Workmen’s Circle Statement in Response to the Leadership of Conference of Presidents

Workmen’s Circle Statement in Response to the Leadership of Conference of Presidents Statement of October 29, 2014

November 3, 2014 — The Workmen’s Circle expresses its dismay at the intemperate, ill-considered intrusion into the latest flare-up in U.S.-Israeli relations by the leadership of the senior representative body of organized American Jews.

We are alarmed by the statement issued Wednesday by the leadership of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, a community-wide consensus body of which we are a member, calling on the Obama administration to “hold to account” the unnamed official who was quoted in The Atlantic directing an obscenity at Israel’s prime minister. The conference further called on the administration to take “appropriate steps” in response to the alleged slur.

The controversial quote was not a statement of administration policy but an expression of feeling by an individual in the course of a private conversation with a journalist. It was not a signal of a change in U.S. intentions, but rather an anecdotal indication of how badly interpersonal tensions have soured the bilateral relationship in recent months.

Mainstream American Jewish advocacy organizations work to strengthen relations between the United States and Israel. The last thing we should be doing is interfering at sensitive moments to aggravate tensions or escalate minor disputes into major ones, as the Conference of Presidents risks doing in the current instance.

The Conference of Presidents in particular has a duty to act cautiously and consult its members before taking sides in a dispute between the two governments, representing as it does a broad spectrum of organizations with a wide diversity of views.

“As members of the Conference of Presidents, we are indignant that the umbrella body acting in our name took such an injudicious step without consulting or even advising the membership in advance,” said Ann Toback, executive director of the Workmen’s Circle. “We are distressed at the strains in the historic friendship between America and Israel, but we see no cause for a witch-hunt, much less an official crackdown on government employees expressing their feelings in private.”