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November 06, 1987 - Image 55

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-11-06

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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rtyy r

Art By Stir Belsky

Why Israel Doesn't Listen To
American Jews

"Israelis
don't give a
damn what
American
Jews think,"
says a
specialist in
Israel-America
relations. And
several recent
events seem
to support
that
viewpoint.

HELEN DAVIS

Jewish News Israel Correspondent

erusalem — Four weeks
ago, a major American
Jewish organization
broke the mold and smashed
a tradition. In a formal policy
statement, the national gov-
erning council of the Ameri-
can Jewish Congress declared
its support for an interna-
tional peace conference on the
Middle East and called for an
end to Israeli rule over the 1.2
million Palestinians in the
West Bank and Gaza.
The substance of the state-
ment in itself was not revolu-
tionary. Such sentiments do,
after all, reflect the main-
stream position of Israel's
Labor Party. However, the
fact that a major American
Jewish organization went
public with a partisan posi-
tion defied the unwritten
rules of the Israel-Diaspora
game: that American Jewish
organizations do not publicly

j

take sides on security issues,
particularly when they are
the subject of acute political
controversy in Israel itself.
AJC President Theodore
Mann justified the ground-
breaking event by declaring
that "American Jewry must
take part in the historic
debate [on the peace process]
because on its outcome hangs
the future of Israel and world
Jewry."
The key word here is "de-
bate," a word that implies
dialogue, a two-way exchange
of views, a discussion, the
give-and-take of ideas—in
this case, between American
Jewry and Israel's policy-
makers and opinion-shapers.
Without doubt, the AJC
expected to be taken serious-
ly. And it was—by Egyptian
Foreign Minister Esmat
Abdel Meguid, who hailed
the statement as "very en-
couraging" and "a pleasant
surprise."
Foreign Minister Shimon
Peres also addressed the issue

belatedly last week before a
meeting of the Conference of
Presidents of Major Ameri-
can Jewish Organizations,
calling on all American
Jewish organizations to take
a stand on the peace issue.
But in Israel itself? Prime
Minister Yitzhak Shamir,
whose Likud Party adamant-
ly opposes any suggestion of
an international conference,
predictably deplored the AJC
initiative as a "clear-cut viola-
tion of the long-held truth"
that Jewish organizations in
the United States do not in-
tervene in Israeli disputes.
The State of Israel, he
declared, had the right to de-
cide on security and political
matters, while "American
Jews are required to under-
stand this and to support our
struggle and our efforts."
Not much potential here for
debate. Media coverage of the
statement was equally cur-
sory.
A story on page four of the
Jerusalem Post, a brief men-

tion on radio and television, a
supportive editorial in the
Hebrew-language daily
"Ha'aretz."
But compared with the
time and space devoted to the
other issues of the moment—
secret contacts between the
Likud and the PLO, relations
with the Soviet Union and
China, the terrorist murder of
an Israeli soldier, a doctors'
strike, the summer road toll,
Sylvester Stallone flexing on
a Tel Aviv beach—the AJC in-
itiative virtually sank with-
out trace.
This is not the first time
that major American Jewish
initiatives have been almost
totally ignored by the Israeli
establishment and media.
Another recent example
featured a high-powered dele-
gation of United States and
Canadian fund-raisers, led by
Shoshana Cardin, which
dashed to Israel in hopes of
heading off an attempt to
change the Law of Return
and delegitimize Reform and

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