NEW YORK (Apr. 8)
MK Abba Eban, chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, sharply criticized Tuesday night charges made recently in Israel that American Jewish leaders reacted fearfully to the case of Jonathan Pollard, an American Jew sentenced to life imprisonment for spying for Israel.
He said that American Jews are entitled to differ with Israel, charging that the critics of American Jewry hurled “condescending platitudes” without really knowing or understanding the American Jewish community.
Eban, who is also the chairman of the special intelligence subcommittee investigating Israel’s role in the Pollard affair, spoke at the Pierre Hotel where he was awarded the 1987 International Shazar Prize of the Israel Historical Society.
In his speech, Eban did not mention the Pollard affair. But his remarks were clearly aimed at Shlomo Avineri, a distinguished Israeli scholar and academician, who triggered controversy last month when he charged that American Jewish leaders displayed a “galut” mentality in their reaction to the Pollard case. Furthermore, Avineri accused the American Jewish leaders of “cringing” for fear of charges of dual loyalty, thereby belying “the conventional wisdom of American Jewry feeling free, secure and unmolested in an open pluralistic society.”
“Do not believe anything of it,” Eban told the more than 300 guests attending the affair. “Everybody knows it is not true . . .” he exclaimed. To begin with, Eban said, the analogy between American Jewry and any other “galut” is wrong, because there is no same Jewry around the globe. “There is American Jewry, French Jewry, or Moroccan Jewry, and each is different,” he observed.
Claiming that “American Jewry deserves the dignity of being studied” by its Israeli accusers, the veteran diplomat, who served as Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. and the UN, said that Israel and the American Jewish community “are the two superpowers of world Jewry.”
American Jews “have the right to their opinions” and they do not have to be “docile” toward the Israelis, Eban said. “We ought not say to you, give us your money and don’t worry us with your thoughts.”
Turning briefly to other issues, Eban said that Israel, entering the fifth decade of its independent life, no longer faces the danger of physical destruction. But he said Israelis should be “inspired by history,” not “bewitched” by it, as many were in the wake of the military victory in the Six-Day War in 1967. He called for a sense of “proportion and restraint” to reach a realistic view of Israel’s position and alternatives in the Mideast.
Eban received the International Shazar Prize, named after the late Israeli President Zalman Shazar, for his acclaimed book and television series, “Heritage: Civilization and the Jews.” The award was presented to him by Nobel Laureate Eli Wiesel, and Prof. Salo Baron, the distinguished Jewish scholar and historian.
HISTORY DEALS JUSTICE TO JEWS
In his remarks before presenting Eban with the award, Wiesel noted that history has a way of dealing justice to the Jews. “Look,” he said, “all the people who were involved in the Bitburg affair are no longer in the White House, except for one. But our President is never really involved in anything.” Wiesel was referring to the controversial trip of President Reagan to a German military cemetery in Bitburg where Nazi SS troops are buried.
The event Tuesday night was sponsored and organized by the American Association for the Shazar Center.