CLEVELAND (Feb. 21)
A call for “unity in crucial matters affecting Israel’s security,” while still strengthening “channels for free debate and free expression within the family” was issued by Bennett Yanowitz, chairman of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council (NJCRAC), at the group’s plenary session meeting here last week.
Yanowitz appealed for the “discipline in the American Jewish community” needed to maintain “pluralism joined with unity” as he addressed the 400 delegates to NJCRAC’s annual plenum. NJCRAC, the national coordinating body for the field of community relations policies, is comprised of III local and II national Jewish community relations agencies.
“What we as an American Jewish community do or don’t do makes a difference in how this nation responds to Israel’s economic, diplomatic and military needs,” Yanowitz said as he underlined the critical need to maintain unity of support.
Addressing the question of dissent, Yanowitz said, “The question for us is not whether we should express ourselves, but how we do it, when we do it and on what issues.” He noted that many opportunities exist within the American Jewish community to fully discuss dissenting views and that “no government is more accessible to those who advocate varied points of views than the government of Israel.”
“Suppression of dissent within the Jewish community is not a real issue,” Yanowitz asserted. “No responsible leader of the American Jewish community seeks to suppress the expression of differences,” he said. “The dissenters are dissatisfied not because they are not heard, but because their views are not accepted and are not reflected in policy,” Yanowitz charged.
The NJCRAC chairman drew a sharp distinction between public and private expressions of differences. He claimed that resorting to public forums represents “pressure not persuasion,” which should remain “a function of the Israeli electorate.”
Yanowitz also warned that the nature of the media “stimulates, exploits, and magnifies” divisions.
“Dissent, broadcast nationally through the media, contributes to undermining the national climate of support for Israel, ” he asserted. But Yanowitz also stressed that he was not urging “blind, unreasoned maintenance of unity and discipline.”