Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Jewish Gathering Says "No" to Shamir

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Jewish Gathering Says "No" to Shamir

Article excerpt

When two Jews get together they are certain to come up with three different opinions, according to the old saying. So it was all the more remarkable that when close to a thousand Jewish men and women gathered in San Francisco on Nov. 12 to discuss a range of political and social issues, they turned out to be virtually unanimous in rejecting the policies of the current Israeli government.

The conference was organized by Tikkun, a magazine of liberal Jewish opinion, as part of its ongoing effort to challenge the conservative Jewish establishment by providing a voice for progressive Jews. With his full beard, blazing eyes, and neat sportcoat, Tikkun's editor, Michael Lerner, resembled a well-groomed biblical prophet as he exhorted audiences throughout the day to "say `no' to Shamir." Opening the first of three panel discussions on Israel and the Palestinians, Lerner said, "This event is an opportunity for American Jews to tell Shamir: `Your policies are morally offensive. They are politically self-destructive. They are a disgrace to the Jewish people.'" He accused Shamir of deliberately stalling the peace process and thereby "undermining the survivial of the people of Israel."

An open letter to Shamir, signed by many of the conference participants, contained equally strong language and called on Shamir to recognize "the right of the Palestinians to choose their own leaders and to exercise national self-determination." Lerner arranged for the signed letters to be delivered to Shamir in Cincinnati on Nov. 16, during the Israeli prime minister's US visit.

With few exceptions, a succession of speakers echoed the message expressed by Jerome M. Segal, president of the Jewish Peace Lobby, during the first panel: "There can be no peace unless Israel is prepared to reconcile its security needs with the right of Palestinian self-determination in the West Bank and Gaza."

As one speaker after another called for a positive response to the PLO, more open debate within the Jewish community, and an end to Israeli occupation, however, they also made unmistakably clear their commitment to Israel and to its future as a Zionist state. It was a commitment obviously shared by the audience, which applauded when Lerner referred to Israel as a haven for the Jewish people after 2000 years of persecution.

Despite the strong emphasis of the conference on doing what was best, in the long run, for Israel and the Jewish people, there was a warm response to the single Palestinian speaker, Khalil Barhoum. …

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