Oren pleads for Jewish support for peace
By J. Zel Lurie
DELRAY BEACH, Florida–The story appeared in the Jerusalem Post of September 21. It was headed “Oren urges Jewish leaders to support peace moves.” The story described a meeting Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren held in Washington with Israeli and Jewish reporters.
Ambassador Oren’s request that American Jewish leaders publicly support Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was almost completely ignored.
Some background. Since 1948 American Jewish leaders have listened closely to the Israeli Embassy. The ambassador never had to ask for support. He described Israeli policy and Jewish leaders followed even when Israeli actions were contrary to American policy.
Support for Jewish settlements in the West Bank is a notable example. The United States has opposed every settlement as contrary to international law on occupied territory and a serious obstacle to peace . But American opposition to settlements, for political reasons, was never forceful, and almost 300,000 Jews have settled in the West Bank.
Which explains why, for the first time, Ambassador Oren’s plea for support was greeted with silence. Even by Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League. For years he has acted as the self-appointed spokesman for Israeli policies. Now he is occupied in wiggling his opposition to the Islamic center, two blocks from ground zero.
No response from any other Jewish organization except from Mort Klein, head of the miniscule Zionist Organization of America. According to the Jerusalem Post, Klein said that his and similar organizations would raise their voices loudly if Israel gave up any part of holy Jerusalem. It should be noted that holy Jerusalem was more than tripled in 1967 to include the West bank villages of Beit Hanina, Shuafat, Um Tuba, Issafiye, Jebel Mukabar and many others.
Which left the field wide open for J Street, the upstart Washington organization which is less than two years old and has captured scores of Congressmen and Senators for peace.
J Street has grabbed the brass ring and is riding high. It has laid claim to “the new address for Middle East Peace and security.”
J Street has been vigorously supporting the Mideast policies of President Barak Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton while larger Jewish organizations have remained quiescent.
Last week J Street placed full-page ads in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and four Jewish weeklies, including this one, headed “MAKE HISTORY NOW.”
The ad asks Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Mahmoud Abbas, with the help of President Barack Obama, to “seize this historic opportunity to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a two-state solution.”
The ad, which was signed by a number of J Street’s leaders continues:
“I support keeping these talks alive…Stay at the table. Give these talks a chance to succeed.”
This column is being written on September 22 for publication on September 29. The moratorium on freezing settlement construction was scheduled to end on September 26. The ad asks that the moratorium be extended.
J Street has scheduled a national town hall for September 27. Jeremy Ben Ami, the founder of J Street, has sent an op-ed piece to the Jewish press. J Street will continue its active support for the Israeli and Palestinian leaders who will continue to negotiate complex issues until, in the words of Netanyahu, they will make the “historic compromises” that will lead to peace.
Meanwhile, the local (South Florida) branch of the American Jewish Committee has announced a four-part series of lectures on “Understanding Islam.”
While the planning for this series was far advanced when Ambassador Oren made his plea for support it might be said, with a stretch , that the series was the AJC’s response. One of the reasons for the silence by AJC’s national office is that so many American Jews class all Moslems as the enemy.
Understanding Islam is the beginning of acceptance of the possibility of peace through a two-state solution. Dr. Leon Weissberg was scheduled to begin the four-part series with a lecture on September 27 on the birth and development of Islam. Dr. Robert Rabil will continue on October 27 on Islam in the United States. He will be followed on November 15 by Dr. Jalal Zabari who will talk on moderate voices and current trends in Islam. Yehudit Barsky will conclude the series on December 13 with a talk on radical Islam and terrorism.
Kudos to the local branch of the AJC. To register call the local AJC office 994 782.
Lurie is a freelance writer based in Delray Beach, Florida. His articles appear in the Jewish Journal of South Florida.