DENVER (Dec. 5)
Rabbi Alexander Schindler, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, declared today that the incorporation of Judaea and Samaria into Israel “represents a threat to the Jewish essence of the state and the unity of the Jewish people.” He also defended the rights of Jews outside Israel to dissent from official government policy.
In an address to some 300 Reform Jewish leaders attending the semi-annual meeting of the UAHC’s Board of Trustees, Schindler said:
“While I understand and appreciate Israel’s historical claims to Judaea and Samaria, I believe it necessary for the sake of peace and Justice that these claimes be moderated. Far from increasing Israel’s security, the absorption of these territories — either open or covert — will sow the seeds of endless conflict. It will also corrode the Jewish character of the state and thereby rupture world Jewish unity.”
Citing “the danger that the absorption of the West Bank could transform Israel from a Jewish state to a bi-national state,” Schindler asserted: “If Israel tries to extricate itself from this dilemma by either repressing the Arabs or driving them out, this too will lead to a disfiguring of Israel’s essential democratic nature and alienate substantial segments of world Jewry.” He added: “America’s moral support is also likely to be lost. Witness the erosion of that support during the summer just past.”
SUPPORTS ACCOMMODATION WITH PALESTINIANS
The Reform leader said he supported “as accommodation with the Palestinians but not the PLO, territorial compromise but not a Palestinian state.” He added:
“All this assumes that whatever territorial compromise is reached will include security arrangements in Judaea and Samaria that are faultless. It also assumes that the Arabs will in fact come to the negotiating table prepared to make those adjustments which will meet Israel’s true security needs.
“I categorically reject the nation that Israeli policy is the primary obstacle to peace. The fatal stumbling-block is still the obduracy of the Arab governments, barring only Egypt, in refusing to acknowledge Israel’s legitimacy. Until they overcome this barrier, Israel’s settlement policy can well be justified as valid pressure to bring them to the table.”
Schindler also called on the Arab rejectionist states “to find new leaders, to abandon the illusion that the murderous PLO is a proper instrument for the Palestinian cause. The Arabs have to realize that neither terror nor rejection will bring them what they want.”
Defending the right of Diaspora Jewry to dissent from official Israeli government policy, Schindler declared: “Dissent should never be equated with disloyalty. Let us once and for all reject the accusation that by speaking the truth as we see it, by giving Israelis our own perception of events, we are somehow treasonous.”
The Reform rabbi conceded that dissent was “sometimes dangerous” and that it must be exercised with great caution “lest it provide wood for the axes of our enemies and dilute our effectiveness in Washington.”
He said that he has no intention “of joining those media wolves who beset Israel with their baying and barking at her every step. Thus I will continue to oppose the taking out of ads in American newspapers or the signing of petitions intended for the front pages” of major newspapers.
But, Schindler added, “if either Israeli leaders or the institutions of American Judaism suppress honest dissent and smear the dissenters, I predict that the Jewish people will be spiritually impoverished and Israel’s cause intolerably diminished.”
He said he was not suggesting “that we involve ourselves in the operational details of Israel’s foreign or domestic policy. But I do believe that it is our obligation to make ourselves clear about the great issues, those fundamental matters which will have their impact on Israel’s future — and the destiny of the Jewish people.” One such issue, Schindler said, was the future of Judaea and Samaria.
CALLS FOR DEVELOPING NEW, BETTER CHANNELS
The Reform leader urged that “new and better channels” be developed “through which we can present our honest and respectful opinions to the Israeli government and to its people.” He listed four possibilities:
* Periodic meetings of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations with members of the Knesset Foreign Affairs Committee and with the Israel editors’ association.
* Periodic meetings of Jewish members of the Senate and House of Representatives with their counterparts in Israel to discuss American political realities.
* A parliament for the Jewish people. The need for such an assembly “has never been greater, and nothing new exists that even approaches this concept,” Schindler said.
* A weekly column in the Israeli press to present the views of the Reform movement “on the question of our own religious rights” in Israel and en broader questions as well.