Fifty-six prominent American Jews issued a statement here last night calling for “peace and security through territorial compromise on the West Bank” and warning against “extremists in the public and within the (Israeli) government, guided by religious and secular chauvinism, who distort Zionism and threaten its realization.”
The statement, a sharp criticism of the territorial policies of Premier Menachem Begin’s government and the philosophy behind them, endorsed the position of the Peace Now Movement and was seen as an indicator of strong support among American Jewish leaders for the movement.
These of the signatories are past chairmen of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. They are Rabbi Joachim Prinz (1965-67); Rabbi Alexander Schindler (1976-78); and Theodore Mann (1978-80). Mann’s term expired yesterday. The Conference of Presidents, with a constituency of more than 30 national Jewish organizations in the U.S., speaks for American Jews on matters of concern to them, particularly the well being of Israel and U.S. Middle East policy. (See related story P. 2.)
A DISTINCTION IS MADE
Prof. Leonard Fein of Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., one of the organizers of the petition, told a press conference here that all of the signatories were well-known as strong supporters of Israel. He made it clear that the group drew a distinction between support for Israel, which is unequivocal and support for Begin government policies with which they disagreed.
We are trying to make a clear distinction between Israel and certain policies of Israel.” Fein said. Participants of the press conference said they felt they expressed a widespread feeling among American Jews. They and they had the impression that the majority of American Jews attending the annual Jewish Agency Assembly now in session here would agree with their statement. According to Fein, many of those who signed are participating in the assembly. Others who were approached said they could not sign because of the positions they hold.
One of these was Max Fisher, chairman of the Jewish Agency Board of Governors. Fisher declined to tell the Jewish Telegraphic Agency yesterday whether or not he would sign but told the petitioners later that he would not because of his position.
‘OUR WAY NOT THEIRS’
Many of the signatories of the statement issued here also signed an advertisement supporting the Peace Now Movement which appeared in English-language Jewish periodicals throughout the U.S. on June 15. The latest petition was published under the heading “Our Way is Not Theirs, the slogan first used by Peace Now.
The statement warned against “extremists in the public and within the government, guided by religious and secular chauvinism, who distort Zionism and threaten its realization,” saying that “They advance the vicious cycle of extremism and violence, which nurture each other.” The statement continued. “Their way endangers and isolates Israel, undermining the ethical basis for our claims to a life of peace and security. Their way leads to divisions within the Jewish people, alienates friends of Israel, and strengthens the extremists among our enemies. Their way undermines consensus within Israel over the reasons for fighting and dying. Theirs is the way of obtuseness and violence. Their way leads to a dead end.
“In Israel the Jewish people has sought to guarantee its physical survival, to build a sovereign Jewish society, and to create a spiritual center for the Jewish people. Peace is necessary for the full realization of this dream. Our way is the way of peace and security through territorial compromise on the West Bank. Our way is the way of co-existence and of tolerance. Our way seeks to unite the Jewish people around its Jewish and humanist heritage. At this time, all those whose way is our way must stand up and be counted. We must build a wall to block violence and must return to mainstream Zionism.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.