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February 28, 2003 - Image 24

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-02-28

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

Washington Watch

Resolution Is Tested

An Israeli envoy intervenes in JCPA debate.

F

JAMES D. BESSER

Washington Correspondent

fierce lobbying by a coalition
of major Jewish groups and
dramatic intervention by an
official of the Israeli
embassy combined to beat back a reso-
lution calling for a "settlements freeze"
and a "two-state" solution to the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict at this
week's Jewish Council for Public
Affairs (JCPA) plenum in Baltimore.
The public affairs group, represent-
ing 123 local and 13 national Jewish
agencies, did what it often does when
confronted with an issue that deeply
divides the Jewish community: It took
refuge in the broadest possible consen-
sus language.
b .
The debate was triggered by a policy
resolution offered by the Union of
American Hebrew Congregations
(UAHC) and the Jewish Labor
Committee. In its original form, the
resolution expressed strong support for
Israel and called for an end to
Palestinian terrorism, but also for a set-
tlements freeze and a Palestinian state.
The original resolution also called
on Israel to "do everything possible to
minimize violence against innocent
civilians." That last phrase was cut
even before delegates assembled for
the debate on Monday night.
Then, facing strong attacks by repre-
sentatives of the Orthodox Union, the
American Jewish Committee and the
Jewish War Veterans, among others,
delegates approved amendments that
stripped away most of the controver-
sial language — including any refer-
ence to settlements.
Critics argued that the full resolution
would be widely interpreted as criti-
cism of the beleaguered Israeli govern-
ment.
"I don't want to see a clause or a
comma that is critical of the demo-
cratically elected government of
Israel," said former JCPA chairman
Len Cole.
The OU's David Luchins said, "We
don't take positions that tell Israel
what to do, and we think this is a bad
time to start." But UAHC's Leonard
Fein said that "all this resolution really
says is that settlements policies should
be subordinate to peace policies.

2/28

2003

26

Nobody is telling Israel what to do."
The most dramatic moment of the
debate came at the beginning when
Moshe Fox, minister of public affairs
at the Israeli embassy, angrily warned
delegates about the "messages" the res-
olution would send at a time when
Israel faces continuing terrorism.
"Is this the message you want to
send to the 750 families (of terror vic-
tims)?" he asked.
Mark Pelavin, associate director of
the Religious Action Center of Reform
Judaism and the lead advocate of the
resolution, termed Fox's intervention
"outrageous" and
"unprecedented."
The topic then: settle-
ments.
When it became evi-
dent the resolution
would be stripped of all
controversy, UAHC offi- Mark
cials requested that it be
Pelavin
referred to a task force
for further study. But a
vote on that motion failed, and the
stripped-down resolution was passed by
a wide margin.
Pelavin termed the results "disap-
pointing," but said that the debate was
useful. "It's the first time in a long
time we've had an open, active debate
of some of these issues," he said. "I
think that's healthy."

Resolutions Galore

Delegates also passed by an over-
whelming margin a resolution on
Holocaust restitution that seemed a
slap at the agencies that have made
critical decisions about how that
money should be allocated.
The proposal by the Boston and
Miami Jewish community councils,
highlighted the poverty of many elder-
ly Holocaust victims in this country
and asserted that only after their needs
have been "fully met" is it "appropriate
to consider the use of such remaining
funds For programs of research, docu-
mentation and education of the
Holocaust, among other uses.",
That was seen as criticism of agen-
cies like the Conference on Jewish
Material Claims Against Germany,
which initiated an 80-20 split for
unclaimed restitution funds — with

the majority going to helping sur-
vivors, but 20 percent reserved for
Holocaust education, research, docu-
mentation and other uses.
Rick Mann, representing the Boston
group, said that up to $85 million has
been spend so far for programs that
don't help survivors. But opponents,
led by the Jewish Labor Committee
and several big-city CRCs, argued that
the split was appropriate, and that
education and documentation pro-
grams are needed to perpetuate the
memory of all victims.
David Mallach, director of commu-
nity relations for the United Jewish
Federation of MetroWest, N.J., said
"the vast majority of the funds we are
talking about come from the assets and
resources of those who did not survive
— those who were killed, whose heirs
were killed, and who are not remem-
bered — the role of these funds in giv-
ing a name to the people whose mem-
ories could be lost is vitally important."
He said that the only studies of the
needs of survivors in this country have
been made by Jewish family service
agencies that stand to gain funding if
more money is spent on services to
survivors.
With sentiment running strongly in
favor of the Boston resolution, opponents
moved to postpone the debate "indefi-
nitely." Robert M. Zweiman, an official
with the Jewish War Veterans, objected,
saying that "if you postpone, you castrate
every survivor who has a claim."
The final vote in favor of the
Boston-Miami resolution was over-
whelming.
"It was a clear rejection of the notion
of 80-20," said Mark Talisman, a long-
time Jewish activist on Capitol Hill
and one of the chief promoters of the
resolution. "I was surprised at the level
of passion and support; there is general
bewilderment among wonderful Jewish
leaders about why this problem exists.
It needs urgent attention now."
He said the vote was not a slap in the
face of the Claims Conference, but agreed
that it's a warning shot. "The Claims
Conference cm be part of the solution, or
part of the problem," he said.
Talisman said that up to 50 percent
of the 125,000 survivors in this coun-
try are now indigent, "having to make
Hobson's choices about whether they

eat or pay the rent. That's true for the
elderly in general — but in this case,
there are resources available only for
them. To take that money and divide
among other worthwhile programs
while these people still desperately
need help is really inappropriate."
Delegates also endorsed "increased
dialogue" between Jews and Evangelical
Christian groups and cooperation on
"the range of issues on which Jews and
Evangelical Christians are already work-
ing cooperatively: treatment of religious
minorities in other lands, religious
accommodation in the workplace, reli-
gious freedom restoration legislation
and social services."
But the resolution also acknowl-
edged the areas where the two com-
munities generally disagree, including
church-state separation, abortion and
women's issues and "perceptions of
Islam in the modern world."
The group also approved a resolu-
tion calling for a prescription drug
benefit for Medicare recipients that is
"publicly administered, like the tradi-
tional fee-for-service Medicare system,
and not administered through private,
for-profit insurance companies."
That last phrase was proposed by
the Union of American Hebrew
Congregations and approved after a
noisy debate.

Mideast Report

A lawmaker who will play an expand-
ing role in Mideast affairs has prom-
ised to use her new subcommittee to
highlight Israel's struggles against ter-
rorism and fight for the
b new request
by Jerusalem for up to $12 billion in -
loan guarantees and direct aid.
What's less clear is whether Rep.
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen,
R-Fla., now chair of
the Middle East and
South Asia subcommit-
tee of the House inter-
national Relations
Committee, will have
much clout with the
Rep.
full committee chair,
Ros-Lehtinen
Rep. Henry Hyde, R-
Ill., who lacks her ardor
for Israel.
This week Ros-Lehtinen returned
from leading a committee delegation
to the region.
"We went with the mission to
express solidarity with the Israeli gov-
ernment and its people as they face
potential attacks from Saddam
Hussein as \ye go to war against that
dictator," she said in an interview.
She said the delegation witnessed

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