Responses by Jewish Leaders

Sir Immanuel Jakobovits, Chief Rabbi of Britain and the Commonwealth, declared today that the findings of the judicial commission of inquiry into the Beirut refugee camps massacre “has demonstrated a commitment to justice and moral values unique amongst the contemporary nations or indeed, in human history.”

The Chief Rabbi observed, “However the tribunal’s findings will be implemented, to subject Israel’s leaders to such public scrutiny and censure in wartime for involvement in crimes perpetuated by others, has vindicated the honor of the Jewish people. This historic act will, I hope, reinforce the respect of decent people everywhere for the supreme value of Israel’s moral conscience,” he said.

In the United States, meanwhile, leaders of Jewish organizations continued to comment on the commission’s report and recommendations. Phil Baum, associate executive director of the American Jewish Congress, observed that the commission “did not flinch from placing indirect responsibility for negligence and error on individual members of the Israeli government and military command.”

He expressed confidence that “the same commitment to the processes of democracy” that led to the establishment of the commission “will operate to insure that the commission’s conclusions and recommendations will be reflected in the decisions and actions of Israel’s government and people.”

Frieda Lewis, president of Hadassah, said she was “impressed by the dispatch with which the commission was set up and carried on. This once more shows that Israel is a democratic country, responsive to the demands for truth in government and fearless in its execution.”

Roselle Silberstein, president of the American Mizrachi Women, stressed the contrast between Israel’s investigation into “the higher moral question of potential avoidance of the tragedy” and the Lebanese government’s failure “to bring the massacre’s actual perpetrators to justice.” “It seems that Israel is the only country with a sense of responsibility and a democratic system strong enough to pursue this matter to its possibly painful conclusion,” she said.

Phyllis Sutker, president of the Pioneer Women/ Na’amat, said the inquiry “was absolutely essential. Now we trust that the necessary steps will be taken by the Israeli government to close this painful chapter.”

Rabbi William Berkowitz, president of the American Jewish Heritage Committee, said that while the commission’s report “points to omissions and oversights, it also affirms … the success of Israel’s judicial process and its moral courage in confronting the possibility of error. The stark findings and recommendations of the commission stands in sharp contrast to the silence and inadequate response of the Lebanese who were the perpetrators of this act.”

NOTES REPORT DOESN’T CARRY FORCE OF LAW

Harold Jacobs, president of the National Council of Young Israel, observed that the commission’s report “does not carry the force of law, and that those who have been accused in the report retain their rights to the presumption of innocence in any criminal sense.”

He added that “nevertheless, we applaud the application of the highest possible standards of conduct to Israel’s leaders as demanded by the ethical heritage of the Jewish people and its religious law” and expressed confidence that Israel “will arrive at a just and true final determination of those incidents and for those who stand accused in the report.”

Dr. Ezra Spicehandler, of the Labor Zionist Alliance, applauded the commission for “its forthright and in depth investigation” and expressed confidence that “the Israeli government through the Cabinet or the Knesset will take appropriate action against those individuals the commission has found were derelict in their responsibility.”

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