November 16, 2000 - NEW YORK -- The American Jewish Committee issued the following statement, reacting to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops’ statement on the Middle East adopted yesterday in Washington:
“The American Jewish Committee is disappointed for what is omitted in the National Conference of Catholic Bishops’ message, “Returning to the Path of Peace in the Middle East.”
“Anyone following the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks should know that the Palestinians were well on their way to establishing an independent state, and Israel had made far-reaching proposals over the summer toward reaching a permanent peace agreement and an end to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
“Israel’s outstretched hand for peace was spurned by the Palestinians who, led by their political and religious leaders, launched the campaign of violence against Israel seven weeks ago, on the eve of Rosh Hashanah as Jewish worshipers gathered at Judaism’s holy site, the Western Wall.
“Notwithstanding that recent history of progress, the NCCB statement also calls for “an internationally-recognized Palestinian state.” But it does not specifically call upon the Palestinian Authority to fully respect the religious liberties of its citizens in the proposed state, even though this important issue was enunciated in an earlier Vatican statement.
“That is all the more troubling given the Palestinians’ desecration of Jewish Holy Places including the ancient synagogue in Jericho and Joseph’s Tomb, and the calls by some Muslim religious leaders for attacks on Jews worldwide. These obscene words and deeds simply can not be tolerated by religious leaders and we are deeply disappointed that the NCCB did not address this sinister and odious issue.
“Also disturbing is the failure of the NCCB to mention the willful strategy of firing on a Jewish neighborhood from Beit Jalla, a predominantly Christian neighborhood in Jerusalem.
“We would have hoped an organization such as the NCCB would speak out on behalf of the Palestinian children, too many of whom have died senselessly in recent weeks, because the Palestinian Authority sent them into harm’s way in confrontations with Israelis.
“Finally, we are disappointed in the bishops’ reference to Lebanon. While the American bishops appropriately urge “the withdrawal of foreign troops from Lebanon,” they do not mention Syria by name, the one country that still has its armed forces in Lebanon – and truly is the occupying power in Lebanon. Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon in May, where Hizbollah terrorists continuously threatened Israeli communities along the border.
“Our disappointments in the NCCB statement is all the greater because the American Jewish Committee has worked in close cooperation with the NCCB on a host of shared concerns and issues for nearly four decades and we do look forward to strengthening this relationship in the future.
“Hopefully, in the future the NCCB will speak out on these profoundly important points. By so doing, it will help achieve the just and lasting peace in the Middle East that all people of good will ardently seek.”
Contact: Kenneth Bandler (212) 891-6771 PR@ajc.org
Lisa Fingeret Roth (212) 891-1385 email@example.com