ADL Rebukes Knesset Law

By Ami Eden

Published August 08, 2003, issue of August 08, 2003.
  • Print
  • Share Share

In a rare rebuke of Israel, the Anti-Defamation League is criticizing the Knesset for passing a bill that denies residency permits to Palestinians who marry Israeli citizens.

The decision to speak out, albeit gently, puts the ADL in the unusual position of joining the European Union and international human rights organizations in criticizing Israeli policy. The group’s director, Abraham Foxman, has long argued that American Jewish groups should generally defer to the democratically elected Israeli government on security-related matters.

In a statement Monday, Foxman acknowledged that the Israeli government has “vital security concerns,” but added, “We hope the Knesset will review this law when it expires in a year and explore other methods to ensure Israel’s security needs.”

Foxman’s statement marked the second time in less than two weeks that a top Jewish communal leader in North America criticized Israeli policy. Edgar Bronfman, president of the World Jewish Congress, recently co-signed a letter to President Bush stating that Israeli efforts to build a security fence in the West Bank are “potentially problematic.”

In response, the senior vice president of the World Jewish Congress, Isi Leibler, sent a highly charged letter Monday to Bronfman, insisting that the beverage magnate “retract and apologize forthwith” or resign. Bronfman was also criticized by the Religious Zionists of America.

Leibler, a former leader of the Jewish community in Australia, who now lives in Israel, called Bronfman’s move “an act of perfidy that will not be swept under the carpet.”

Rumors were swirling that the letter was part of an effort to oust Bronfman.

Bronfman told the Forward that he has no plans to resign or to retract his letter, which was also signed by former secretary of state Lawrence Eagleburger. “Nothing Leibler ever says surprises me because he is a right-wing dog,” Bronfman said.

Bronfman drew support from the chairman of the World Jewish Congress, Israel Singer, who noted that Leibler frequently condemns Israeli policy from a right-wing perspective in opinion essays for the Jerusalem Post.

Leibler rejected such criticisms, arguing that Bronfman had crossed the line by criticizing a policy that, according to one recent poll, is supported by 80% of Israelis.

While Leibler roundly condemned Bronfman, however, he expressed understanding for Foxman’s decision to issue a statement about the recent Knesset vote regarding residency for Palestinian spouses: “I know making that statement would tear him part. And he didn’t make it to the president of the United States.”

Foxman was criticized, however, by the president of the Zionist Organization of America, Morton Klein, who defended the Knesset law on the grounds that it was necessary “to protect the Jewish nature of the state.” He said that Foxman “should retract his statement.”

The ADL statement comes on the heels of the State Department’s announcement that it will examine whether the new legislation is consistent with the administration’s position on preventing discrimination.

The European Union’s ambassador to Israel, Giancarlo Chevallard, described the legislation as “discrimination against the Palestinians in the very sensitive area of family rights.” The E.U. will examine whether the legislation violates any agreements that it has signed with Israel, Chevallard said. Upholding “human rights is an integral part of Israel’s ties with the E.U.,” the diplomat said.

Ha’aretz contributed to this report.

Find us on Facebook!
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight":
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.