MIAMI (Feb. 28)
American Jews’ commitment to Israel has in no way been weakened by their anguish over the current violence there, a veteran observer of the Middle East scene said here Friday.
American Jews feel “agony, anguish, frustration — even anger at times,” concerning the clashes between Israeli military forces and Palestinian demonstrators, said Hyman Bookbinder, American Jewish Committee’s special representative.
But, he stressed, “it would be a serious mistake to interpret these reactions as rejection of Israel or even a dilution of commitment.”
“Over these 10 weeks of violence, the American Jewish community has not used up its energies in agonizing and criticizing,” said Book-binder. “It has recognized the need to help Americans better understand the causes of the conflict and what is needed to eliminate those causes.”
Bookbinder made the remarks at a two-day conference sponsored by the Miami Herald and the University of Miami. The forum, which convened at the Omni International Hotel here, was titled “Miami Conference on the Middle East: America, Israel and the Palestinians.”
Other speakers at the conference included Richard Murphy, U.S. assistant secretary of state for Near East and South Asian affairs, Middle East specialists and reporters for major American, Israeli and Arab newspapers.
Bookbinder stressed the strength of the “special relationship” between the United States and Israel and noted that a recent survey of presidential candidates conducted by the American Jewish Committee had “provided very reassuring evidence that the next president will continue the American policy of unshakable commitment to the secure existence of Israel.”
Turning to media coverage of the Israeli conflict, Bookbinder said, “I do not fault, generally, the press for what it has reported, but I do express disappointment that it has not done enough to provide the background for judging the day’s news.
“I cannot fault a TV network for showing a young Palestinian’s limp body being carried high by other young Palestinians,” he said, “but I regret that there is no available footage showing a fanatical preacher appealing to Palestinian youngsters to go forth with rocks and prepare to die. And I know there can be no pictures portraying the absence of West Bank Palestinians at a negotiating table with the Israelis.”