NEW YORK- The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has expressed its dismay at the reported decision by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to prevent cabinet minister Uzi Landau from speaking abroad, a decision which strikes a blow at the cherished principle of freedom of speech.
The ZOA has invited Minister Landau to speak at its annual Justice Louis D. Brandeis Award Dinner in New York City on December 12, 2004. According to the Israeli daily Ma’ariv (Sept. 3), Sharon has “barred Minister Landau from traveling overseas” because he “opposes the most important policy decision and acts against it in the Knesset and public.”
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said: “Since the proposed unilateral withdrawal from Gaza would strengthen the terrorists and endanger the lives of Israel’s citizens, every public official has a moral obligation to express his point of view, and Jews around the world have a right to hear all sides of the argument. Barring Landau strikes a blow at free speech and deprives Diaspora Jews the opportunity to be fully informed about the issues at stake. We assume that liberal Jewish organizations and civil rights groups, which, in the name of free speech, championed the right of Israeli doves to voice their disagreements with nationalist Israeli governments, will now likewise support Minister Landau’s right to free speech.”
The ZOA points out that Minister Landau’s concerns about the risks of a Gaza retreat are shared by a very significant portion of the Israeli public. Polls show that less than 50% of Israelis support the Gaza plan; when the Gaza proposal was put to the Likud membership, it was defeated by a 60-40 margin; and a July 2004 poll found 64% of Israelis do not believe retreat from Gaza will decrease the threat of missiles fired by terrorists at pre-1967 Israel.
The ZOA notes that the ban on Landau is the latest in a series of developments which indicate a concerted effort to intimidate or silence those who have raised concerns about the risks of a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. For example, in recent weeks, there have been repeated leaks to the media resulting in sensational headlines claiming that opponents of Gaza retreat might use violence — even though no evidence has been found to support that claim.
The ZOA recalls that prior to the Rabin-Peres government’s concessions during the Oslo process, false claims were likewise made in order to demonize opponents of concessions. Later it turned out that many of those false claims were the work of Avishai Raviv, an agent of the Israeli Security Services (Shin Bet), whose job was to make Israeli nationalists appear to be extremists.