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"Truth Is A Casualty" In American Jewish Groups' Statements About The Mideast, Charges Columnist

Allan Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
November-December 2000

In what he calls a "rallying `round the flag" in support of Israel in the current turmoil in the Middle East, columnist Leonard Fein, writing in The Forward (Oct. 27, 2000), declares that "truth is a casualty."  

The United Jewish Communities (UJC), the newly merged successor of the United Jewish Appeal and the Council of Jewish Federations, on October 18 distributed a "Leadership Briefing," a "fact" sheet intended "to assist you in framing statements of support for Israel and preparing talks for the news media."  

Leonard Fein argues that, "Its 17 `facts' might have been written by Rip Van Winkle...It includes—let us be polite—untruths. It describes the origins of the Arab refugee problem by recalling the long-discredited tale that the seven Arab nations that invaded Israel in 1948 `told the Palestinian Arabs to get out of the area so that the Arab armies would be able to fight the Israelis more easily.' The dismantlement of this `explanation' as principally (or in the UJC version, exclusively) responsible for the genesis of the refugee problem is not limited to Israel`s `new historians.' The eagerness of the fledgling Jewish state to encourage Arab flight was detailed by Prime Minister Rabin in his memoirs and is now part of the high school curriculum in Israeli schools."  

Another "fact" in the UJC statement is, "The settlements are not intended to displace Arab inhabitants, nor do they do so in practice," Mr. Fein states: "Tell that to the people of al-'Issawiyyeh, a-Tur, Abu Dis, al-Izariyyeh and `Anata on whose land Ma'aleh Adumim was built and whose way of life it destroyed."  

The UJC campaign chairman's message states that, "In a very real way this is a time of testing for the American Jewish community...The most tangible way in which the Jewish community has historically demonstrated its unity with Israel has been through a surge in increased giving...in every community...to ensure that our United States Government understands clearly that we are united in support of Israel's quest for peace."  

Mr. Fein provides this assessment: "Of course we all want peace...Does it mean that we endorse thee continuing expansion of settlements in the West Bank, an expansion that has proceeded apace during the Barak era? Does it mean that we mindlessly endorse whatever form the `quest for peace takes, whether it is Mr. Barak's version or Mr. Netanyahu's, Mr. Sharon's or Mr. Beilin's? Does it mean that Israel is right to be chasing the chimera of total separation from the Palestinians as an `interim' solution?"  

In conclusion, Fein writes that there will surely be another effort to find a path to peace: "God willing, it will come speedily in our time. But even if it takes another generation or two, the day will come when the combatants will yet again gather to consider what to do about refugees, about water, about Jerusalem. We may hope that leading the Palestinians then will be someone more thoughtful and brave and less corrupt than Mr. Arafat. We may hope, as well, that the Israelis will be led by someone who can at least now and then put himself in the shoes of the Palestinians, thereby to understand their rage even as he or she rejects their violence. It would be helpful if UJC would take as part of its mission helping prepare us for that day."

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