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

As Mideast Peace Prospects Improve, Consensus Among Jewish Groups Is Hard to Find

Allan C. Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
January - February 2005

As Israel’s government prepares to pull out of Gaza and parts of the West Bank and resume talks with the Palestinians, The Forward (Jan. 28, 2005) reports that, “American Jewish communal leaders are striving to protect their community from polarizing and to create a sense of consensus in support of Ariel Sharon’s government. ...The death of Yasser Arafat, the decline of Palestinian violence and especially the prospect of Israeli withdrawal from Gaza have swept away the consensus that had united virtually all the organized Jewish community behind the Israeli government over the last four-and-a-half years, since the outbreak of the intifada.”  

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has sparked controversy with an ad in the Washington Jewish Week and The Forward which implies that those who support Israeli plans to withdraw from Gaza are akin to German Nazis. “Now, incredibly, it is Jews who would deport their own, imprison them in concentration camps and abandon the land to those who would destroy it,” the ad reads, calling such plans “an abomination.” The ad was billed as “A message from the Brandeis district” of the ZOA and signed by its president, George Bernstein. ZOA President Morton Klein said the ad had not been approved by the national office and “we think it is inappropriate to make analogies using Holocaust or other monstrous tragedies endured by Jews over the ages.” Mr. Bernstein said he stands by the ad. “Now Jews are afraid to talk against the planned deportations in Gaza,” he said. “I consider that akin to the silence of the Jews in America who failed to speak up and fight for the Jews during the Holocaust.”  

Writing in The Forward, Ori Nir notes that, “Community leaders worry that vocal American Jewish opposition to Sharon’s disengagement plan may weaken the Israeli leader and harm peace efforts in the region. Opponents of the plan, though a minority, are highly mobilized, while supporters are not visibly mobilizing in force. Moreover, some leaders admit, they worry that the emergence of a vocal opposition to Sharon — even if it represents a minority — could weaken their own claim to represent the broader Jewish community when lobbying Washington on a variety of issues.”  

Of particular concern to Jewish communal leaders is that American Jews opposing the Gaza withdrawal plan might encourage threats of right-wing Israeli militants to resort to violence to obstruct the uprooting of Jewish settlements.  

Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) states: “Frankly, what is necessary that we do in our own community is what we tell everybody else in other communities to do when there is incitement to hate and extremism. We must urge people in leadership positions in our community to speak out continuously and say that this isn’t the way.”  

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