WASHINGTON (Jul. 1)
Kenneth Bialkin, chairman of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, warned Tuesday that the violence by extremist religious and secular groups in Israel could weaken support for the Jewish State.
“Many of us support Israel because it is a place of tolerance” and a democracy, that like the United States, accepts diversity, he said in response to questions from reporters at the National Press Club.
But Bialkin, who ended a two-year term as chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Monday, stressed that the extremist presence in Israeli society should not be exaggerated. He noted that his last act as Presidents Conference chairman was to issue a statement praising Israeli Premier Shimon Peres for his efforts to end the strife.
Bialkin said the majority of Israelis has expressed their “sense of revulsion” over the small number of ultra-Orthodox Jews who engage in violence and the “idiot secular radicals who deface synagogues.”
Israel has not received “enough credit in the world for maintaining its stability, for maintaining its democracy… for maintaining its freedom of speech and for the diversity of community that it has,” Bialkin said.
“These violent episodes and these radical movements are not unusual,” he added. “They exist in this country to a limited extent. We have our radical right. They exist throughout the Middle East…”
But Bialkin stressed, “theocratic extremism which seeks to impose a way of life on others is not acceptable whether it is here or anywhere else.” He said those who violate the rule of law should be punished.
ISSUES FACING JEWISH COMMUNITY
In his remarks to reporters, Bialkin dealt with a full gamut of issues facing the Jewish community. He said there was a misconception in the State Department that by providing arms to countries like Saudi Arabia it would make them “more tolerant” and more willing to make peace with Israel.
He said the U.S. should use its leverage to convince the Saudis and Jordan that the willingness to live in peace with Israel and accept its legitimacy as a state should be the “beginning of political dialogue and not the end of it” as it is now.
Bialkin also called for the U.S. to use its leverage of $3 billion a year in aid to Egypt to convince Cairo to do more to “uphold their side of the bargain” in the Egyptian-Israeli peace agreement.
On the issue of Soviet Jewry, Bialkin warned that unless the Soviet Union changes its policy on Jewish emigration “we will be advocating massive demonstrations” against Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev if there is a summit meeting with President Reagan.
He noted while there have been “highly publicized individual cases” to give the impression that Soviet policy is loosening, actually Jewish emigration is “at an all time low.” He said the arrest of Hebrew teachers and refuseniks is continuing. “For every person released from prison there has been at least one more person jailed,” he noted.