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March 19, 1988 - Image 14

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-03-19

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

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14

FRIDAY, MARCH 18, 1988

Young Leadership Conference
Confronted by Tough Issues

ELIZABETH KAPLAN

Staff Writer

W

ashington — Early
Sunday morning,
the Arabs began
settling into place. Tall and
angry, the men wore keffiahs
and walked in groups of four
and five, separated several
feet from the women behind
them.
They stopped outside the
Washington Hilton. And then
they began to yell, full force,
"Palestine yes! Occupation
no! Victory, victory PLO!"
Two policemen stood near-
by, their arms crossed over
their chests. Asked if this sort
of thing happens often, an of-
ficer replied, "They do this all
the time in this town. All the
time?'
Across the street a very dif-
ferent contingent was gather-
ing. More than 3,000 Jews —
some 75 from Detroit — were
coming to the. Hilton for the
Sixth National Young Leader-
ship Conference of the United
Jewish Appeal.
Divided on how to achieve
peace in the Middle East, on
the relationship between
Israel and Diaspora Jewry, on
issues like "Who is a Jew,"
this group nonetheless offered
unanimity of thought on one
issue: they support Israel un-
failingly and wholeheartedly.
It was exactly what Elie
Wiesel, keynote speaker at
the opening plenary, wants.
In an impassioned, speech,
the Nobel laureate called not
for a single voice of un-
qualified and unquestioning
approval for all of Israel's
policies, but for a single voice
of love for the state.
"I believe in the people of
Israel," he said. "I believe in
the State of Israel. And I
believe that the bonds be-
tween them are indestructi-
ble?'
In the past few months,
Wiesel said, "it has become
dangerous to say a good word
about Israel." He added that
"I do not remember a period
in my adult life as a Jew
when so much hatred has
been shown and unleashed
toward Israel."
Thday, it is acceptable to de-
nounce those who do not join
in the chorus against Israel;
tomorrow, it may very well be
any Jews at all, he said.
According to Wiesel, the
real goal of those inciting
violence in the territories is
to split the Jewish people and
to make them enemies of
Israel. "And unless we are

Benjamin Netanyahu

vigilant in that respect,
danger is at hand," he said.
Wiesel was followed by
Israel's ambassador to the
United Nations, Benjamin
Netanyahu, who cited Israel's
many challenges, the greatest
of which is its "challenge for
survival," he said.
Netanyahu called the re-
cent violence in the ad-
ministered territories "a new
phase in an old war. And it
relies on the ill will and
stupidity of some people, it
relies on the gullibility of all."
The ambassador took issue
with attempts to define the
violence as "demonstrations"
or "acts of civil disobedience,"
as if stone-throwing Arab
youths are Mother Theresas
woefully lamenting unjusti-
fied hatred and petitioning
for peace.
The problem, Netanyahu
said, has never been that the
Palestinians lack a state, but
rather that the Jews have one.
Netanyahu also noted that
while many are quick to lam-
bast Israel for not getting
peace negotations started,
few are eager to point out the
fact that, other than Egypt,
the Arab nations do not have
relations with Israel.
That act of recognition is
the precondition, he said.
Netanyahu, who frequently
gesticulated to emphasize his
comments, was an extremely
popular speaker with mem-
bers of the Detroit contingent.
After hearing the ambassa-
dor, one young man said: "I
feel like I can go back now
and answer all those critics of
Israel!'
In fact, criticism of Israel
was rarely voiced by De-
troiters at the conference —
and when it was, it was al-
most always with the dis-

claimer, "this has to be off
the record."
Yet those attending the con-
ference did not come to raise
their voices against Israel.
They came, they said, to
learn.
Tali Arbel, who was attend-
ing her first Young Leader-
ship conference, said, "As
American Jews, the first
thing we have to do is educate
ourselves about Israel."
"We've got to get detailed,
more accurate information,"
added James Boschan. "That
will make it easier to discuss
the situation more intelli-
gently in the future."
And Suzi Alterman said
that one of the reasons she at-
tended the conference was
specifically to learn more
about Israel.
Two years ago, Alterman
said, she was uninvolved in
Jewish issues. Then she
became interested in the UJA
and the Jewish Welfare
Federation. This week, she at-
tended her second Young
Leadership Conference and
now serves on the board of the
Young Adult Division.
For Alterman, no connec-
tion exists between U.S.
Jewry's dollars and its right
to help determine political
policy in Israel. "When we
give to the Allied Jewish
Campaign, our money isn't
going to politics," she said.
"And I give because I care
about the people of Israel —
about the Jews who need to
get out of Ethiopia and Polish
Jews who need food."
One political issue was fre-
quently discussed both by
participants and speakers at
the event: The recent letter
drafted by Sen. Carl Levin (D-
Mich.), praising the peace in-
itiative of Secretary of State
George Shultz and expressing
dismay at Israeli Prime
Minister Yitzhak Shamir's
rejection of the "land for
peace" option.
Detroiter Marc Krasnin ar-
ticulated a view about the let-
ter expressed by many others.
There is nothing wrong or
unusual with the 30 signators
voicing their views, he said.
The issue is that they are
senators.
"The timing of the letter
was inappropriate?" asserted
Dennis Bernard, campaign
chairman for YAD. "The men
who signed it were very aware
that Prime Minister Shamir
would be here in a week and
they took the opportunity to
make a statement about his
policies as senators, as our
representatives. And that put

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