NEW YORK- The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) is deeply troubled by the use of extreme and intemperate language by World Jewish Congress president Edgar Bronfman in his public attacks on WJC senior vice-president Isi Leibler.
The controversy began when, on the eve of Prime Minister Ariel Sharons visit to the White House, Bronfman sent a letter to President Bush, urging him to pressure the Israeli government to halt construction of the security fence and suggesting the U.S. should treat Israel and the Palestinian Authority the same way. To make matters worse, Bronfman also made a statement to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency distinguishing between Arab terrorism against Jews within Israels pre-1967 borders, which he called ghastly, and terrorism against Jews in Judea-Samaria-Gaza, which he did not call ghastlyin fact, he said it would be smart for the terrorists to focus their attacks on Jews in those areas in order to win more international sympathy. (JTA, Aug. 12, 2003) Leibler strongly criticized Bronfmans remarks, saying he should retract them or resign.
Bronfman responded by calling Leibler an arrogant twit, a fool (New York Sun, Aug. 8-10, 2003), and an idiot, adding: He can go f- himself. (National Post, Aug.12, 2003)
The guidelines on civil debate adopted by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations on July 21, 1995, state: Those from all sides of the spectrum who engage in verbal violence, demeaning characterizations and other excesses violate basic Jewish tenets as well as standards of decency while endangering the interests of the community. They have been, and will be, rejected.
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein commented: Edgar Bronfmans ugly name-calling is unbecoming of someone who is in a leadership position in the Jewish community. It is deeply troubling when a leader of a Jewish organization uses such extreme and intemperate language against a fellow-Jewish leader. Mr. Bronfmans statements clearly violate the Presidents Conference guidelines against demeaning characterizations and other excesses. Even though the World Jewish Congress is not a member-organization of the Presidents Conference, it cannot ignore the fact that virtually Jewish organizations have adopted a code for civil behavior that is crucial to maintaining the dignity of Jewish communal life. Jewish leaders should stick to the issues and refrain from name-calling.