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Reform’s Call For Two-State Solution Is Rejected By JCPA; Israeli Influence Charged

Allan C. Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
March - April 2003

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) meeting in Baltimore in February solidly rejected a bid by the Reform movement’s Union of American Hebrew Congregations to pass a resolution supporting President Bush’s call for a two-state solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict.  

The JCPA nominally guides the public policy stands of 136 national Jewish groups and local community relations agencies.  

A turning point in the debate came when Moshe Fox, the Israeli embassy’s public affairs minister, took the floor. The Forward (Feb. 28, 2003) reports that, “Fox approached the microphone before the plenum’s discussions even began. In order for Fox to be allowed to speak, the rules of debate had to be changed, but no one spoke out to object.”  

According to The Jerusalem Report (March 24, 2003), “Fox ... invoked the more than 700 Israelis killed in the intifada. He insisted that as long as Palestinian attacks occurred, Diaspora Jews had no business issuing statements other than ones of full support for Israel. In the wake of this, JCPA delegates quickly gutted what had been a strongly worded Reform movement resolution urging an end to further settlement development so as not to preclude any eventual two-state solution to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. And by a near unanimous vote, the more than 600 delegates passed a generic statement of support for Israel and condemnation of Palestinian terrorism and leadership that made no mention of settlements. Among wording cut from the original resolution was a paragraph stating that ‘a two-state solution is in Israel’s best interest in order to protect its Jewish and democratic character. We believe Israel’s policies, including those affecting settlement activity in the territories, should reflect this long-term goal ...’”  

Of Moshe Fox’s call for uncritical loyalty to Israel on the part of American Jews, Leonard Fein, a longtime Reform social action leader, called it “Outrageous and demagogic.”  

Of the Sharon government, Fein writes in The Forward (March 7, 2003): “... there is nothing at all in Sharon’s past to give rise to the hope that if and when the time comes, he will be ready for peace. Indeed, the evidence suggests that he will do whatever is necessary to ensure that the time will not come, lest he be shown to have made empty commitments. ... Then again, what can one expect of a government that embraces representatives of the National Union party, a party that includes men who calmly endorse - nay, promote - ‘transfer’ as the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A decade ago, ‘transfer’ was essentially a forbidden word in polite Israeli company, meaning, as it does, the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians; today, its advocates are full-fledged members of the Cabinet. Another decade, and who knows what currently unthinkables will become commonplace?”  

Mark Pelavin, associate director of the Reform Religious Action Center, said that the real issue was the American Jewish community’s “role to raise our voice and tell people what we think.” He pledged that the Reform movement would keep pushing for a broad debate among American Jews on the issue of settlements in the territories.

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