The annual General Assembly of the Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington has rejected the membership application of the local chapter of Breira, the group that supports the state of Israel but frequently disagrees openly with Israeli government policy.
Officers of the JCC conceded that the rejection could cause a split in the council, and possibly the formation of another council willing to include Breira. The action came Monday in an emotional session.
The delegates to the umbrella organization of 200 area Jewish groups - which include many of the most prominent and influential Jews in the Washington area - voted down Breira's membership bid by about the same 2-to-1 margin as its executive committee did last month in recommending the rejection. The vote was 139 to 67, and was taken by a show of blue index cards after a motion for a voice vote was put down.
Israel Shulman, treasurer of the JCC, presented the executive committee report citing Breira's "form and style of dissent on issues affecting the survival of Israel" as a reason for the committee's recommendation.
Shulman also asserted a right to make "additional comments." He cited articles and letters written by Breira chapter members supporting Palestinian rights to "self-determination" and calling "negotiable" Israel's return to presettlement borders. Shulman characterized such positions as "not considered in the best interests of Israel."
Other Breira speakers - who alternated with those favoring Breira's admittance - accused Breira of "flirting with the PLO" (the Palestinian Liberation Organization) and "legitimizing the PLO's claim that they be considered a viable bargaining agent for the Palestinian people."
Others were disturbed at Breira president Marcel Infeld's refusal to back down from Breira's "option to picket" other Jewish organizations with which it does not agree, including the Israeli Embassy.
Infeld, whose 10-minute presentation of Breira's position included a rebuttal of Shulman's speech, urged Breira be accepted by the JCC in the name of "democratic pluralism within the Jewish community."
Breira always has maintained that Israel "should announce its readiness to negotiate with any Palestinian representative that has committed itself to Israel's right to exist," said Infeld. Breira's present position regarding the PLO is that it is "not justified" in its position because the PLO has not made such a commitment, he said.
The only other group to be rejected by the JCC is the militant Jewish Defense League.
Following the vote, Breira members said they were "disappointed" but "might reapply" in response to Shulman's words before the vote that included, "I say to Breira, thank you and come back tomorrow."