Watching unrest in Egypt, US Jews voice many concerns, some hopes
American Jews' concerns center on the fear that a new regime in Egypt would not honor the peace with Israel. But other voices call for the community to embrace the cause of Egyptian freedom.
The dramatic events in Egypt have elicited an outpouring of concerned commentary from the American Jewish community amid fears that successors to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak could be more sympathetic to Islamic fundamentalism and may not honor the 1979 peace treaty with Israel.Skip to next paragraph
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But although many of the six million American Jews are burning up the phone lines to relatives and government officials in the region – and some key Jewish groups have urged their members to push the White House and Congress to be more vocal in preempting the inclusion of Muslim fundamentalists in Egypt’s political dialogue – there is no formal, unified response, say leading Jewish academics and rabbis.
“It’s always a bit dicey to talk about a monolithic, Jewish American response,” says Robert Wexler, president of American Jewish University in Los Angeles. “Like most Americans we are taking a wait-and-see response while voicing concern about any kind of Islamic assertion of power in the region.”
The American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, the powerful pro-Israel lobby, sounded a similar theme.
“Like all Americans, AIPAC is concerned about how Egypt’s future will affect American interests in the region,” says Jennifer Cannata, AIPAC press secretary, via email. “AIPAC hopes that any political transition in Egypt will lead to a pro-American, pro-Western and democratic government that is committed to maintaining Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel.”
Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), one of the oldest pro-Israel organization in the US says American Jews and Israeli leaders are strongly expressing the same fears, both publicly and privately, about the possible rise of Islamists to power in Egypt and what instability in the region would mean for Israel.
“I’ve never seen so many Israeli leaders and others express such deep fears and concerns that extremists will move into power,” Mr. Klein says, adding that his group is urging its members to lobby both House and Senate members to do whatever possible to stop any Islamic group from taking over in Egypt.
“We’re deeply concerned that [President] Obama and Hillary Clinton have not done or said enough to denounce the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology and platform,” he says. He notes that the group’s August 2007 platform says women and non-Muslims should not hold important political posts in Egyptian government, calls for jihad (holy war), and states that the clergy must approve all government decisions. He is expressly wary of what democracy could mean in Egypt.