Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky has berated an Arab Knesset Member for scoring “cheap political points” by refusing to meet U.S. Jewish leaders in the same building that houses the Zionist group.
Joint Arab List MK Ayman Odeh on Thursday refused to enter a meeting with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in New York, as reported here.
Sharansky’s spokesman issued a statement Saturday night saying:
It is unfortunate that members of Knesset from the Joint List are more interested in scoring cheap and expedient political points than they are in advancing the well-being of their communities.
Along with our core mission of ingathering the exiles of the Jewish people via Aliyah, The Jewish Agency is proud to serve all the citizens of Israel, regardless of religion or ethnicity, which we view as an integral part of our Zionist vision.
Thousands of Arab Israeli families enjoy a range of Jewish Agency programs, including our Youth Futures mentorship program, which has placed a particular emphasis on schoolchildren in Israel’s Arab community; Masa Israel Journey and Project TEN, which run programs focused on Arab-Jewish coexistence and on serving underprivileged Arab citizens of Israel; and an innovative Jewish Agency high school opened just this year for Bedouin youth in the Negev.
Sharansky added, “Thousands of Arab Israelis have already found their way to The Jewish Agency’s programs and to the dedicated professionals and volunteers who run them. It is high time MK Odeh and his colleagues did the same.”
Conference of Presidents Executive Vice President Malcolm Hoenlein came downstairs with MK Merav Michaeli to try to persuade Odeh to change his mind, which is a bit of an irony since Michaeli’s Labor party recently changed its official name to “Zionist Camp.”
Odeh later explained”
I came here to represent the Arab public in Israel to American audiences. As their representative, I cannot in good conscience participate in meetings in the offices of organizations whose work displaces Arab citizens, just as in the Knesset, we do not participate in the Ministry of Defense, the Foreign Ministry, and the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption.:
Conference of Presidents Chairman Stephen Greenberg and VP Hoenlein said in a statement that they are “deeply disturbed and shocked at [Odeh’s] refusal to fulfill his commitment to speak before a meeting of the Conference, because our premises are shared with the Jewish Agency, and other Zionist groups.”