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Sharon Accepts Invitation to Speak at Ujc Gathering

October 25, 2000
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

First, Ariel Sharon’s name was on the speaker list for the federation system’s annual gathering.

Then it was off.

And now the controversial leader of Israel’s Likud Party has accepted an invitation to speak at next month’s meeting, United Jewish Communities’ officials say, but his name is still absent from the group’s Web site of the General Assembly.

In a series of events that UJC officials say result from administrative, not political, concerns, Israel’s opposition leader was seemingly snubbed by this large gathering of American Jewish leaders scheduled for Nov. 10-15 in Chicago.

In an Oct. 17 article, the New York Daily News speculated the Web site omission reflected distaste for Sharon, who spoke at last year’s G.A., as Israeli opposition leaders generally do.

Prime Minister Ehud Barak and numerous Israelis from across the political spectrum are also scheduled to speak at the G.A., along with dozens of American Jewish leaders and scholars.

Sharon was officially invited two days after the article appeared.

Gail Hyman, the UJC’s vice president for marketing and public affairs, said the group’s leaders invited him while on a solidarity mission in Israel.

Calling the Daily News article — and questions following it — “much ado about nothing,” Hyman said the UJC had been planning all along to invite Sharon.

However, in the Daily News article, Michael Abidor, the UJC professional organizing the G.A., was quoted as saying there had been no decision on whether to invite Sharon.

It is not uncommon for Israeli speakers to receive such late invitations, said Hyman, noting that the invitations are often extended in October, when UJC leaders are in Israel for Jewish Agency for Israel board meetings.

“It was a matter of timing and process,” said Hyman.

In planning the G.A., the organization initially lists all the potential speakers on its Web site, and as the event draws closer, takes care of invitations and confirmations, according to Hyman. Thus, she said, Sharon’s name was listed initially, but in September, as the UJC “got more serious about confirmed speakers,” his name was removed from the Web site.

Asked if Sharon’s politics might have been a factor in knocking him off the list, Hyman said she was “not aware of any discussions on that point.”

Asked why Sharon’s name has not yet been returned to the Web site, Hyman said, “We just haven’t gotten to it yet.”

Sharon, the leader of the Likud Party, has been blamed by many in the international community for triggering the recent wave of violence in the Middle East by touring the Temple Mount — a holy site for Jews and Muslims – – accompanied by more than 1,000 armed security guards.

In the 1980s, he also attracted international — and internal Israeli – – criticism for his role in Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, particularly for his role in failing to stop Israel’s Christian Lebanese allies from massacring Palestinians at the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps.


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