegitimization campaign against Israel.

Like the members of the American Jewish lobby J Street, the people behind JCall don't believe that automatic support of Israeli policy - which advocates, for instance, Jewish construction in East Jerusalem - serves Israel's true interests.

Just as there was criticism of J Street in the United States, the veteran Jewish organizations in Europe have borne down on the new initiative, arguing that the petition will serve Israel's enemies. And just as Israel's Information and Diaspora Ministry expects Israeli tourists to defend the government's settlement policy on their trips abroad, the critics are demanding that intellectuals and ethical people in the Diaspora should be disingenuous.

It is to be hoped that the Israeli government does not join the attack on JCall. During the latest crisis with the U.S. administration, Prime Minister Benjamim Netanyahu spared no effort in getting Jewish public figures like Elie Wiesel to join the battle against pressure for a construction freeze in East Jerusalem.

Those who recruit Jews from the right to support their policies must honor the right of the Jewish left to express its views. The contribution of Jewish peace activists in Europe is a suitable response to the damage that members of the Netanyahu government, mainly Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, are doing to Israel's interests there.

The violent conflict between Israel and its neighbors and the suspension of peace talks have contributed to Diaspora Jewish communities' increasing alienation from Israel. That trend is particularly noticeable among the youth.

The fact that thousands of Jews around the world, including prominent intellectuals, are advocating an end to nearly 43 years of malignant occupation is welcome news. Let's hope that the voices of Israel's friends in Paris, London and Brussels will be heard in Jerusalem.