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Reactions by Jewish Officials

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Leading officials of American Jewish organizations said today that the findings of Israel’s commission of inquiry into the massacre of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut last September is representative of the vitality of Israel’s democratic process.

At the same time, two of the officials urged full implementation of the commission’s findings which include a call for the resignation of Defense Minister Ariel Sharon or the Defense Minister’s dismissal by Premier Menachem Begin.

Calling the commission’s report a “striking example of Israel’s democracy at work” which “stands in vivid contrast to the thunderous silence out of Beirut,” Julius Berman, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, declared: “As painful as this experience was, Israel has emerged stronger for it.” He said he believed Sharon will offer his resignation “out of a sense of patriotism” as called for in the report.

Gerald Kraft, president of the B’nai B’rith international, said the “free operation” of the commission “is indicative of the strength of democracy in the Jewish State.” He added: “The anguish of the Israeli people in this tragedy reaffirms the high moral character and humanitarianism of the nation.”

Maynard Wishner, president of the American Jewish Committee, said, “There are few countries in the world that would freely undertake so painful and far reaching an inquiry into the conduct of its highest elected officials and its defense establishment.”

Nathan Perlmutter, national director of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, said the commission’s investigating “procedure is a remarkable testimonial to a vibrant democracy. Letting the chips full where they may is a bold confirmation of this young democracy’s vitality.”

The findings of the commission “brings to a culmination a process that does only honor to Israel,” Rabbi Alexander Schindler, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations said. “Very few nations in the world would have had the courage and the freedom to go through so relentless a self searching.” He said he was “confident” the recommendations of the commission would be accepted by the Israeli government.

Ivan Novick, president of the Zionist Organization of America, called on journalists and Reagan Administration officials to “admit that while Israel may have committed the fault of omission, it was not commission. The tragic events of Shatila and Sabra still fall squarely on the Lebanese themselves. Israel did not plan it, did not do it, and did not want such a catastrophe to occur.”

Bernice Tannenbaum, acting chairman of the World Zionist Organization American Section, said the genesis and conclusion of the inquiry panel is symptomatic of “moral decency, self-examination and forthright devotion to democratic principles which demonstrate to America the worthiness of its only democratic ally in the Mideast.”

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