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B’nai B’rith Official Urges Shultz to Modify Peace Plan

April 1, 1988
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The executive vice president of B’nai B’rith International called Thursday for Secretary of State George Shultz to modify his peace initiative to make it acceptable to Israel.

“There needs to be modifications,” Thomas Neumann told reporters at the National Press Club. He declined to provide any, however, saying it was better for U.S. Jews to “leave it (the proposal) alone and let the Israelis and Arabs come to the table.”

Neumann spoke on the eve of a return trip by Shultz to the Middle East.

Arthur Shulman, spokesman for B’nai B’rith International, said later that the group has “grave reservations” about the convening of an international peace conference involving the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.

Neumann also criticized Rabbi Alexander Schindler, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, for his comments on Israel’s poor handling of the uprising, saying “he does not speak for a large mass of the American Jewish community.”

But he acknowledged that Schindler’s remarks were “quotable when American Jews criticize Israel.”

Neumann also defended the virtual ban of news media coverage of the West Bank and Gaza Strip imposed this week, including the closing for six months of the East Jerusalem-based Palestine Press Service, saying “a large portion” of the rioting could be attributed to the presence of the news media.

Neumann said that if you “take away the stage, maybe the actors will stop acting.” He said that in times of war, countries regularly establish zones that are off-limits to reporters.

In contrast, Richard Schifter, assistant secretary of state for human rights and humanitarian affairs, told a congressional committee Tuesday that only a “few extra” riots could be attributed to the presence of television cameras in the territories.

Neumann took up his new post in January after 16 years with the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith.

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