Boundaries Blur For Jewish Leaders



A handful of Jewish communal officials were summoned about one
year ago to the Israeli Embassy in Washington for a briefing on Iran.

The meeting featured a computerized presentation from Israeli diplomats
pointing to Iran as the party responsible for the 1994 bombing of the
Buenos Aires Jewish community center, which killed 86 people.

The evidence seemed compelling.

After the presentation, an Israeli diplomat asked the Jewish communal
officials in attendance to lobby Congress for an investigation into Iran's
role in the bombing. Several of the Jewish activists in the room were taken
aback by the request, and asked why Israeli officials didn't simply
approach lawmakers themselves.

Israeli officials, in response, hinted that the evidence was the product of
secretly obtained intelligence - and, hence, they were unable to adopt such
a direct approach toward Congress.

In the end, none of the communal officials in attendance followed up on the
request. Several of those in the room felt that the Israeli overture
represented a violation of the boundaries that should define the respective
roles of and guide relations between American Jewish organizations that
lobby on behalf of Israel and Israeli officials formally representing a
foreign government.

But such reticence is increasingly the exception, said several Jewish
communal activists based in Washington. Instead, these activists said, the
tendency is for Jewish organizational leaders - often at the urging of
Israeli and American officials - to assume the role of diplomatic
middlemen. Whatever boundaries do remain, they added, have been further
weakened by an open-door hiring policy that sees staffers at Jewish
organizations leave for posts in the Israeli or American governments, and
increasingly sees former government officials in both countries taking up
positions at Jewish organizations..

 


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