NEW YORK (Jan. 15)
The American Jewish Committee today charged that on at least two recent occasions representatives of Rabbi Meir Kahane have used “questionable tactics” in efforts to get American Jewish personalities to engage in debate with him. It was unclear, however, whether Kahane was directly involved in the efforts by his representatives here.
Hyman Bookbinder, AJC’s representative in Washington, reported that he had received a letter dated January 6 from Madeline Abraham, informing him that Kahane, an Israeli Knesset member, has “agreed to debate you” on the issue, “Do the Arabs of Israel have the right to democratically and peacefully become a majority within the state and thereby do away with the Jewish State?”
The invitation was sent on blank stationery on behalf of a “Public Jewish Affairs Committee (PJAC).” Bookbinder replied to Abraham the following day, saying in a memo he had no intention of debating Kahane. “You must be kidding,” wrote Bookbinder.
Subsequently, Bookbinder received telephone calls from reporters in Washington informing him they had received news releases announcing the “debate of the decade” between Kahane and Bookbinder for January 23 at Temple Sinai in Washington. An advertisement for the debate offering tickets at $6 and $3 was published in the Baltimore Jewish Times last week.
PROTESTS THE ‘DEBATE’ TACTIC
According to the AJC, Bookbinder telephoned Abraham protesting her action and demanding that she acknowledge that he had refused the invitation. She responded, the AJC reported, by saying she was sure he would change his mind once he thought it over.
Meanwhile, Bookbinder informed Rabbi Fred Reiner of Temple Sinai that he would not accept the Kahane invitation. Temple Sinai has since informed Abraham that the Temple was not available for the debate. The PJAC said it intends to sue the Temple, charging breach of contract.
PJAC HAS MINISCULE MEMBERSHIP
David Abraham, Madeline’s husband and one of only a handful of members of the PJAC, confirmed the sequence of events involving Bookbinder and the invitation sent to him by his wife. He said that the organization was “indirectly affiliated” with Kach, the political party in Israel led by Kahane, though he would not disclose details of this affiliation.
He said the Committee was formed “two or three months ago” with the primary goal of bringing Kahane’s ideas and opinions to the American Jewish community. He said Bookbinder was selected to debate Kahane because he is a prominent Jewish figure in the Washington area.
According to Abraham, in a telephone interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the PJAC had signed a contract to have Kahane appear at Temple Sinai. He said that shortly afterwards, Madeline Abraham received a telegram informing the group that the facility was unavailable. Instead, he said, Kahane will speak on the same day — January 23 — at the Sheraton Hotel in Silver Spring, Maryland.
The advertisement in the Baltimore Jewish Times declared, “Don’t miss the debate of the decade. The Arab state of Israel.” It further stated that Kahane would discuss this “historic and explosive” issue with “invited guest” Bookbinder. Abraham said the advertisement was given to the paper before Bookbinder’s reply was received.
SIMILAR PLOY ON THE WEST COAST
The AJC also reported that a similar ploy was being used in at least one other part of the country, in the Los Angeles area, where the “debate of the century” was announced for January 19 between Kahane and Rabbi Harold Schulweis of Valley Beth Shalom in Encino. Like Bookbinder, Schulweis vigorously protested the use of his name in an advertisement, declaring that he, too, had no intention of debating with Kahane.
David Abraham asserted that PJAC had nothing to do with the advertisement involving Schulweis. The West Coast advertisement, in the Los Angeles Jewish Community Bulletin, noted that “an invitation has been sent to Rabbi Schulweis. We cannot guarantee his presence.” Readers were urged to call Kach International offices in California for further information.
Representatives of American Jewish organizations have consistently refused to debate Kahane because of what they call his policies of “racism,” “demagoguery” and “a perversion of Jewish religious, ethical and traditional values and practices.”
“This latest move on his behalf convinces us further that Kahane’s appeals to racism and violence are beyond the pale,” said AJC executive vice president David Gordis. “He is not representative of the Israelis nor of American Jewry. His words and actions are alien to Judaism, and we continue to reject them and what they stand for as affronts to our history, our tradition and beliefs, and our abiding commitment to brotherhood and peace.”