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Israeli Consul General Scorns Public Criticism of Israel

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Israel’s consul general in New York sharply attacked Jewish leaders and organizations that have publicly criticized Israeli policies, calling them “self-proclaimed interpreters of Jewish morality.”

Consul General Moshe Yegar made the remarks here on Tuesday during the 52nd annual national convention of the Rabbinical Council of America. He praised the group of Orthodox rabbis as being among “the first to defend the name of Israel.”

“I did not find any of your people among the letter writers, and this is the greatest credit I could give you,” he said, referring to letters in the general press criticizing Israeli policies.

Yegar said that when he reads letters or articles in the press that have the effect of weakening Israel, he feels a “heavy unpleasantness. What motivates people? What drives them to weaken their state of Israel?” he asked.

The consul general did not name the individuals or groups to whom he was referring. But he made the comments two days after an article by Rabbi Albert Vorspan, senior vice president of the Reform movement’s Union of American Hebrew Congregations, appeared in The New York Times Magazine.

Vorspan’s article, published in the form of a diary, recounts his growing dissatisfaction with both current Israeli policy and the response of American Jewish umbrella groups, such as the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

Vorspan also expanded on the latter theme in an essay in the latest issue of the bimonthly magazine Tikkun, which was sent out to subscribers this week.

The Reform leader came under fire for his stance earlier this week during the second annual Critical Issues Conference of CLAL, the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.

‘TOO MUCH PUBLIC POSTURING’

Malcolm Hoenlein, executive director of the Conference of Presidents, criticized the Vorspan article in the Times as being an example of “too much public posturing and too little private discourse.”

That exchange and the one at the Rabbinical Council convention here Tuesday appear to be the latest round in a philosophical battle the American Jewish community has been wrestling with since the unrest in the Israeli-administered territories broke out last December.

While the major issue of this battle appears to be over the propriety of Jewish leaders and organizations criticizing Israel publicly, a secondary theme emerging is the effectiveness of Jewish umbrella organizations representing a Jewish community that may have a range of views on such issues as Israeli policies in the territories.

Yegar, for his part, expressed strong support for one umbrella group, the Conference of Presidents, and praised its chairman, Morris Abram. He also affirmed that the “vast majority of American Jews support Israel.”

In turn, the new Rabbinical Council president, Rabbi Max Schreier, told the consul general that “the overwhelming majority of Orthodox Jews are completely supportive of Israel.”

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