NEW YORK (Nov. 9)
Major American Jewish organizations denounced the new policy statement on the Middle East which was approved last Thursday by the National Council of Churches’ (NCC) governing board of its semi-annual meeting here. The statement which drew fire from Jewish organization recognized the Palestine liberation. Organization as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.
Jewish organizations which assailed the NCC policy statement were the American Jewish Committee; the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council (NJCRAC); the American Jewish Congress; the Synagogue Council of America, the national coordinating agency for the Conservative, Orthodox and Reform rabbinic and congregational organizations; and the Rabbinical Council of America; an association of Orthodox rabbis.
The AJCommittee sent two of its officials to the NCC meeting as official fraternal observers. They were Rabbi More Athenaeum, director of interreligious affairs, and Rabbi James Rudin, assistant director.
The new NCC policy statement was approved despite a prior appeal not to do so by the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith. The ADL had said that the pending policy statement approved and encouraged Palestinian terrorists and undermined the Camp David process. The NCC policy statement, in addition to the segment which viewed the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, also called on the PLO to recognize the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish State.
CONTRIBUTES TO UNDERMINING CAMP DAVID
The AJCommittee declared that the NCC policy statement had as one of its “crucial political recommendations” endorsement of “the concept of a PLO state to be established on the border of Israel.” The AJCommittee officials charged that the NCC had contributed “to undermining the Camp David agreement — the only peace process currently underway in the Middle East.”
Rabbi Henry Siegman, executive vice president of the AJCongress, charged that the 32-page NCC statement was “a one-sided recognition of the PLO as the only organized voice of the Palestinian people.” He said that while the statement called on the PLO to recognize Israel as a Jewish State, the statement “does not insist on such recognition and cessation of the PLO’s terrorist activities as a pre-condition for becoming eligible to participate in the peacemaking process.”
The NJCRAC asserted that throughout the United States, “Protestant church leaders have stated to us that this statement does not represent their judgments and beliefs and those of other leaders of Protestant churches both nationally and locally.”
The NJCRAC added that the PLO “defines itself by its statements, covenant and actions” and that “nothing in that definition has changed for the better since its creation in 1964 and the NCC is indulging in the most dangerous, wishful thinking to suggest that Israel or the United States should act on the belief that it has or will.” The NJCRAC also asserted that “in the end the self-determination which the Palestinian Arabs demand, no matter how the NCC may wish to define and support it is an unremitting plan for the destruction of Israel.”
TERRORISM IS COUNTER TO RELIGION
The Synagogue Council said it was shocked with the NCC’s desire “to reward a terrorist organization whose activities have led to a wave of worldwide terrorism.” The Council, which characterized the NCC’s policy statement as “being a political rather than a religious statement,” asserted that the endorsement of terrorism was “appalling” because it runs counter to all religious and moral sentiment.
“It is ironic that on the very day President elect Ronald Reagan characterized the PLO as a terrorist organization (during his press conference last Thursday), the National Council of Churches decided that the terrorist PLO was me legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.”
Rabbi Sol Roth, president of the Rabbinical Council, declared that the members of the PLO “are not the elected representatives of the Palestinians and should not be considered their spokesmen. In any event, criminals should not occupy positions of leadership under any circumstances.” He said the Rabbinical Council was urging the NCC to reconsider its new policy statement “and to repudiate the PLO on the ground that its conduct is repugnant to all who espouse human ideals.”
The two AJCommittee officials said that while the Committee “welcomes the conscientious efforts of the NCC to be responsive to the rights and needs of both Israel and Palestinians, ” the NCC appeal “for simultaneous and mutual acceptance by Israel and the PLO of each other’s legitimacy flies in the face of history.”
They declared that the appeal “assumes that by some mechanical act, the articulated purposes, functions and murderous record of the PLO will be cancelled out by a mere verbal declaration, with no provision made to test its implementation or demonstrate its sincerity.”
Athenaeum and Rudin noted that the NCC views as a requisite step toward peace, “either an amendment of the Palestine National Covenant of 1968, or an unambiguous statement recognizing Israel as a sovereign state and its right to continue as a Jewish State,” adding that the AJCommittee would welcome verifiable action, not mere verbal promises, by the Palestine National Council.