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Jewish World Review March 17, 1999 /29 Adar 5759

Jonathan Tobin

Jonathan Tobin
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When Jewish Foes Come Together

( DO MORT KLEIN, THE PUGNACIOUS PHILADELPHIAN who is national president of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) and Leonard Fein, the outspoken and controversial national leader of Americans for Peace Now who hails from Boston, have anything in common? If you follow news of the organized American Jewish world, the idea that these two standard-bearers of the right and the left have anything in common would seem unbelievable.

Indeed, given the strong disagreements between these two men and the schools of thought about the peace process they represent, readers might be forgiven for thinking the two might be joining forces around the same time lions lay down with lambs and all swords are beaten into plowshares.

But as difficult as it may be to remember amid the heated rhetoric about the Oslo peace process, even Klein and Fein are both on the same side -- that of the Jewish people -- a cause that should transcend the arguments between right and left.

The two proved that by signing a joint statement calling on the United States to demand that the Palestinian Authority surrender Abd al-Majid Dudin, a Palestinian Arab terrorist suspected of involvement in the August 1995 Jerusalem bus bombing. That bombing took the lives of 5 persons, including Joan Davenny, a teacher at a Jewish day school in Woodbridge, Connecticut.

Three years after the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin first demanded that the Palestinian Authority surrender Dudin, Fein and Klein are trying to shame the United States into action. The statement points out, "the Palestinian Authority will not, itself immediately prosecute Dudin - nor, if he is convicted, impose and implement an appropriate sentence."

Since the P.A. refuses to turn Dudin over to Israel, there is, "no reason the United States should refrain from pursuing the matter in its own name, under the terms of its own laws."

The statement rightly points out the United States has the right to prosecute this case under the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1986 which permits the U.S. prosecution of foreign nationals suspected of killing American citizens abroad.

The Clinton Administration's refusal to speak up on this issue is disgraceful. In fact, instead of taking strong action on this particular case (as well as on those of 20 other terrorists who have been identified by Israel as having been involved in attacks that have killed 12 American citizens since the signing of the Oslo accords in September 1993), the administration has been busy propagating the myth that it is the Palestinian Authority that has complied with its peace process pledges and Israel that has reneged.

The truth is the opposite, as the Dudin case proves. The American campaign to turn the truth on its head (led by by Assistant Secretary of State Martin Indyk) is aimed at promoting a closer relationship between the Palestinian Authority and Washington as well as to embarrass Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.

But, as the Klein-Fein statement correctly points out, "there is no justification for setting aside..the claims of justice." As the joint statement rightly says, the willingness of the Clinton Administration to ignore these violations of the P.A.'s pledges under various peace agreements amounts to "a policy of nullification" of the Anti-Terrorism Act. It is a breach of faith with American principles of justice.

While I hope President Clinton and Secretary of State Albright heed the Klein-Fein call to action, we also want American Jews to draw some conclusions from this remarkable statement.

The letter from these two political foes proves that it is still possible for American Jews to work together on behalf of Israel. That is a lesson that a steady slide towards Jewish disunity on the peace process has caused many of us to forget. As with the equally divisive religious pluralism issue, I say enough with the recriminations. Let's make peace within the Jewish people.

The divisions between ZOA and Peace Now are vast (as the op-ed articles of both Klein and Fein, which have frequently appeared in the Jewish Exponent, prove). But it is encouraging to see that both recognize there is still plenty of common ground. This is a point that all of us -- no matter where we place ourselves on the ideological spectrum - need to remember.

Both Klein and Fein deserve credit for reminding us that Jewish unity need not be put off until the coming of the Messiah.

JWR contributor Jonathan S. Tobin is executive editor of the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent.


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©1999, Jonathan Tobin