NEW YORK (Apr. 27)
“My message to American Jews is the message of peace. I came here to speak about the relationships between American Jews and Israel and how, in my view, American Jewry can get involved in the acute social problems of Israel and how it can help in solving them.”
In these words, Avraham Burg, the son of Israel’s Interior Minister Yosef Burg of the National Religious Party, and a spokesman for the Peace Now movement, described his 10-day speaking tour in the United States under the auspices of the New Israel Fund, an organization that describes itself as supporting “a network of innovative and grassroots groups working for positive social change in Israel.”
In an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency prior to his return to Israel this week, Burg, 28, emphasized that he came to speak in America “not in opposition to the present Israeli government.” He defined his criticism of Israeli policy as “a constructive criticism.”
Burg said that for a few years now he has been a supporter of the Peace Now movement. He became an active participant in the movement, he said, only last year, with the outbreak of the Lebanon war. He said that his decisions to publicly and actively join the Peace Now movement and criticize the war in Lebanon were not oppossed by his family. “My father and I share the same points of departure and the same aims,” he said. “We only differ over the ways of achieving them. Ours is a very democratic family.”
REASON FOR JOINING PEACE NOW
Burg, who graduated from a yeshiva high school in Jerusalem and who wears a yarmulka, said that he decided to join Peace Now and not the two religious peace movements presently active in Israel — Oz VeShalom and Netivot Shalom — because by joining the secular Peace Now movement “I can serve as a bridge between religious and secular Jews in Israel.”
He said that the religious peace movements operate only among religious Jews, while the Peace Now movement embraces people with various viewpoints and life styles who support “a policy of compromise” between Israelis and Arabs. According to Burg, there are many religious Jews in the ranks of the Peace Now movement.
“I feel that many members of the religious sector in Israel are eager now for the National Religious Party (which is a member in Premier Menachem Begin’s coalition government) to return to more moderate views, to come back to the traditional line of the NRP, a line that advocates a territorial compromise (on the West Bank) when the option arrives in return for peace,” he said.
‘A STRUGGLE ON BEHALF OF OURSELVES’
Burg said that the struggle of the Peace Now movement is not a struggle on behalf of the Palestinians. “This is a struggle on behalf of ourselves for our own image. The fact that presently there is not a peace movement among the Palestinians equal to our movement does not mean that there will not be one in the future. Therefore, I say, we should not create obstacles for negotiations with a potential partner (the Palestinians) for peace …”
Burg said he believes that American Jewry — “the leader of world Jewry” — should speak up against any improper actions by Israel on the West Bank. “If American Jews think that actions against the minorities in Israel are not right, and that the same actions can be taken against Jews living as minorities in other countries, then they should get up and protest,” Burg said.
“The view that anybody who criticizes Israel is an enemy is nonsense. A constructive criticism can help to a large extent,” he said.
Burg, a student of industrial design at the Bezalel Academy of Art in Jerusalem and a father of two, said that he devotes now most of his time to the Peace Now movement. He estimated that the movement enjoys the support of at least 400,000 people in Israel. He said the movement does not plan to become a “political movement” and will not run candidates for the Knesset.