Peace Now in US pens anti-Lieberman letter

Expresses concern over deputy PM's 'dangerous ideas' ahead of US visit.

avigdor lieberman 88  (photo credit: )
avigdor lieberman 88
(photo credit: )
Avigdor Lieberman left on Thursday for his first US visit since becoming deputy prime minister and Americans for Peace Now is sounding an alarm. It is urging other Jewish organizations to express concern about "a persona we feel is alarming and a mind-set and set of ideas that we feel is dangerous," said Ori Nir, the group's spokesman. The group sent a letter this week to several Jewish organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League, the Reform and Conservative movements and the Rabbinical Assembly, urging them to voice their concerns. The letter was also sent to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, where Lieberman is scheduled to speak on Tuesday. "US Jewish groups, always quick as we should be to denounce Arab, European or American politicians who wear their bigotry on their sleeve, cannot now fall silent when it comes to Mr. Lieberman," the letter reads. Nir added that the ADL should have spoken out following Lieberman's addition to the cabinet. "We think they ought to have said something to distance themselves," said Nir. "By not taking issue with Israeli bigots, they apply a double standard." But Abraham Foxman, national director and chairman of the ADL, said Lieberman has not said anything to upset Prime Minister Ehud Olmert or the American Jewish community since becoming a minister. "When he deserves criticism, we criticize, but we are not stigmatizing him in any manner, shape or form." In May, ADL did respond when Lieberman suggested that Arab MKs who met with Hamas leaders be executed. Foxman said some of Lieberman's views were "extreme" but that he did not consider him a bigot or racist. "I don't think he is a threat to Israel's democracy," Foxman said. "To talk about a transfer of land and people is something that has been done by Western civilization for a long time, as long as people are not removed forcibly." Lieberman has proposed a land swap that would reduce the number of Arab Israeli citizens in exchange for incorporating large Jewish settlements in Israel. Executive Vice Chairman of the Conference Malcolm Hoenlein said inviting Lieberman to speak was not an endorsement of his ideas. "We have people of every point of view come before the conference," he said. "Criticism of him is not a criteria for not extending an invitation." Lieberman is expected to speak about Iran, although Hoenlein said he was sure that members of the conference would raise other issues as well. Asked whether American Jews felt free to criticize Israel and its leaders, Hoenlein said, "They are not held back from expressing their point of view." Another group that has consistently voiced opposition to the inclusion of Lieberman in the government is Ameinu, formerly the Labor Zionist Alliance. Jamie Levin, executive director of Ameinu, who will be attending the meeting at the President's Conference, said he hoped to hear Lieberman clarify what he meant by a Jewish democratic state. "I support a Jewish democratic state, but I'm not sure that my idea is consonant with his," said Levin. "Israel can do what they want but American Jews ought to weigh in on this," he said. "The American Jewish community has been conspicuously silent and has let Israel off the hook."