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December 16, 1988 - Image 6

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-12-16

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

EDITORIAL

PLO Overkill

Syndicated columnist George Will sees the media as myopic,
uneducated and wishful thinkers when it comes to Israel and Mid-
dle East peace. But there may yet be hope for the world's journalists
and public opinion makers.
It comes in the form of Yassir Arafat. The more the Palestine
Liberation Organization leader takes the world stage, the more the
American audience he is trying to cultivate has the opportunity to
see through his pronouncements.
Little has changed between the Nov. 15 Palestinian "Declara-
tion of Independence" and Arafat's ambiguous speech this week
before the United Nations in Geneva. Although his tone may have
been more diplomatic, the substance of Arafat's text offered little
to hopeful Israelis and Palestinians and the cheering U.N. diplomats.
Arafat and Palestinians everywhere must come to grips with
Israeli mistrust of the PLO — a group that denies Israel's existence,
helped foment five wars against Israel's borders and continues to
call for anti-Jewish terrorism and civil disturbances within those
borders.
Arafat has renounced terrorism . . . outside of Israel. That may
warrant a standing ovation from U.N. diplomats, but it will not sway
the nation the Palestinians refuse to recognize, negotiate with, and
whose destruction they advocate in the PLO Covenant.
Until the PLO or the Palestinians in the territories take con-
crete steps toward meeting Israel half way, instead of posturing for
American public opinion, the 40-year impasse will continue.
Some Arab hard-liners say they have numbers and time on their
side in their war against Israel. But George Will recalled a Golda
Meir comment for his Detroit Allied Jewish Campaign audience on
Monday: "The Jews have one great advantage — they have nowhere
else to go."

ed by human error, like the Challenger space tragedy or the Cher-
nobyl nuclear reactor crisis, reminds us of our failings and short-
comings. And a natural disaster reminds us that we — all of us —
are subject to the whims and the awesome powers of God and nature.
It reminds us that behind our ideologies, religious or political, or
the collective egoism of nationalism or the individual egoism of the
self, we are, quite ultimately, one human family.
Perhaps the human suffering in Armenia will serve to remind
the two superpowers that the fate of mankind lies in their hands;
that we may have no authority over nature, but we certainly have
some say over the mega-death weapons in our arsenals. And it may
remind Soviet leaders that there are varying degrees of human woe:
The woe that emanates from such.frightful events as earthquakes
— and the woe that stems from such misguided policies as the Soviet
stance toward emigration, especially for Soviet Jews. We may be
powerless to stop nature from its occasionally terrible course, but
we — and in this case, the Kremlin — are certainly not impotent
to minimize the human suffering caused by human hands.

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Armenia Tragedy

Last week's earthquake in Armenia was a human tragedy of the
first dimension. Fatalities are estimated in the tens of thousands,
and hundreds of thousands are homeless. Entire villages and broad
sections of cities have turned into rubble.
Disasters remind us of our common mortality. A disaster caus-

COMMENT

How Should We React To Who Is A Jew'?

EZEKIEL LEIKIN

Special to The Jewish News

T

he "confrontation" be-
tween American Jew-
ry and Israel sparked
by the likelihood of a change
in the "Who Is a Jew" legisla-
tion has produced an
escalating mood of anger and
acrimony which, if left un-
checked, may threaten the
solidarity and unity of the
Jewish people.
There is no ldenying that
the relentless pressures on
the part of Israeli haredim
(ultra-Orthodox) to saddle the

Ezekiel Leikin is executive
director of the Zionist
Organization of America-
Detroit district.

6

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 16, 1988

"Who Is a Jew" legislation
with the proviso that only
halachically sanctioned con-
versions be recognized as
legally valid is an affront to
American Jewry, which is
predominantly identified
with Reform and Conser-
vative congregations. What
exacerbates the issue is that
the proposed amendment to
Israel's Law of Return would
stipulate that halachically
approved conversions be per-
formed only by Orthodox rab-
bis acceptable to Israel's
ultra-Orthodox hierarchy.
While in practice, the pro-
posed amendment is likely to
affect an insignificant
number of American olim
converted by non-Orthodox
rabbis, the symbolic implica-
tions of the change may be

perceived as an attempt to
delegitimize the majority of
American Jews.
The outcry against this
legislation is, therefore,
understandable. But its
nuances, as reflected in a
number of simplistic or "over-
heated" declarations and
statements, are out of focus.
lb be sure, saner voices in the
Jewish community, notably
Rabbi Alexander Schindler
(Reform), Morris Abram
(President's Conference) and
Milton Shapiro (Zionist
Organization of America) —
to name a few — have called
on American Jewry not to
overreact and not to retaliate
by cutting contributations to
the United Jewish Appeal
and other Israel-centered
causes and institutions.

It would be seriously
damaging to the unity of the
Jewish people and the vital
interests of the State of Israel,
if the so-called "confronta-
tion". between American
Jewry and Israeli officialdom
-- irrespective of whichever
party is in control of the
evolving government — is
allowed to deteriorate into a
lingering, festering feud con-
ducive to alienation and
estrangement. American
Jews must realize that their
disagreement is not with
Israel per se, but with a tran-
sient, highly politicized party
officialdom struggling to
coalesce into a tolerably
cohesive inter-party
government.
In a lighter vein, one
wonders whether the

religious controversy has
been engineered with a view
to boosting Israel's sagging
tourist industry. With
American Jewish delegations
trying to outrace each other
in a headlong rush to but-
tonhole and cajole Israel's
"movers and shakers," Israeli
tourism has received an unex-
pected and much-needed lift.
It appears that what the in-
tifada failed to accomplish
"religion" did.

Of course, American Jews
should not hesitate to lobby
Israel's political leaders not to
succumb to the pressures of
the religious parties, which
have made their support for a
narrow coalition-government
contingent on a passage of the

Continued on Page 11

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