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U.S. Jewish Group Defiant in Face of Shamir Criticism

September 15, 1985|NORMAN KEMPSTER | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — The American Jewish Congress, responding to criticism from Israeli Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir, said Saturday that U.S. Jewish groups will not allow officials of the Jerusalem government to muzzle them on matters affecting the Arab-Israeli conflict.

In a statement, the organization's president, Theodore R. Mann, and executive director, Henry Siegman, said that the group provides unqualified support for Israel's security and well-being but that "we do not believe that this commitment requires Jewish organizations to compromise their independence."

In a bluntly worded interview Friday, Shamir attacked the Jewish group as a "peanut-sized organization" that had allowed itself to be used by Arab leaders. He was angered by meetings held by a 20-member AJC delegation with President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and King Hussein of Jordan.

Mann, reporting on the meetings to a Jerusalem press conference last Wednesday, said Hussein and Mubarak had urged the United States to put the Palestine Liberation Organization "to the test" by agreeing to meet a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation as a step toward PLO recognition of Israel.

Recognition of PLO

Shamir, who believes that a U.S. meeting with a Jordanian-Palestinian delegation would imply a kind of recognition of the PLO and who opposes it for that reason, said the American Jewish Congress should not dabble in international politics except when asked to do so by Israel. He said, "The world must know that Israel represents the Jewish people on Jewish problems."

In their statement Saturday, Mann and Siegman said, "This position we find astounding, for it assumes a complete lack of independence on the part of Jewish communities and Jewish life everywhere.

"We understand the need to consult with Israeli leaders on issues that affect them," Mann and Siegman said. "However, there are important distinctions between consultation and instruction.

"As American citizens, we do not take instruction, even from respected friends in Israel," they said.

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