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  Meretz USA
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DescriptionMeretz USA for Israeli Civil Rights and Peace is a US non-profit organization that supports a genuine peace between the State of Israel and its neighbors (including the Palestinian people) based on a negotiated land-for-peace solution. Meretz USA supports full civil and human rights for Israeli citizens, regardless of ethnicity, race, religion, gender, national origin, or sexual orientation. These ideals of peace, pluralism, equality and justice can be found in the values of prophetic Judaism and the dreams of the Zionist pioneers, and are enshrined in Israel's Declaration of Independence as the basic values upon which the State of Israel was founded.

In the last two elections among American Jews to determine the US delegation to the World Zionist Congress (in 1997 and 2002) Meretz USA received approximately 4-5% of all the votes cast and finished in fourth place overall, after the slates affiliated with the Reform, Conservative and Orthodox movements. While the significance of these results are clouded by the fact that voters could vote for only one slate even though they might be supportive of more than one, it is nonetheless rather remarkable that Meretz USA again out-polled all the non-religiously oriented slates, including those affiliated with Labor and Likud. Click here for more information about the World Zionist Congress and its significance for World Jewry and Israel.

Meretz USA is the successor to the Education Fund for Israeli Civil Rights and Peace, Americans for Progressive Israel, American Friends of Meretz, and American Friends of Ratz. We currently have over 18,000 friends and constituents across the United States. Meretz USA is the US affiliate of the World Union of Meretz, a worldwide association of organizations that share these same values. The Israeli affiliate of the World Union of Meretz is the new Yahad - Social Democratic Israel party, which holds six seats in the current Knesset (Israel's parliament).

Meretz USA is the inheritor of a long and honorable tradition. Aligned with the Kibbutz Artzi Federation and Hashomer Hatzair movement, whose kibbutzim define much of the borders of pre-1967 Israel, we count the heroes of Holocaust resistance such as Mordecai Anielewicz, Haviva Reik, Abba Kovner and others among the pioneer forebears of our movement. We are, today, no less proud of the leaders of the Yahad and (formerly) Meretz parties in Israel who played key roles in the 1992-96 Labor/Meretz coalition government led by Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres and continued as a vital force for peace, civil rights, and educational reform in the government of Ehud Barak.

THE PURSUIT OF PEACE

The pursuit of peace has always been a primary goal for the State and people of Israel, deriving from Judaism's rich ethical tradition that holds peace and justice among its highest values. Peace is no less an issue of practical need - a fundamental precondition for attaining security, permanent and recognized borders, and economic stability. As profoundly discouraging as relations with the Palestinian Authority are today, Meretz USA sees no alternative to renewing the search for peace between Israel and the Palestinian people, establishing and sustaining a cease-fire, and taking basic measures conducive to the renewal of meaningful negotiations leading to the creation of a sovereign, demilitarized Palestinian state.

Meretz USA has consistently opposed building Jewish settlements in the occupied territories. The overwhelming majority of Israelis now realize that the historic security-based rationale for the settlement movement has proven false. Ongoing settlement expansion is not only a provocation to the Palestinians, but a constant economic and security burden for all Israelis.

RELIGIOUS PLURALISM

Israel is both a Jewish state and a state for all its citizens. Meretz USA supports the principle of separation of religion and state and believes that religion should be a matter of personal conscience. The Israeli government should therefore end discrimination aimed at the different streams of Judaism and abolish religious coercion. Meretz USA supports the extension of military conscription or alternative national service to the ultra-Orthodox community as well as non-Jewish citizens of Israel. Ultra-Orthodox schools should be held accountable to the public institutions that fund them.

BUILDING A JUST FUTURE

Meretz USA seeks to preserve and strengthen the democratic character of Israeli society as envisioned by its Zionist founders. This means ending discrimination against Israel's Arab minority without further delay, narrowing the social and economic gap that continues to separate Ashkenazi Jews from Middle Eastern and Ethiopian Jews, securing equal rights for lesbians and gays, and achieving full equality for Israeli women. (Fourty percent of the Meretz Knesset faction are women). We support Meretz - Democratic Israel in its efforts to create a Constitution for the State of Israel that will guarantee basic human and civil liberties for all who live and work in that country, and place them above political manipulation.

We support a decent standard of living for all Israelis as well as for the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and foreign laborers working in Israel. We support the expansion of high-technology industry, the constructive evolution of the kibbutz movement, the reinvigoration of the Histadrut, and the economic development of the Galilee and the Negev. Together with an improvement of living standards for Palestinians, Israeli economic development will serve as a foundation for stability and peace.

TOWARD A MORE DEMOCRATIC JEWISH WORLD

A greater acceptance of Jewish diversity is vital for strengthening the bond between Jews in the Diaspora and in Israel. With all our diversity, we are one people. American Jewish umbrella organizations need to reflect a spirit of inclusiveness and equality, rather than requiring compliance with a single dominant viewpoint, as some do today. Meretz USA believes that strengthening the democratic character of our institutions is an urgent and essential requirement for strengthening the cohesion of our community as a whole.

The values which we hold most dear derive from the great ethical traditions of Judaism, and mandate the building of a just, democratic, and pluralistic society. Meretz USA invites you to join us in our ongoing efforts to achieve these goals and help secure a democratic and peaceful future for the State of Israel and the Jewish people.
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