CINCINNATT, OHIO (Jan. 22)
Are American Jews “yes men” for either Washington or Jerusalem? The answer is “no,” according to Theodore R. Mann, chairman of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council (NJCRAC), American Jews are a free and independent community whose reactions to any issue of concern are guided by a sense of responsibility.
Addressing some 400 Jewish community leaders from all sectors of the United States at the opening session of the NJCRAC’s four-day plenary meeting here at the Netherland Hilton, Mann analyzed the role of American Jewish organizations in the search for peace in the Middle East and what he described as a change in the Israeli American Jewish relationship.
Mann said that the current Middle East negotiations have “wall to wall Jewish unity” but it is as much an expression of unified apposition to unfair and hostile public criticism of Israel as it is supportive of Israel’s actions. Making clear that the role of American Jewish leadership is to mobilize understanding and support for the goal of a secure Israel, not to make policy decisions an how that security ought to be achieved, he said the Israelis understand their security needs far better than we.”
While there are adequate channels for disagreeing with a particular Israeli policy or action, he continued, “we would severely compromise our ability to cry out against public U.S. chastisement of Israel if we ourselves indulged in the same practice.” He pointed out that Premier Menachem Begin and Israeli leadership in general have made themselves directly accessible to American Jewish leaders who wish to convey their Jews in that Israeli decision-makers more than ever take American Jewish reactions into account.
RELATIONSHIP ENTERING A NEW PHASE
“They know, he declared, “that we are one kind of factor in the negotiation when we reach as a united community and another kind when we do not. Mann, who is also the chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said that the Israeli. American Jewish relationship is entering a new phase primarily because of American Jewry’s changing image of itself. The American Jewish community today, he asserted is “cohesive and dynamic.”
He characterized the relationship over the past 30 years as having been built on “fantasy”–on the one side, the belief of many Israelis that Jewish communities living outside of Israel, including American Jewry, would disappear through assimilation and acculturation, on the other side a sense of inferiority stemming from “outsize respect and awe at our Israeli partners.”
He asked Israelis who believe that Jewry cannot survive outside of Israel to reconsider. “Believe in our future and act on that belief just as we believe in your future and act on that belief…real enduring unity will come only from movement by each community to support the other’s most essential needs.”
Mann cited the following as “imperatives” for the American Jewish community in the year ahead.
To exercise its first Amendment rights with “uncommon vigor and wisdom.”
To understand that the United States continues to be Israel’s friend and ally despite transient misunderstanding, but to nevertheless cry out at the Administration’s lack of understanding “of the enormity of the danger to both Israel and America if an improvident resolution of the West Bank problem were to allow the PLO to become ensconced there now or ever.”
To point out to the Administration, “with its refreshingly high moral standard in its conduct in international relations, the immortality of a policy which would countenance even for a moment the return of East Jerusalem to Arab sovereignty.”