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May 27, 1988 - Image 14

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-05-27

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Diplomat Urges Pressure
On PLO To Recognize Israel



he table wasn't really
round. The seating ar-
rangement was more
like a circle of rectangular
tables. Nevertheless, the
Greater Detroit Interfaith
Round Table-sponsored ap-
pearance last week of Israel
Consul General Uri Bar-Ner
was an attempt to bring the
25 Jews, Christians and
Moslems who attended into
the circle of those who
understand Middle East
By their presence at the in-
terfaith event, Bar-Ner's in-
terlocutors demonstrated an
interest in a fair solution to
the Arab-Israeli conflict. So
Bar-Ner, who replaced Zvi
Brosch at the Israel Con-
sulate in Chicago last month,
faced an audience willing to
listen, if not outright
The rules of dialogue are
simple: One may speak, but
also must listen. And par-
ticipants seemed anxious to
smooth rough edges when the
discussion grew heated. Jews
referred to Arabs as "my good
friend" and Arabs hastened
to assure Jews that they
believe in Israel's right to
Some of the questions put to
Bar-Ner were from those un-
familiar with Israel.
"How can a state be Jewish
and democratic?" asked Dr.
David Church, pastor of Mt.
Olivet United Methodist
Church in Dearborn.
Other questions came from
people with intimate
knowledge of the • Middle
"Have you asked the
Palestinians what they want?
Has Israel made an honest at-
tempt to sit down with
them?" asked Kamal
Shouhayib, a Lebanese-born
To Church, Bar-Ner, a
Haifa-born professional
diplomat, explained that
unlike the United States,
Israe — and Europe as well —
is not a melting pot of ethnic
groups, but a mosaic of
Moreover, Judaism is a corn-
bination of religion,
peoplehood, language and
civilization, which makes
comparisons with other
religions or nationalities dif-
ficult. "In Europe, you have
Christian Democratic par-
ties," he added, illustrating
how religion and politics are

Uri Bar Ner: Dialoguing.


mixed outside the United
States. Yet Israel has no state
To Shouhayib, Bar-Ner,
responded that Israeli
authorities are in constant
communication with Palesti-
nians, as they were before the
uprising in the territories,
which has entered its sixth
Borrowing a term often us-
ed by those involved in inter-
faith circles, Bar-Ner said
Israelis have conducted an
ongoing "dialogue" with
Palestinian mayors. "But
they always say, 'We don't
represent anyone here! They
always say, 'Go to the PLO.' "
But the Palestine Libera-
tion Organization, with its
covenant calling for the
destruction of Israel, "hasn't
the ability to construct, only
U.S. Secretary of State
George Shultz was left stan-
ding alone in Jerusalem's
American Colony Hotel dur-
ing his recent Middle East
shuttle, because the 15
Palestinians he had invited to
"dialogue" with him didn't
show up. The PLO threaten-
ed their lives, Bar-Ner
"If you can, influence the
PLO leadership to change its
covenant," the consul asked
his listeners. "Tell them
either to do it or stay away"
from American and Israeli
advances to Palestinians in
the territories.

If a Palestinian partner to
negotiations will step for-
ward, one who will be ready
to live in peace with Israel,
"we will be there momentari-
ly," he promised.
"It can help," Bar-Ner told
The Jewish News of his
meeting with the interfaith
group. More than an exercise

in public relations, such
gatherings can aid the search
for peace, he said. Those with
relatives and friends in the
Middle East will tell them the
Israeli position, he said, ad-
ding that channels of com-
munication in the Mideast
can be opened by small
discussions in the United
American Jews also have a
part to play, said Bar-Ner,
who has held diplomatic posts
in Bombay, Copenhagen,
Washington, D.C. and New
York City. Criticism of Israel
is part of dialogue, "but you
have to think if public
criticism in America is
helpful or is it useful to our
American Jews must in-
volve themselves in Israel's
demographic issue — will
Israel always have a Jewish
majority? — and with the
character of the state — will
Israel always be a democracy?
To keep Israel Jewish, it
needs Jews. That means more
Americans must make
aliyah, Bar-Ner said.
"Influencing Israel's
character cannot be done by
remote control," he added. "If
one wants to prevent the pass-
ing the "Who Is A Jew" issue,
he must make sure there are
enough people in Israel who
feel that way!'
(The proposed "Who Is A
Jew" legislation recognizes
only conversions performed
by Orthodox rabbis.)
As Israelis, Reform and
Conservative Jews eager to
block the "Who Is A Jew" law
could use the power of the
ballot. "Two hundred-
thousand Reform and Conser-
vative Jews in Israel are 15
seats in the Parliament," he
Bar-Ner emphasized the
importance of Jewish educa-
tion in the United States,
"focused on the centrality of
Israel to create bonds among
the young generation and to
prevent estrangement!"
Preventing assimilation in
the Diaspora "is an Israeli
concern as well!'
characteristic Israeli op-
timism that problems — even
those of war and peace — may
be difficult to solve, but are
not insurmountable. No
longer passive bystanders to
world events, there is oppor-
tunity for Jews to solve their
own problems because a
sovereign Jewish people ex-
ists in its own state. "As Jews,
our fate is in our hands to-
day," Bar-Ner said.

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