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Jewish Leaders Shocked at Massacre but Reject Suggestions That Israel Was Involved

September 22, 1982
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Leading representatives of major American Jewish organizations have reacted with shock and horror at the massacre of Palestinian civilians at the Shatila and Sobra refugee camps in Beirut.

While rejecting any suggestion of Israeli involvement in the massacre in which some 300 men, women and children were slaughtered, some leaders, however, called for an inquire by the Israeli government to determine the fats surrounding the events that occurred at the refugee camps.

“We join with President Reagan and Premier Menachem Begin in expressing our shock and revulsion at the massacre of civilians in Beirut,” Julius Berman, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said. “There can be no justification for the slaughter of innocents.

“We reject the idea of any participation or involvement by the Israel Defense Force in this terrible event. The history of the Jewish people is too full of massacres and pogroms, and the injunctions of Jewish law are too powerful a force in Jewish consciousness, to have permitted or even countenanced a Jewish role in this awful incident. Any suggestion that Israel took part in it or permitted it to occur must be categorically rejected.”

Maynard Wishner, president, American Jewish Committee, said:

“Every step must be taken by every party involved, directly or indirectly, including Israel, to determine how this tragedy occurred and by whom these crimes were perpetrated. Responsibility must be fixed and appropriate action taken.”

Henry Siegman, executive director, American Jewish Congress, said that while “I do not believe for a moment that Israeli forces were involved in the tragedy in anyway,” Israel must depart Beirut “if it is not to be dragged into that city’s bloody fratricide.” Siegman also called for Israel to “sever all of its ties with the murderous forces” of Maj. Saad Haddad’s Christian militia and other Christian militia’s “responsible for this outrage. Otherwise, Israel will be seen as on ally and supporter of killers of innocent men, women and children.”


Charlotte Jacobson, chairman, World Zionist Organization-American Section, said “No one is more shocked at the great tragedy in Lebanon than the Jews, and never more so than at this time of year when we emphasize the sanctity of human life and moral conduct.” Continuing, she said: “We are therefore also saddened by the trigger-quick eagerness of the world to lay the blame for the terrible event at Israel’s door.”

Alexander Schindler, president, Union of American Hebrew Congregations, said the tragedy in Beirut demands “that those responsible be brought swiftly to justice. We have every confidence that the government of Israel will repudiate and sever relations with any Lebanese force found guilty of this foul deed.”

Jack Spitzer, president, B’nai B’rith International, said “This cold blooded murder cries out for the restoration of order” in Lebanon. Such restoration can be achieved only by the establishment of a strong central Lebanese government, the dissolution of private armed forces, and the pullout, “as soon as possible,” of all foreign forces, Spitzer declared.

Rabbi Arthur Schneier, chairman, World Jewish Congress-American Section, said “there can be no justification for this savage crime. There is now an urgent need for a full inquiry to establish the facts surrounding these grotesque events.”


Paul Zuckerman, former national chairman of the United Jewish Appeal, cautioned against quick accusations against any party for responsibility of the massacre. “I think it would be unwise to point fingers haphazardly at any parties,” he said. “We should be careful that this tragic act does not create hysterical conclusions, which could lead to more tragedy.”

Ivan Novick, president, Zionist Organization of America, said “What happened over the weekend was not a premediated blatant act by Israel, although Israel might have misjudged the situation or been misinformed. It is not a reason for a close friend and ally like the United States to come down hard on you.”

Shirley Leviton, president, National Council of Jewish Women, urged that “all necessary steps be taken immediately to prevent the recurrence of wanton killings of civilians and to create a climate in which progress can be made toward the establishment of an independent Lebanese government, the total withdrawal of foreign troops from Lebanon and negotiations for a lasting peace.”

Peter Goldmann and Herbert Zweibon, director and chairman of Americans for a Safe Israel, respectively, said “Blaming Israel for the massacre of Palestinian Arabs in Beirut by Lebanese forces is unjust and deplorable — Israel cannot be blamed for every act of revenge undertaken by the Lebanese against the Palestinians.”

Debbie Goldman, chairperson, New Jewish Agenda’s national Middle East program, said Israel is “at least indirectly responsible since Israel took upon itself to guard the security of the camps. These deaths are a natural consequence of the invasion of Lebanon.”

Prof. Irwin Catler, president, Canadian Jewish Congress, and Sam Filer, chairman of its National Executive, said “We trust that an independent commission of inquiry will be established in Israel so that the true facts can be known and justice done.”

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