NEW YORK (Mar. 9)
A spokesperson for Shuva, which identifies itself as the North American Aliya Movement, said today that a speaking engagement by British Chief Rabbi Immanuel Jakobovits at the Forest Hills Jewish Center tonight was cancelled after several groups protested to the Queens congregation against his appearance there. Shifra Hoffman, of Shuva, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the Center gave security problems as the reason for the cancellation.
Jakabovits came under intense attack last month for his strong criticism of Israel government policies, particularly the proliferation of Jewish settlements in the occupied Arab territories at a time when Israel is negotiating with Egypt and the U.S. over autonomy in those territories. He was particularly attacked for his statement that he did not rule out the possibility of a Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza Strip and that he would even allow such a state to have its capital in East Jerusalem.
The JTA called the Center several times during the day for confirmation, but no one answered the telephone. However, Jakabovits told the JTA Friday that he was scheduled to speak there Sunday night on the topic of “Contemporary Jewish Issues.” He said he would not include those issues he referred to in his controversial remarks in London. He said he expected questions about his positions and heckling but that he had made it plain to his hosts that he would not speak if there were any disorderly demonstrations.
According to Hoffman, individual members of the Center’s board were contacted by representatives of Shuva and of the Jewish Identify Center the Jewish Defense League and the “Committee for Settlements in the Land of Israel,” objecting to Jakobovits’ appearance.
Rabbi Ben Zion Bokser, spiritual leader of the Forest Hills Jewish Center, told the JTA late this afternoon that Jakobovits himself had cancelled his address and had notified him late Friday that he would not appear. Bokser would not say what reason Jakobovits gave but suggested that he “was intimidated.” He said his congregation had been approached by certain groups protesting a forum for Jakobovits, “but we felt a responsibility, we were not intimidated, you can’t cancel free speech,” Bokser said. He said he was not aware that security problems were given as the reasons for the cancellation.