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Media Watch

January 3, 2008 By:
John R. Cohn, M.D.
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The recently completed Annapolis conference provoked a vigorous debate in the American Jewish community, as it did in Israel.

Finding the right mix of inducements to produce a genuine and secure peace with the Palestinian Arabs, while avoiding futile concessions to an enemy that often seems impossible to satisfy under any circumstances, is a thorny dilemma for those committed to a durable peace and Israel's survival as the world's only Jewish state.

Founded in 1897 as a Yiddish-language daily newspaper, the English-language version of the Forward has covered matters important to American Jews for over 100 years.

It was encouraging to read the Forward's optimistic take on the recent conference in Annapolis.

Many thoughtful but more skeptical observers did not share the paper's positive spin in believing Palestinian pronouncements, since they elect leaders who say they will never accept a Jewish Israel.

But what was most striking about the Forward's optimism was their harsh condemnation of fellow Jews who do not share their confidence and priorities.

The Forward declared, "There's never been an Israeli diplomatic initiative that's drawn so much noisy opposition from so many American Jews who fancy themselves Israel's best friends. Something profound has changed in the meaning of Zionism. It used to mean solidarity with the people and nation of Israel."

Currently, the people and nation of Israel have no defined policy behind which American Jews could be expected to fall in line, and support within Israel for the current leadership is uncertain.

Recent polls give Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's Kadima Party between 15 and 18 seats in the 120-seat parliament -- if elections were held now, this would represent a substantial drop from the current total and, undoubtedly, a minority of the Knesset in either case.

Israel's position under multiple governments from right to left has been that violence must stop before progress can be made, and that Palestinians must recognize the essential nature of Israel as a Jewish state, an indispensable part of the original 1947 U.N. partition plan.

This last point was recently repeated by Olmert, but rejected by the very Palestinian leaders with whom the cheerleaders for Annapolis expect to help create a durable peace.

Yet the newspaper went on to provide fuel for the fires of those currently repackaging and peddling millennia old anti-Semitic canards alleging outsized Jewish power and intolerance.

The Forward charged: "For 40 years, the major Jewish organizations have ... placed a taboo on questioning Israel's actions publicly, and those who do raise questions have been taken to task, publicly humiliated, hounded from jobs and community positions."

Should the Arabs Be Trusted?
This editorial pondered an American Jewish community that wondered "what to make of the topsy-turvy turn of events; they'd always been told that Arabs can't be trusted and the Palestine Liberation Organization are murderers."

That is a belief with a solid foundation, as Israelis -- and even non-Israelis -- have suffered through decades of violence at the hands of Arab terrorists.

In the last election, Palestinians voted into office a Hamas government that repeatedly declares it will never accept Israel's existence. In addition, more than 68 percent of Palestinians in a recent poll stated they would insist on the so-called "right of return," which would, if carried out, effectively destroy Israel as a Jewish homeland.

When the facts demonstrate that Palestinians have forsaken violence and accepted Israel as a permanent Jewish state, American and Israeli Jews will have no trouble knowing what to do.

In the meantime, responsible media should not seek to stifle debate among Israel's friends nor provide rhetorical fodder to those who exaggerate Jewish power in order to help foster the Jewish homeland's destruction.

This column was written for the Israel Advocacy Task Force of the Israel Center of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.

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