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Bronfman Upholds Jewish Right to Dissent on Israel’s West Bank Policies

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“The ties between Israel and the diaspora — as permanent as they are — are more strained today than at any other time in the history of the Jewish State,” according to Edgar Bronfman, president of the World Jewish Congress. “To deny this is to bury our heads in the sand, thus leaving our backs exposed,” Bronfman warned in an article published is the Jerusalem Post today.

Bronfman posed questions to which he said he was “not sure” he had the answers “but I know they need to be asked.” They related mainly to Israel’s policies on the West Bank. “Should we not question the censoring of speech in the territories, even if it is polemical and behind it may be the aim to destroy?” he wrote. “Are we not in danger of a more fundamental destruction by denying the basic freedoms to anyone?”

Referring to the “traditional Jewish right to dissent,” the WJC leader castigated the use of such terms as “fascist”, “traitor”, “blood libel”, “enemy of the Jews”, “anti-Semite”, “Jewish self-hatred” or “new Holocaust” in the internal debate going on in Israel and in the diaspora.

MANY AMERICAN JEWS SEE MERIT IN REAGAN PLAN

He stated in that connection that to his “certain knowledge” there are “few if any American Jewish leaders who do not find some merit” In President Reagan’s Middle East peace initiative. “Are Jews in the diaspora, as well as many Jews in Israel to be excommunicated for holding and expressing these views?” he asked. The Reagan proposals, rejected by Israel, call for a self-governing Arab entity on the West Bank and Gaza Strip in association with Jordan but reject a Palestinian state.

“The central problem before us as Jews” is “what kind of Israel do we want,” Bronfman stated. “Are we headed on a course that will lead us to a binational state, to an Israel diminished in its Jewish quality?”

Bronfman also implicitly criticized the Israel government’s close ties with dictatorial regimes abroad. “We must also consider the Jewish attitude toward general global problems of which we are a part. Are we to sacrifice our commitments to human rights and support tin horn dictators for the sake of political expediency,” he asked.

Referring to the dearth of aliya, Bronfman asked: “Why do we not commit greater resources to having our children visit and possibly gain education here (in Israel). Without them there may be no future for the Jewish people or for Zionism itself.”

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