Menu JTA Search

ADL Finds U.S. Public Opnion Opposes Settlement Policy

Current and recent data collated by the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith shows that “U.S. public opinion views recent settlement activity as going beyond the appropriate line of activity by Israel.” This was reported here today by Maxwell Greenberg, president of the ADL, who said his organization was “concerned” and that he would be reporting these findings to Premier Menachem Begin.

The ADL study of U.S. opinion focussed on the Alon Moreh settlement recently set up just outside Nablus on the West Bank. On the vexed issue of the legality of Jewish settlements on the West Bank, Greenberg criticized the Carter Administration and the State Department’s legal aides for stating repeatedly that such settlement illegal. His own position as a lawyer, he said and the position of the ADL National Commission, was that settlement is “not clearly illegal as the Carter Administration asserts… It is a very debatable issue of law.” Greenberg was not prepared to say, on the other hand, that settlements are clearly legal.

On the U.S. Administration’s assertions that settlements are “an obstacle to peace,” Greenberg said he suspected President Anwar Sadat of Egypt was “less exercised… feels less strongly about them than the Carter Administration. Sadat seemed to think the settlements were negotiable and not a factor destroying the peace prospects, he said.

Greenberg arrived this afternoon at the head of the ADL National Commission which completed a meeting in New York and is to continue its deliberations in Jerusalem. He spoke to newsmen at a press conference, flanked by ADL national director Nathan Perlmutter. The two men released an ADL fact-sheet on an organization called “American Near East Refugee Aid, Inc.” (ANERA) which is involved in social and charitable work among Palestinians on the West Bank. The fact sheet showed that ANERA is also heavily involved in pro-Palestinian political, informational and propaganda work in Washington and throughout the U.S.

One of the main points made by the ADL president was that “there is a virtual unanimity of editorial opinion in the U.S.” criticizing the Alon Moreh settlement. The ADL monitors regularly some 50 leading American newspapers across the nation. The ADL would be failing in its responsibility, Greenberg said, if it did not bring this fact to the attention of Israeli policymakers.

Israel was still the “most favored nation in the Mideast” in U.S. opinion polls. But the “trend” was not positive, said Greenberg and Perlmutter; and this latest criticism over Alon Moreh has not helped. Sadat’s popularity on the other hand was steadily rising. “Israel’s policy need not be determined by U.S. public opinion,” Greenberg said. “But it is a factor to be taken into account.”

SCORES CARTER’S COMMENTS

On the legality of settlements, Greenberg said that Jordan’s sovereignty over the West Bank from 1948-1967 was not widely recognized and therefore Israel’s occupation of the area in a war of self-defense against Jordanian attack did not necessarily fall under the terms of the Fourth Geneva Convention, upon which the State Department’s legal aides base their “illegality” contention. “State Department legal aide Herbert Hansell’s documents fuzz over this issue,” Greenberg charged. “The Carter Administration should stop perpetrating these inaccuracies.”

At the same time, however, Greenberg declined to state that the settlements are legal. Last Thursday, Theodore Mann, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, after meeting with Begin, said that “the consensus” of the Conference and of. U.S. Jewry was that the settlements were legal and necessary. “If that’s the consensus,” said Greenberg today, “then we are not part of the consensus. It will not be the first time… Mann did not poll all the 31 presidents of the Presidents Conference…”

As for the settlements being an obstacle to peace, Greenberg and Perlmutter said it could well be that Carter’s repeated assertions to this effect were becoming themselves an obstacle to peace Carter was “drumming it into the American people” that the settlements were somehow a betrayal of faith by the Israeli government. Sadat on the other hand, did not seem to be so exercised about the settlements. He was mindful of Israel’s agreement to remove its settlements from the Rafah salient of Sinai and therefore seemed to regard the West Bank settlements as negotiable–and not as destructive of the peace prospects. But obviously, Sadat would not take a weaker public position on the settlement issue than that of the U.S. Administration, Greenberg and Perlmutter said.

CHARGE ANERA LOBBIES FOR ARABS

With respect to ANERA the organization is active in lobbying and propaganda work, according to the ADL fact sheet. Its chairman, John H. Davis, testified in 1973 against the $2.2 billion U.S. aid proposal for Israel. Its president, John Richardson gave Congressional testimony the following year that Israel was violating human rights and international law on the West Bank.

That same year, ANERA was included in a study of the “Arab Lobby” by the Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report. In the early years of its existence, after its founding in 1967, ANERA received half of its funding in the form of contributions from several of the major American oil companies. The ADL fact sheet pointed to other anti-Israel political work conducted by Richardson and other ANERA supporters over the years.

Greenberg said he was “disturbed” by the figures of oil company contributions and that he felt “zealots in ANERA were assisting the Arab propaganda effort, knowingly or unknowingly.” He said he brought the fact sheet to Israel at this time in view of the current interest here in the work of American charitable groups on the West Bank.

NEXT STORY