Home  Principles & Statements  Positions of the ACJ  Articles  DonationsAbout Us  Contact Us  Links                                         

WJC President Stirs Debate By Urging Israel To Dismantle Its Settlements

Allan C. Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
November-December 2001

WJC President Stirs Debate By Urging Israel To Dismantle Its Settlements  

WJC President Stirs Debate By Urging Israel To Dismantle Its Settlements



Bronfman, president of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) has stirred a debate  
with his recent call for the dismantlement of Israeli settlements in the  
occupied territories and unilateral separation from the Palestinians.




Speaking at a  
WJC gathering in Jerusalem on October 31, Bronfman, reports The Forward  
(Nov. 9, 2001), “became the first major American Jewish communal leader to  
break ranks openly with Mr. Sharon ... Mr. Sharon regularly fends off attacks  
from Israeli doves who want him to negotiate with Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian  
Authority and agree to the eventual dismantlement of settlements, even as hawks  
press him to expel Mr. Arafat and dismantle his regime. Similar critiques are  
voiced regularly in the American and European media. Until now, however, the  
debate has been muted within the American Jewish communal life. Unsettled by  
the fury of Palestinian violence over the last year and unwilling to question  
an Israel under fire, most Jewish activists have kept their criticisms to  
themselves and supported Israel publicly.”




Rabbi Eric  
Yoffie, the senior leader of Reform Judaism, said: “At a time when Sharon is  
heading a unity government fighting terror, I’m not interested in criticizing  
him on what are theoretical positions.”




Mr. Bronfman  
said that it was his intention to initiate a debate among Israelis, but that he  
had no “objection” to triggering discussions within the American Jewish  
community. He noted that, “It’s very difficult to be told to agree with the  
government when the government doesn’t agree with itself, and has no policy in  
place to attempt to deal with the situation.”




Rabbi Irwin  
Kula, president of CLAL—The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership,  
declared, “It’s important to widen the debate. A lack of debate allows opinions  
to get sloppy.”




Leonard Fein (The Forward, Nov. 9, 2001) argues that if critics of  
Israeli policy remain silent, both Jerusalem and Washington “will suppose” that  
“the noisy, hawkish stance of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the  
Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and the Conference of  
Presidents of Major American Jewish organizations speak for the majority of  
America’s Jews.”




Fein believes  
that “Israel’s policies endanger Israel’s security and wellbeing.” He points  
out that an advertisement signed by prominent Israelis and Palestinians in the International  
Herald Tribune
(Oct. 29, 2001), Ha’aretz, Al-Ayyam and Al-Quds  
received almost no coverage in the U.S. and is worthy of attention.




It stated, in  
part: “The window of opportunity created by the international desire to unite  
against terror following the criminal acts of September 11 is in danger of  
closing. Our region is being dragged to the brink of an unnecessary war by the  
acts of extremists on both sides. We, the undersigned, believe that we  
represent the majority on each side in our rejection of terror in all its  
forms. We demand the immediate implementation of the Mitchell Report and in  
particular: an immediate end to all violence and assassinations; an immediate  
cessation of all settlement activity; return to permanent status negot­iations  
based on U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and building on the  
progress achieved in previous negotiation rounds.”




Signing the  
declaration were 18 Palestinians, including five members of Yasser Arafat’s  
cabinet — and 19 Israelis, including 10 members of the Knesset and six former  
members. Many of the Israelis are well-known to American Jews: Yossi Sarid,  
Collette Avital, Yael Dayan, Yossi Beilin, and Yuli Tamir among them.




Leonard Fein  
writes: “I do not know whether there was much conversation in Israel about the  
ad when it was published, so dispirited is the peace camp these days. I also do  
not know whether adding the signatures of thousands of American Jews will help  
the cause of peace. But I do know such signatures won’t hurt. The address for  
endorsement is ‘IPJointDeclaration@hotmail.com.’ Now you can’t say you didn’t  




< return to article list
© 2010 The American Council For Judaism.