On the eve of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s visit to the White House, 100 American Jewish leaders criticized him for recently hosting a visit by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for his role in the Darfur genocide.
One hundred Jewish leaders, including three local rabbis, signed a letter of protest to Mubarak, which was sent to the Egyptian embassy in Washington on Monday, the eve of Mubarak’s Aug. 18 visit to the White House.
“Bashir should be behind bars, not treated as if he is a respected international leader, ” said Rafael Medoff, director of the Washington-based David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, which organized the protest.
The Jewish leaders urged Mubarak “to declare that Bashir will no longer be welcome in Egypt, and that Egypt will cooperate in efforts to implement the International Criminal Court’s arrest warrant.” They also wrote that “the warm welcome Bashir was given in Egypt evokes painful memories of the sheltering of fugitive Nazi war criminals in Egypt after the Holocaust.”
The Jewish leaders’ letter is part of the Wyman Institute’s “Bashir Watch,” a project that tracks Bashir’s travels and urges governments to treat Bashir as a pariah and cooperate in efforts to arrest him.
The signatories on the letter, representing a broad religious and political cross-section of the American Jewish community, include senior leaders of the Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, and Reconstructionist movements; senior past or present officials of the American Jewish Congress, the Anti-Defamation League, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the National Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, the Foundation for Jewish Culture, the Jewish Educators Assembly, and other organizations; and prominent rabbis from coast to coast.
Among them were Rabbis Randall Mark of Cong. Shomrei Torah in Wayne and president of the North Jersey Board of Rabbis; Ronald Roth of the Fair Lawn Jewish Center/Cong. B’nai Israel; and Eliezer Diamond, a Teaneck resident who is associate professor of Talmud and Rabbinics at the Jewish Theological Seminary.
Mubarak was visiting Washington as part of President Obama’s push to accelerate a resumption of Israeli-Arab peace talks. The White House wants Egypt to help press the Palestinians back to the table and to persuade other Arab nations to make conciliatory gestures to Israel.
Mubarak met Monday morning with an array of leaders from Jewish groups who told him that conciliatory measures from Arab nations, including allowing Israeli overflights and expanding business ties, would help Israel make concessions. Arab states and the Palestinians first want Israel to commit to a settlement freeze.
“He said he believes that Israel has to do its share,” said one participant who spoke on condition of anonymity because the meeting was off the record. “I hope we delivered the message that, not that we disagree with that, but that the Israeli public needs to see a changing wind blowing in the Arab world that would create a better context for hard decisions.”
The meeting also covered expanding ties between Israel and Egypt and presenting a united front against Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program.
Egypt’s role in attempting to broker the release of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier held captive in the Gaza Strip since 2006, was discussed as well. (See page 6.)
JTA/David Wyman Institute