A group of hard-line supporters of Israel's policies in the occupied West Bank has moved to oust a rival organization from the Los Angeles Jewish Federation Council because of its support for Palestinian demonstrators.
"They were . . . standing in front of the building of the Israeli Consulate, chanting in unison, 'We are the PLO, we are the PLO,' with placards that obviously are demeaning to Jews and to the state of Israel," said Rabbi Julian White, president of Americans for a Safe Israel.
His group has asked that the federation, a community-wide organization, drop the New Jewish Agenda from its list of more than 500 member agencies.
But Joel Gayman, a spokesman for New Jewish Agenda, said that members of his group did not take part in the chanting or display anti-Israel placards during the demonstration of about 75 members of pro-Palestinian groups on Wilshire Boulevard last December.
"We were walking with them in a separate delegation, basically to express empathy to Palestinian outrage at Israeli occupation tactics and sympathy with relatives either maimed, killed or beaten," he said.
Gayman suggested that the move to oust his organization was motivated by the frustrations of Israel's leadership and its sympathizers after more than two months of violence in which 55 Palestinians have been killed in confrontations with Israeli occupation forces.
"The right is going crazy and needs to vent its spleen on somebody," he said.
A spokesman for the Jewish Federation declined to comment on the issue beyond saying that White's complaint has been received and that "we'll be dealing with the issue shortly."
The issue was raised at a meeting of the federation board on Tuesday, when Rabbi Abner Weiss of the Beth Jacob synagogue in Beverly Hills displayed photographs of Agenda members demonstrating together with Palestinian sympathizers.
Aid to 'Enemies'
"There were placards . . . which compared what's happening in Gaza to what Hitler did, which is an absolutely obscene comparison," Weiss said.
"And I said there's simply no place for this kind of organization within the family of Jewish organizations whose purpose is the preservation of Jewish life and institutions and not their destruction. It's giving aid and comfort to the enemies of Israel."
After Weiss' remarks, officials of the federation said they were already looking into the complaints that had been submitted earlier in a letter from Americans for a Safe Israel.
While both groups are small and relatively new, their differences reflect the divisions within the Los Angeles Jewish community about how to deal with the persistent upheaval on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, which Israel occupied in 1967.
Surfaced in Meetings
Those differences surfaced in several public meetings last month and are expected to come up again on March 17, when Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir is expected to come to Los Angeles as part of a U.S. visit.
Ilan Elgar, press attache at the Israeli consulate, said Israeli diplomats told members of the New Jewish Agenda that such demonstrations harm the cause of peace.
"These forces are diametrically opposed to the whole notion of a political settlement," he said. "Even if their (New Jewish Agenda) intention is right, the outcome is wrong. If they actually have those good intentions, they are simply being taken for a ride."