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Jewish Support for Peace Process Not Weakening in U.s., Says Leader

January 5, 1994
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Despite some Israeli perceptions to the contrary, there has been no “real diminution” of U.S. Jewish support for the Middle East peace process, according to a top American Jewish organizational leader.

There is only a “growing concern and apprehension about violence and terror,” Lester Pollack, chairman of the Conference of presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said in an address here.

He said that the concern about security is partly due to distortions by the news media. He accused the media of not focusing enough on the “positive achievements of the peace process,” such as the recent diplomatic accord with the Vatican. Nevertheless, said Pollack, it is the task of the Conference of Presidents to “ensure that the euphoria of Sept. 13 did not blind the (U.S. Jewish) community and created a false sense of total achievement.”

Pollack made the remarks in a keynote address at a ceremony for the presentation of the B’nai Brith World Center Award for Journalism, in memory of Wolf S. Matsdorf. His address was titled, “American Jewry, Israel and the Peace Process.” Pollack said that “identification with Israel is the key to the lives of Diaspora Jews,” and that therefore, “it is in the interest of all Jews to play a role in issues that bear on the safety and security of the state of Israel.”

But, while, “American Jews are entitled to hold whatever beliefs they want” on Israeli security polices, he said, they “should express their views in responsible and effective ways.”

“We do not believe that The New York Times should be the vehicle for these communications, but they should be made in private,” he said.

Only Israelis, whose lives are at risk, have the right to make decisions on security issues, he said, echoing the line that has often been sounded by Israeli officials.

He said that mandate of an umbrella organization such as the Conference of Presidents is to seek a consensus and “to support the policy and decisions of the democratically elected government of Israel in its pursuit of peace with security.”

Pollack said if the peace process succeeds, the configuration of the organized American Jewish community and its agenda may be altered, but its “activity will not be less intense for the foreseeable future.”

The Matsdorf awards were conferred on Hannah Semer, editor emeritus of the Davar daily newspaper, and on Michal Peleg, a features writer for Ha’aretz, another daily. Both were recognized for articles exploring the relationship between Israel and Diaspora Jews.

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