During a board meeting on Sunday, chairwoman of the Jewish Federations of North America (JNFA) Julie Platt spoke of the unconditional support towards any Israeli government but also of the difficulties they have with some of its members and the violent tone of members of the opposition as well as the coalition.
According to a speech, its initial copy was obtained by The Jerusalem Post, Platt said that the special meeting was convened in order to “address together with utmost candor and seriousness the issues that are being considered today by the Israeli government and the potential impact of these proposals on our communities and all Jewish communities outside of Israel.”
Platt: Tone of the debate is part of the problem
She added that the “tone of the debate,” is part of the problem. “It should concern us all that there have been inappropriate, intemperate and frankly outrageous statements made by both proponents and opponents of the new governing coalition, and the proposals it is advancing,” Platt said firmly.
She reassured the board members that the support of JFNA for the State of Israel “is unconditional and eternal. Full stop. Any concerns we have with government policies or questions we raise with government officials must be heard with this first principle firmly in mind.”
Additionally, she said that “calling for violence against any individual or party on the basis of the political positions that they are advocating” is “unacceptable,” and “cannot be tolerated.” Platt added that “we know the dangers and consequences of violence between Jews and we cannot allow even the vaguest suggestion that such action is merited as a response to this government to go unanswered. Nor can we tolerate the suggestion that those who protest peacefully against this government should be subject to sanction or punishment.”
She called for the “respect for the dignity of all Jews as, be’tzelem Elohim [created in the image of God] and of all human beings,” and said that it is a necessary precondition to resolving our differences of opinion “or to living together when we are unable to resolve all our differences.”
“We condemn all disparaging comments made on the basis of religious denomination or affiliation, whether it is the comments directed by some towards the Reform and Conservative movements, or by others towards Orthodox or haredi (ultra-Orthodox) communities,” Platt said during the meeting.
Platt “commended,” Diaspora Affairs and Combating Antisemitism Minister Amichai Chikli for standing up for Reform and Conservative Jews in North America, during an interview to a haredi radio station. “I want to commend the new Minister,” she said, “for his strong response on a recent haredi radio show in which the host made the type of derogatory comments about Reform and Conservative Jews that are tragically all too common.” She added that the JFNA will “also insist on maintaining respect for those of all faiths, ethnicities and identities.”
Platt also mentioned Deputy Minister Avi Maoz from the Noam Party, who intended major changes and reforms in issues regarding religion and state: “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, there is simply no excuse for appointing as Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Office an official who has made blatant homophobic comments and holds such explicit homophobic views, and for putting such a person in charge of Jewish identity and parts of the educational curriculum in Israel. We won’t hide our revulsion to this appointment, nor allow it to be explained away as a necessary political deal.”
The fourth issue that Platt raised has to do with the suggested amendments in the Law of Return and the Judicial reform. She asked the members of the board, as well as the general population of Americans and American Jews to try and learn the suggestions that are on the table before they decide what they think of them.
“Whether each of us chooses to support or oppose various elements of the proposals, we should take the time and make the effort to understand the concerns and treat the various options seriously,” she said and explained that the JFNA has sent emails with explanatory articles about the arguments and proposals from all sides.
Platt emphasized that “it is important to note that we have not been silent to date,” probably trying to answer critics from the hard left that expected them to be more vocal about this Israeli government. “We have been in active conversation with members of the government and the Knesset about these issues,” the JFNA chairwoman exposed to the participants. “I have spoken publicly in line with these statements on several occasions, as has our president and CEO Eric Fingerhut, and we of course signed a joint letter to Netanyahu with the leadership of the Jewish Agency, Keren Hayesod and the World Zionist Organization.”
JFNA said it wouldn’t comment on the content of its board meetings.