Does Jewish law support pre-emptive strike on Iraq War is a perilous course for pursuing justice, p

Two profound teachings of Jewish tradition should be guiding the actions of Jews today in opposing war against Iraq.

The first — "Tzedek, tzedek, tirdof," or "Justice, justice, shall you pursue" — involves seeking "just ends by just means." And it is a "just goal" to make certain Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction.

But war against Iraq is not the just means of accomplishing this just end. Instead, it is likely to endanger the lives of many Iraqis, Americans and others. It is also likely to endanger Israel — bring on, as U.S. intelligence experts have confirmed, the sharpest danger of a last-ditch chemical or biological attack upon the people of Israel — and endanger the moderate Arab governments that have made peace with Israel.

A war will also take hundreds of billions of dollars from America's own people — from health care for our seniors, schools for our children, healing for the earth. An attack on Iraq will increase the unaccountable power of the oil companies and regimes that have provided money to both al-Qaida terrorists and the Bush administration, that have corrupted American politics and robbed American stockholders, that befoul the seas and scorch the earth.

It will also worsen already deeply wounded human rights and civil liberties not only for Arabs and Muslims in America but even for Persian Jewish immigrants who were rounded up along with Muslims. And it will increase the use of torture of prisoners held overseas by the CIA, as was reported recently in The Washington Post.

So in good Jewish fashion, what is the practical alternative to war? What would "just means" be?

American Jews could:

*Support the Franco-German plan to intensify and prolong the U.N. inspection regime in Iraq, for months or years if necessary, while a totally different American and world approach to Iraq, the Middle East and Islam takes hold.

*Encourage a multilateral "Marshall Plan" for massive relief and rebuilding in Iraq before war, not wait until afterward when there will be hundreds of thousands more dead, and perhaps millions more refugees, than are already suffering and dying under the misapplied sanctions.

The world's Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities, the European Union, and many non-governmental organizations should supply food, medicine and clothing to desperate Iraqis. They should do this to make sure that the effort does not just feed the ruling dictatorship, and to ensure that it is not just used as a tool by the United States or other hostile powers.

Also, they should:

*Urge a worldwide treaty to eliminate weapons of mass destruction by all nations.

*Encourage the United States to insist on all-Arab peace treaties with Israel, plus a peace settlement between a secure Israel and a viable Palestine.

*Call a world conference of religious leaders to face and end the use of traditional texts and contemporary fears to justify violence against other religions.

*Ask the United States to join the International Criminal Court and broaden its jurisdiction to include international terrorism as well as governmental war crimes.

*Urge the United States to adhere to the Kyoto treaties and begin an all-out effort to conserve energy and bring renewable energy sources on line, minimizing use of oil and coal.

These specifics are strands in a larger weave of planetary community, and we need to be imagining that weave in all its wholeness. Then we can choose what aspects of this future we can begin to embody in the present.

The second crucial Jewish teaching for this hour comes from Psalm 34: "Bakeysh shalom radfeyhu," meaning, "seek peace and pursue it."

Most of the official American Jewish leadership has sat, paralyzed, while peace runs away from us all. They should join those "peac