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Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, April 1989, Page 25

Lobbies and Activists

Focus on Jews and Israel

By Andrea Barron

Zionist Leader Says Peace Not Possible with Shamir

There can be no peace for Israel "as long as Yitzhak Shamir and his Likud party control Israeli foreign policy," wrote Menachem Rosensaft in an op-ed piece appearing in The New York Times Feb. 28. Rosensaft, president of the Labor Zionist Alliance and founder of the International Network of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, was one of five American Jews who met with PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat last December in Stockholm. He and the others in his delegation were branded as "dupes" by some leaders of the US Jewish establishment and Rosensaft was almost ousted from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

"Israelis like Prime Minister (Yitzhak) Shamir and Foreign Minister Moshe Arens believe that the Jewish people have a God-given right to all of the biblical 'Land of Israel,' which they define as including the West Bank and Gaza Strip, " Rosensaft wrote. Likud leaders "understand that the very act of talking to the PLO implies an acknowledgment of precisely those Palestinian nationalist aspirations that are incompatible with their absolutist vision of a 'Greater Israel."' Shamir is unlikely to "present a credible peace proposal when he visits Washington this spring," Rosensaft argued, since unlike Labor leaders Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, Shamir does not support the principle of exchanging territory for peace.

Meanwhile in Jerusalem last month, Jewish leaders assembled for a meeting of the Presidents' Conference advised Shamir: "Don't just say 'no' when you go to Washington." According to the Washington Jewish Week, American Jewish Congress President Robert Lifton told him: "You have our full cooperation-for God's sake come up with a program that will be perceived as realistic." The Israelis also had some advice for American Jews. You have to "tough it out" in the fight against the PLO, said Deputy Foreign Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, one of Likud's "rising young stars." Netanyahu said Israel was planning a new peace initiative, but "the only way to get it off the ground is to accentuate the negative of the other side. We need your help."

US Jews React to the Rushdie Affair

The American Jewish Congress has reacted more strongly than any other Jewish organization in deploring Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini's death threat against British author Salman Rushdie. Khomeini has accused Rushdie, born in India of Muslim parents, of blaspherning Islam in his novel The Satanic Verses. A statement issued by the AJ Congress said: "The outrageous and barbarous threats against the life of Salman Rushdie demand condemnation and public denunciation from every part of the civilized world." The organization also called on the United States government and the United Nations to register worldwide revulsion over these "abominable threats" and "to recommend appropriate concerted action to prevent them from being carried out."

The American section of the World Jewish Congress (WJC)—a separate organization—also spoke out against the death threat. "More than any other religion, Jews can sympathize with the pain of devout Muslims at what they see as a distortion and caricature of their fundamental beliefs and practices. Yet our experience has also taught us that the proper response to such perceived distortion or defamation is dialogue and education, not violence and assassination."

Rabbi Wolfe Kelman, who heads the WJC's American section, told reporter Andrew Silow Carroll from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that he had expected the Jewish community to be more responsive to Rushdie's plight. He said perhaps some Jews were afraid that by demonstrating public sympathy for Rushdie, they would be putting the lives of Iranian Jews in danger.

Carroll points out that in the Old Testament, the punishment for blasphemy is death. In Leviticus 24:14, God tells Moses: "He that blasphemes the name of the Lord, he shall surely be put to death." However, there is apparently no record in contemporary history of one Jew killing another for blasphemy. (Jewish heretics traditionally were banned from their communities and their books were burned.)

Congressmen Tell NJCRAC Israel Should Not be Pressured

Speaking at the annual convention of the National Jewish Community Relations Council (NJCRAC), Reps. Lee Hamilton (D-IN) and Robert Packwood (R-OR) said the US-PLO dialogue should continue, but that Israel should not be pressured into beginning talks with the Palestinian organization. Hamilton, the highly respected chair of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East, also told this influential group of Jewish leaders that conditions should not be placed on US aid to Israel because "You do not treat good friends that way." He said he supported internationally supervised elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as a first step in the peace process.

Packwood said that he would back Israel if it refused to talk to the PLO but that his constituents in Oregon might not feel the same way. "There's a certain sense that the PLO has changed," Packwood was quoted as saying in the Washington Jewish Week."' If Israel is not going to negotiate with somebody, then it is incumbent upon her to convince not Lee (Hamilton) or me, (but) to convince my lumber worker (in Oregon) that just the very path of sitting down with somebody is inimical to peace."

Andrea Barron is a Ph.D. candidate in international relations at the American University in Washington, DC, and is a member of the Jewish Committee for Israeli-Palestinian Peace.