The Uproar over Palm Sunday
Despite Jewish-fundamentalist cooperation and the pressures brought to bear against those who publicly advocated negotiation and reconciliation in the Middle East, a few religious leaders had the courage to speak out. Foremost among them was the Very Reverend Francis B. Sayre, who took the occasion of Palm Sunday, 1972, to raise a number of questions to which American Christians are still debating the answers.
Throughout his twenty-seven years as dean of the National Cathedral in Washington, the hearty and dramatic Sayre took controversial stands on a wide variety of public policy issues. In the early fifties he fired some of the first salvos in the campaign to discredit McCarthyism. Declaring the Wisconsin senator s followers "the frightened and credulous collaborators of a servile brand of patriotism" brought Sayre a torrent of hate mail, but the possibility of criticism never caused him to shy away from speaking out on issues that stirred his conscience. He worked as an early advocate of civil rights for blacks, and in the sixties and seventies he stood in the forefront of opposition to the Vietnam War.
Sayre was the grandson of Woodrow Wilson, and his father had been a diplomat, law professor, and eminent Episcopalian layman. Sayre continued the family tradition of leadership, relishing his position as leader of the cathedrals influential congregation. Offered a government post by the newly installed Kennedy administration in 1960, his reply was swift: "No thanks. I already have the best job in Washington."34
He once described his role as dean of the cathedral as a "liaison between church and state" and as a platform for "moral guidance" for government leaders. He explained his activism with characteristic candor: "Whoever is appointed dean of a cathedral has in his hand a marvelous instrument, and he's a coward if he doesn't use it."35
On Palm Sunday, 1972, Sayre used his prestigious pulpit to deliver a sermon that was perhaps the most powerful—and was certainly one of the most controversial—of his career.36 He spoke on Jerusalem, identifying the ancient city as a symbol of both the purest yearnings and the darkest anger of the human heart. Historically, he proclaimed, both
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extremes were embodied in events of the single week between Jesus' triumphal entry into the city and His crucifixion:
Amidst the pageantry and exultation of Palm Sunday, Jerusalem was the emblem of all mans dreams: a king that will someday come to loose us from every bondage; dream of peace that shall conquer every violence; holiness of heaven driving out the dross of earth.
But just as Jerusalem symbolized "man's yearning for the transcen-dently good," so did it demonstrate his capacity for "hateful evil":
Her golden domes are also known as "the Place of the Skull." . .. Jerusalem, in all the pain of her history, remains the sign of our utmost reproach: the zenith of our hope undone by the wanton meanness of men who will not share it with their fellows but choose to kill rather than be overruled by God.
Having recognized Jerusalem as a portrayal of "the terrible ambivalence of the human race about truth, about himself, about God," Sayre spoke compassionately about the meaning of Jerusalem for the people now living in Israel:
Surely one can sympathize with the loving hope of that little state, which aspires to be the symbol, nay more: the embodiment of a holy peoplehood. For her, Jerusalem is the ancient capital; the city of the temple that housed the sacred Ark of the Covenant. To achieve a government there is . . . the fulfillment of a cherished prayer tempered in suffering, newly answered upon the prowess of her young men and the skill of her generals. Around the world Hosannah has echoed as Jewish armies surged across the open scar that used to divide Arab Jerusalem from the Israeli sector.
Yet Sayre s sermon was fired by a troubled sense that since the military victory of 1967, five years before, something had gone terribly wrong. By 1972 Jerusalem was completely under Israeli control. But, to Sayre, mankind's moral tragedy had been reenacted in Israel's treatment of the city's Arab population. As he saw it, the dream had been tarnished:
Now oppressed become oppressors. Arabs are deported; Arabs are imprisoned without charge; Arabs are deprived of the patrimony of their lands and
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homes; their relatives may not come to settle in Jerusalem; they have neither voice nor happiness in the city that, after all, is the capital of their religious devotion too!
Addressing the moral consequences of the Israeli annexation of Jerusalem, Sayre quoted Dr. Israel Shahak—a Jewish survivor of the Nazi concentration camp at Belsen, a professor at Hebrew University, and a dissenter from Israeli policy—who branded the annexation "an immoral and unjust act," and called for recognition that "the present situation of one community oppressing the other will poison us all, and us Jews first of all."
Sayre explained that Israel's treatment of the Arabs mirrored "that fatal flaw in the human breast that forever leaps to the acclaim of God, only to turn the next instant to the suborning of His will for ours."
He was not the only Washington clergyman to express a theme critical of Israel that day.37 Dr. Edward Elson, pastor of the National Presbyterian Church and chaplain of the U.S. Senate, chided "those Christians who justify Israel's actions in Jerusalem on the basis that they are the fulfillment of prophecy." And the Armenian Orthodox legate to Washington, Bishop Papken, called on Israel to recognize that "Jerusalem belongs to all men."
But because of his reputation and eminent position in American religion, Sayre was singled out to bear the brunt of the criticism. Rabbi Joshua O. Haberman of the Washington Hebrew Congregation reported to Sayre that the sermon was "so distressing to the Israeli government that there had even been a cabinet meeting on the subject—what to do about this minister who had been friendly always to the Jews but who was so misguided." The response was not long in coming. Two leaders of the Washington Jewish Community Council issued a statement denouncing all three sermons and taking particular exception to the address of Sayre. Drs. Harvey H. Ammerman and Isaac Frank said that Jews, Christians, and Muslims "freely mingle in the reunited city and live and carry on their work in peace." They characterized the Sayre sermon as "an outrageous slander."
The Washington Post called Sayre's sermon "an intemperate denunciation of current Israeli policy in Jerusalem."38 Washington Post editors objected to Sayre's assertion that "even as [Israelis] praise their God for the smile of forrune, they begin almost simultaneously to put Him to
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death." They found the statement "painfully close to a very old, very familiar line of the worst bigotry."
An angry letter to the editor published in the the Washington Post dismissed Sayre's sermon as "nonfactual garbage":
This churchman illustrates well the typical liberal gentile bleeding-heart attitude to the Jews—we'll commiserate with you as long as you're dependent on our goodwill for your survival, and we'll weep for you when you are slaughtered every few years by our coreligionists—but Lordy, don't you start winning and controlling your own destiny! The hell with them, I say.3'
Several such letters appeared in the Washington press in the weeks after Palm Sunday, yet few challenged Sayre's central contention that Israeli policy did not grant equal treatment to Arabs and Jews living in Jerusalem. The situation in Jerusalem was a matter of fact, subject to relatively easy refutation—or confirmation—through inquiry. Yet Sayre's critics, in the manner of the Post editors, largely confined their attacks to the tone and lack of "temperance" in his sermon. Sayre received widespread criticism, not for being wrong, but for being a forthright critic of unjust Israeli policies and therefore, in the eyes of some critics, anti-Semitic. Despite his long career of humanitarian activism, partisans of Israel sought to discredit Sayre himself since they could not discredit his arguments. Writer Ernest Volkmann charged that Sayre demonstrated "mindless pro-Arabism [that] had undone many years of patient effort to improve relations between Christians and Jews."40
David A. Clarke of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference wrote to defend Sayre: "I do view with some distrust the emotional rebuttals that follow any question of the propriety of Israeli conduct."41 He likened such emotionalism to the initial reaction against those who first challenged long-established concepts of racial superiority. Referring to U.S. policy in the Middle East, he expressed gratitude "that one of such intellectual integrity as Dean Sayre has given a differing view so that our perspective will nor be one-dimensional."
But influential Chtistians remained divided in their reaction to the speech. Some shared Sayre's troubled disapproval of Israeli policy in the Holy City. Others continued to invoke the specter of anti-Semitism.
The Reverend Carl Mclntire, an outspoken Protestant fundamentalist, took exception to Sayre's sermon in a letter published in the
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Washington Star. He and Sayre had clashed previously, when Mclntire had sought to disrupt a rally against the Vietnam War at the Washington Cathedral and Sayre had personally ushered him away from the gathering. "The liberals represented by the dean have long since departed from the historic Christian view concerning Israel and Jerusalem," proclaimed Mclntire. Describing the 1967 war as "a thrilling example of how to deal with aggressors and the forces backed by Communism," he invoked scriptural justification for Israeli possession of conquered territory:
It is for those of us who believe the Bible to be the Word of God [to] come now to the assistance of our Jewish neighbors. What God has given them they are entitled to possess, and none of the land that they have won should be bartered away.42
Some mainline clergymen joined in the fundamentalist outcry over the Palm Sunday sermon. Two leaders of the Council of Churches of Greater Washington issued a public statement declaring it "distressing and perplexing that men of goodwill should choose the start of this holy week for both Christians and Jews to make pronouncements that would inevitably be construed as anti-Judaic."43
Two Catholic clergymen—an official of the secretariat for Catholic-Jewish Relations and a director of the United States Catholic Conference—joined in an attempt to discredit Sayre. First they questioned the propriety of Sayre's quoting Israel Shahak, a dissident, to substantiate his charges of Israeli injustice in Jerusalem: "Is it not too close to the old anti-Semitic stratagem of using passages from the Hebrew prophets in order to scold Jews?"44 More significant, they asserted that they had "failed to find any evidence of Israeli oppression" during a recent trip to Jerusalem.
Yet an article in Christianity Today reported a quite different reaction from the editor of the United Church Observer, an official publication of the United Church of Canada. The Reverend A. C. Forrest praised Sayre for "the courage, knowledge, and insight to speak prophetically about one of the most disturbing situations in the world today." Citing UN reports on Jerusalem, he said Sayre's charges "are kind of old stuff to anyone who's done his homework or traveled enough in the Middle East."45
Support for Sayre was voiced by Jesuit educator Joseph L. Ryan of Georgetown University.46 Explaining that he spoke in response to the
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injunction of Pope Paul VI—"If you wish peace, work for justice"— Father Ryan cited statements by the pope and by Catholic leaders in several Middle Eastern countries expressing concern about Israeli actions in Jerusalem and about the misery of Palestinian refugees. He pointed out that Israeli oppression of Christians and Muslims in Jerusalem was documented by publications of the Israeli League for Human Rights and the United Nations. "There is no dearth of evidence," he wrote. "If the public raising of these cases of oppression is shocking, the reality is incomparably more shocking."
Father Ryan reserved his strongest language for criticizing unquestioning Christian supporters of Israeli policies:
Further, a few Catholics and Protestants propagate the insinuation that to be anti-Zionist (that is, critical of Israel) is to be anti-Semitic. In their anxiety to wipe out racism, these spokesmen go to extremes. This insinuation, which they try to make widespread, hinders instead of helps the development of proper relations between Christians and Jews, and inhibits the free and open discussion of fundamental differences [that] for Americans as citizens of their country and of the world community is essential in the search for justice and peace.
Sayre remained largely detached from the tempest he had stirred on Palm Sunday. His only public action was to state through an aide that he would not retract any of his comments. Years later he acknowledged that, while he had given previous sermons on the plight of the Palestinian refugees, the 1972 Palm Sunday address was his first direct criticism of Israel. "Of course I realized that it would make a big splash," he said. "But if you put it more mildly, as I had [previously], it made no dent at all. So what are you going to do?"47
Prior to the controversial sermon, Sayre had enjoyed high standing with the American Jewish community. A local Jewish congregation, at Sayre's invitation, held services in the cathedral until its synagogue was built. Jews respected him for the work he had done as president of the United States Committee for Refugees. In this capacity he had worked to resettle Jews from Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. As an Episcopal minister in Cleveland after World War II, he had been head of the diocese's committee to settle refugees, many of them Jews, from Eastern Europe.
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The sermon had personal implications. Sayre and his family experienced a campaign of "very unpleasant direct intimidation" through letters and telephone calls. On a number of occasions, when his children answered the phone they were shouted at and verbally abused. The phone would ring in the middle of the night, only to be hung up as soon as a member of the Sayre family answered. "Even when I went out, I would be accosted rudely by somebody or other who would condemn me in a loud voice," he recalled. Such harassment continued for about six months, Sayre said, "even to the point where my life was threatened over the phone; so much so that I had the cathedral guards around the house for a while."
The ecumenical spirit between Sayre and community rabbis was strained again six months after the sermon. When eleven Israeli athletes wete killed at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich while being held captive by the tadical "Black September" guerrillas, Sayre shared the shock and revulsion felt around the world. Together with rabbis and other Jewish leaders in Washington, he immediately began to plan a memorial setvice in the cathedral.
Three days after the tragedy, Israeli warplanes attacked Palestinian camps in Syria and Lebanon, killing forty people.48 Sayre then told the rabbis of his intention to "make this a more general service than just for victims of Arab killing" and to memorialize the dead Palestinians as well.
Confronted with this prospect, the rabbis declined ro participate. There were, however, a number of Jews among the approximately 500 persons who attended the broadened memorial service. They heard Sayre describe the Arab guerrillas as "misguided and desperately misled" victims "of all the bitterness their lives had been surrounded with since birth, bitterness born of issues left callously unresolved by any international conscience."49
He condemned the Israeli retaliation: "An eye for an eye, tooth for tooth is the rationale of that violence, by which I am desolate to think the government of Israel has sacrificed any moral position of injured innocence." The dean invoked the broader historical and humanitarian view that had marked his Palm Sunday sermon in words that might well be repeated for every victim of Middle East violence:
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I perceive that the victim of the violence that we mourn today is not only a latter-day Jew upon the blood-stained soil of Germany, nor yet the Arab prisoner of an equally violent heritage. The victim is all of us, the whole human race upon this earth.50
Despite these words, Sayre was treated as though he somehow was a preacher of extremism. His career never had quite the shine it had before he uttered his forthright words on the Middle East. Sayre went into semiretirement on Martha's Vineyard, where he served as chaplain at the local hospital but assumed no regular church responsibilities. One morning in 1983, I delayed his project for the morning—digging clams—to ask if the controversial Palm Sunday message had any effect on his career. Still robust in voice and spirit, Sayre answered without hesitation: "Yes, very definitely. I knew it would. It's not popular to speak out. I don't like to speculate about it, because no one knows what would have happened. But I think I was a dangerous commodity from then on, not to be considered for bishop or anything else."
"I Felt I Had to Do Something"
The American religious community has seen few figures of the stature of Francis Sayre willing to speak out forcefully for peace and justice for all Middle East peoples. At the time of the Palm Sunday sermon in 1972, he was one of the most prominent spokesmen of American Christianity—a powerful and intellectually gifted man wielding the authority of Washington Cathedral's prestigious pulpit. Despite the price Sayre paid for his courageous stand, younger voices have emerged that express similar resolve and depth of commitment.
The Reverend Don Wagner, a Presbyterian from Chicago, has risen quickly to the forefront of those within the religious community who seek to educate the public on realities in the Middle East and to counter the religious bias that often obscures awareness of those realities. His experiences have also brought him firsthand acquaintance with the intimidation that such efforts call forth.
Wagner first became involved in public debate over the Middle East while serving as associate pastor of a large Presbyterian church in
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Evanston, Illinois. At the time he was, in his own words, "very pro-Israel." In the wake of the first oil crisis, in 1974 the young pastor helped organize a series of speakers within the church, alternating between pro-Israeli and pro-Arab points of view. He felt the series would aid his parishioners to better understand this unprecedented event. Wagner was quite surprised when, halfway through it, he began receiving pressure to stop the series. A barrage of anonymous telephone calls threatened picketing outside the church and more severe, unspecified reprisals if the series continued.
Wagner did not stop. In the end, however, the series was marred by the refusal of two Jewish members of the final panel to take part. They announced a half-hour before the scheduled discussion that the presence of an Arab academic on the panel rendered the event anti-Semitic and that they consequently refused to dignify it with their presence. They implied that Wagner had deceived them about the makeup of the panel and the nature of the discussion, although the topic of the discussion and the list of participants had been publicized well in advance.
Wagner suspected that these men had been pressured by their rabbis to quir the conference. This suspicion was reinforced later when he learned that many of the earlier telephone calls had also been from members of the local Jewish community. One of the callers even told him directly: "I am a Jew, and this kind of activity is very anti-Semitic. For a Christian to be doing this is unconscionable." This experience was an eye-opener for Wagner. He discovered, as have others who have dared to speak out and become involved, that one need not actually criticize the Jewish people or the state of Istael to be labeled anti-Semitic. Simply raising questions about Middle East issues and assuming that the answers may not all be obvious is enough to evoke the charge.
Wagner first traveled to the Middle East in 1977. He paid his own way but traveled with representatives of the Palestine Human Rights Campaign (PHRC), an organization concerned with the protection of Palestinian rights. After spending time with refugees and other residents in Beirut, the West Bank, and Jerusalem, Wagner felt his long-standing sympathy for rhe displaced Palestinian refugees growing into a strong personal imperative. "I felt I had to do something," he recalled.
After his return to the United States, he learned how difficult it could be to "do something." Shortly before his departure for the Mid
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die East, Wagner had arranged a church speaking engagement for Dr. Israel Shahak, a prominent critic of Israeli government policy. He returned to discover that the senior minister of his church had acceded to pressure from local rabbis to cancel the Shahak engagement without informing eithet him or Shahak. The senior minister explained that the local rabbis had convinced him that it would be "in the best interests of the church and Jewish relations" if the appearance of such a well-known critic of Israeli policy were canceled.
Undeterred, Wagner became increasingly active in speaking up about the Palestinian plight, offering Sunday morning prayers for the refugees, promoting more educational activities, and even bringing Palestinian Christians to his pulpit to speak. His activities led not only to a continuation of public criticism and pressure, but also to problems within the staff of his own church as well. One associate frequently teferred to him as "the PLO pastor," and staff friction grew as Wagner proceeded with plans for the First LaGrange Conference (LaGrange I), named for the Illinois town in which it was held in the spring of 1979.
This conference, like LaGrange II, which would follow in May 1981, was aimed at raising awareness of the Palestinian refugee situation among American church groups and leaders. Both meetings were attended by a broad ecumenical body of Christians, including Evangelical, mainline Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox. The first conference was jointly sponsored by PHRC and the Middle East task force of the Chicago Presbytery. The second was sponsored by PHRC and the Christian peace groups Pax Christi and Sojourners. The theme of these conferences was summed up in the title of LaGrange II: "Toward Biblical Foundations for a Just Peace in the Holy Land."
After a series of speakers and panels was presented, each conference issued a statement. These two documents have become a topic of debate within the American religious community. The statements stress the common humanity of Arabs, Jews, and Christians and call upon the American Christian churches to be more active in spreading information and promoting reconciliation and peace. Specifically, the churches are enjoined to "encourage dialogue with other Christians as well as Jews and others concerning the priorities of peace in the Holy Land" and to "inform and educate their people of the historical roots of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."
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The participants in LaGrange I and II made a significant step in ecumenical cooperation for greater public understanding of the Middle East. Unfortunately, opponents of cooperation and understanding were also in attendance.
Prior to the convening of LaGrange I, the Chicago Presbytery received pressure from the local chapter of the Anti-Defamation League, led by associate director Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, to withdraw Presbyterian sponsorship of the conference. There were telephone calls, an extensive letter writing campaign, and, finally, meetings between Jewish leaders and members of the church hierarchy.
The elders of the church stood by Wagner, but the Jewish community promptly passed judgment on the conference. The day before the conference convened, the ADL issued a press release condemning its "anti-Semitic bias."
Efforts to discredit the conference did not end there. The slate of speakers had been planned to include the Reverend John Polakowski, a noted writer on the Holocaust and an active Zionist. On the morning of the conference Father Polakowski sent a registered letter to Wagner announcing his withdrawal from the conference. He had been fully informed as to the nature of the conference and the identity of many of the other speakers, but he denounced the conference as unfairly biased against the Israeli perspective.51 He fulfilled his own prophecy. His decision to deprive the conference of his own perspective caused the Zionist view to be underrepresented at LaGrange I.
LaGrange II witnessed a virtual repeat of the same tactic. Rabbi Arnold Kaiman had agreed to address a section of the conference entitled "Religious People Talking from Their Perspectives." He had been invited to speak partly because of his long-standing personal friendship with Ayoub Talhami, coconvenor of the conference. Talhami had discussed the planned conference with Rabbi Kaiman in detail and sent him a draft copy of the conference flier, and, of course, the rabbi was aware of the previous conference. On the day of the conference Kaiman sent a special delivery letter to Wagner, Talhami, and others announcing his withdrawal from the conference.52 The letter denounced Talhami and the convenors of the conference for having "misled" and "deceived" him. Talhami felt that the letter was intended mainly for Kaiman's congregational board, both because the chairman of that board was a coaddressee of the letter and because rhe accusations of deceit were so preposrerous.
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Whatever his reasons, Kaiman did more than refuse to speak and repudiate the conference. He provided copies of his letter to reporters so that the withdrawal of a pro-Zionist could be publicized before the conference could issue its statement.
To Wagner, the last-minute withdrawals of Polakowski and Kaiman, each made after it was too late to schedule other pro-Israel speakers, suggested that these supporters of Israel were more concerned with dis-ctediting opposing points of view than with stating their own in an atmosphere of free and open debate. These withdrawals added color to subsequent ADL charges that the LaGrange conferences were "anti-Israel conferences" or "PLO gatherings," despite the balanced character of the statements that emerged from the conferences.
The most disturbing incident to emerge from LaGrange I and II, however, did not involve attempts to discredit the conferences themselves, but were the false charges made against one of the participants.
Sister Miriam Ward, a professor of humanities at Trinity College in Vetmont and a Catholic nun, has a long record of humanitarian concern for Palestinian refugees. By her own description, her role in LaGrange II was modest. "I had doubts about whether I could justify the expense of going," she once said. Sister Miriam moderated a panel discussion and received an award for her humanitarian endeavors. Like Mr. Wagner, she knew from experience the price of speaking out on Palestinian questions. Her activities had also attracted hate mail and personal innuendoes. Still, she was not prepared for the smear that resulted from her participation at LaGrange.53
Sister Miriam was singled out for a personal attack in The Jewish Week—American Examiner, a prominent New York City Jewish publication. The June 21, 1981, issue gave significant coverage to a scheme to disrupt Israeli policy on the occupied West Bank—a scheme that Sister Miriam had supposedly advanced at the conference. The article claimed that she had urged that "churches finance a project with staff in the United States and field-workers in Israel and the West Bank for the purpose of 'spying on the Israelis.' "54 She was reported saying, "By the time the Israelis caught on to what was going on and expelled a field-worker, they [presumably Sister Miriam and her coconspirators] would have a replacement ready." The Jewish Week article added that "the proposal was accepted without dissent, and ways of obtaining church funds for it were discussed."
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The report was a complete fabrication. No one at the LaGrange conference had suggested such a plan, least of all Sister Miriam, and she was stunned when Wagner telephoned from Chicago to inform her of the printed allegations. She had always shunned publicity for her humanitarian activities, and she felt intimidated and intensely alone at being singled out for attack. "I was physically ill for some time," she recalls, "and could not even discuss the matter with other members of my religious community."55
After pondering how—and whether—to respond, she finally sought the advice of a prominent biblical scholar who was lecturing at Trinity College. He advised her to see an attorney about the possibility of legal action. The attorney was sympathetic and agreed to take at least preliminary action free of charge. After several letters from the attorney elicited no response from the newspaper, the scholar, a prominent member of the New York Jewish community, personally telephoned the editor. Sister Miriam feels that it was his call that impelled the editor to act.
In January 1982—more than six months after the original charges had been asserted—a retraction was finally printed in The Jewish Week—American Examiner.% The editors admitted that, "on checking, we find that there is no basis for the quotations attributed to" Sister Miriam. They explained that the story had been "furnished by a service" and "was not covered by any staff member of The Jewish Week." In their retraction, the editors added that they were "happy to withdraw any reflection upon" Sister Miriam.
Yet, as Sister Miriam discovered, the published apology could not erase the original charge from the minds of all readers. Later the same year, a Jewish physician from New York was visiting Burlington as part of a campus program at Trinity College. In a conversation between this woman and another member of Sister Miriam's religious order, the name of the biblical scholar involved in Sister Miriam's case came up. The nun mentioned that he had recently visited Trinity at the invitation of Sister Miriam. Recognizing the name from the original Jewish Week article, the physician repeated with indignation the accusations made against Sister Miriam. She had not seen the retraction. The visitor was quickly informed rhat the charges were false. Sister Miriam cited this as an example of why she is convinced that the damage to her reputation can never
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really be undone. "It's the original thing that does the harm. I just don't want it to happen to anybody else."57
"God Will Poor Out His Wrath"
With the September 2000 onset of the Palestinian intifada—commonly translated as "uprising"—the tenuous relationship between Zionist Jews and evangelical Christians became even more sharply defined. As reports of Israeli brutality reached Americans, the Christian community divided into two main groups: those whose faith compelled them to work on behalf of Palestinians suffering under occupation, and those who sought the fulfillment of God's prophecy—a Jewish Jerusalem, and the Temple rebuilt. Regardless of the position taken, the Israeli-Palestinian issue came to the forefront of debate in Christian America.
"I don't think anything since Vietnam or apartheid has had the impact [in Christian communities] that this is having," said Stephen Swecker, editor of Zion's Herald magazine of Christian opinion. "It hits very close to the heart when you see . . . the Church of the Nativity under siege and sniper fire lighting up the site where Jesus was born."58
Despite the danger posed to Christian holy sites by Israeli occupying forces, leaders of the Christian right remained staunch in their support of Israel. One of them, Ralph Reed, former Christian Coalition direcror, chair of Georgia's Republican Party, and a man previously criticized by the Jewish Anti-Defamation League (ADL) for a perceived lack of tolerance, now writes an op-ed piece that the ADL places in national newspaper advertisements.59
Other Jewish groups also welcome Christian support: Toward Tradition, headed by a rabbi, encourages American Jews to recognize "Israel's best friend"—the Christian right. Judy Hellman, in charge of the Kansas City Jewish Committee's Community Relations Board, put it best: "I think it's called pragmatism." National ADL director Abraham Foxman agreed: "Our tradition teaches us to say thank you. We don't need to do more." As long as the Christian right is unflinching in its support of Israel, and as long as that support isn't expected to be returned, Jewish Zionist groups will continue to welcome any help they can get.
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As usual, these groups take their cue from the Israeli government. At a New York pro-Israel rally, Israeli consul general Alon Pinkas said that Israelis were "very rhankful for the commitment of the Evangelical Christian community." As well they should be. Much of that commitment has its roots in Israeli public relations activity. Suffering a loss of tourism revenues and serious economic damage as a result of the new intifada, Israel's Ministry of Tourism hired TouchPoint Solutions, a Colorado consulting agency, to target Christian Zionists and encourage support of Israel. According to Auburn University Professor of Religious Studies Richard Penaskovic:
Part of the marketing plan involves persuading the top thirty evangelical Zionists to visit and promote Israel. Some of the top evangelical Zionists will receive expense-paid trips to the Holy Land, and the Israeli government has had strategy sessions with the Christian Coalition, headed by Pat Robertson, and other conservative Christian groups.60
Israel's efforts in garnering even more support from the Christian right took quick effect. In May 2002, fundamentalist Christians cooperated in several pro-Israel rallies. For example, several hundred people gathered in Nashville to encourage the Tennessee legislature to pass a resolution supporting Israel. One of the Christian sponsors, citing Old Testament scripture, warned the gathering, "God will pour out his wrath among the nations because they are dividing up the land of Israel." About 2,000 attended a similar rally in Memphis.61
Despite this outspoken support, many American Jews are hesitant to fully embrace the Christian right as allies in a mutual cause. The question of true intentions comes up again and again. In a speech at a Baptist church, U.S. House of Representatives majority whip Tom DeLay (R-TX), a longtime Israel supporter, said, "Only Chrisrianity offers a comprehensive worldview that covers all areas of life and thought. Only Christianity offers a way to live in response to the realities that we find in this world—only Christianity." The comment prompted a harsh response from the National Jewish Democratic Counsel: "His exclu-sionist, fundamentalist Christian worldview ... is indicative of why the American Jewish community will always be uncomfortable with Christian conservative leaders, regardless of their strong support for Israel."62
Not All Jews Toe the line
The first edition of this book explained how the U.S. lobby for Israel is able to manipulate U.S. policy in the Middle East, but it did not explain fully why the Israeli government, in the face of worldwide opposition—except in the United States—carried forward its expensive expansionist policies in the occupied territories. It was clear that the settlements were unpopular among many Israelis and a vexing thorn in the side of Israeli officials, as they were costly to subsidize and had become the main focus of international criticism of Israel.
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A scholarly study by Vincent James Abramo, a veteran federal employee, showed that the settlements are deeply rooted in religion. A little-noted factor in the Middle East imbroglio is the rising power of ultraorthodox Jews in Israeli and U.S. politics. Their core beliefs demand implacable opposition to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on any part of the West Bank, part of the area seized by Israeli forces in the June 1967 Arab—Israeli war and identified in the Bible as Judea and
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Samaria. Ultraorthodox interpretations of Judaic law that are found in the Torah, Talmud, and Halakhah prohibit Jews from sharing power with non-Jews in the "Land of Israel."
In April 2002, a convention of Sharon's Likud Party voted to oppose Palestinian statehood. The vote was seen as an appeal for continued support from ultraorthodox Jews and as an intra-party victory for former Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, who was expected to oppose Sharon in the next Israeli election. Always a factor in Israeli politics, orthodox Jews became a powerhouse in the past decade. In his study of Orthodox Judaism, Abramo wrote: "The success of the religious parties in the 1996 and 1999 Israeli national elections vastly increased the influence of orthodox Jews in the Israeli political process. Politically influential and highly visible orthodox rabbis seek to convince Israel's religiously observant Jews that the Messiah will not arrive until Jews establish themselves as sole rulers in rhe biblical Land of Israel. They believe that any governmental compromise to return biblical lands to the Palestinians in exchange for a peace agreement is, in the eyes of God, a treacherous and punishable act. The orthodox are committed to derailing all Israeli government and international peace initiatives that would force them to give up any part of Jewish sovereignty, political autonomy, and administrative control over all of Israel's biblical land." Abramo estimated that 20 percent of Israel's Jewish population is committed to these beliefs and ideology. This small percentage has proved adequate to be decisive in close elections.
Orthodox Jews promoted the expansion of settlements and sanctioned violent acts by Jewish extremists. The Orthodox goal is simply the expulsion of the Palestinians from the West Bank. The late Professor Israel Shahak, a survivor of a Nazi concentration camp who became a leading champion of Palestinian rights, wrote of Orthodox leaders: "All were outwardly dovish but employed formulas which could be manipulated in the most extreme anti-Arab sense." In 1993, they mobilized against the Oslo Accords, which contemplated an eventual Palestinian state in the West Bank. They can be expected to marshal all possible resources against U.S. pressure for a Palestine state.
The ruthless tactics employed by Israel's right-wing Orthodox parries assure that they will remain a major factot in Israeli politics for years to come, no matter what Israeli parry coalitions may be established.
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Abramo warned of possible Jewish violence in the United States: "Continued U.S. pressure to compromise on East Jerusalem, the Temple Mount, and the right of return for an estimated 3.2 million Palestinians creates a scenario that could see the United States as a potential target of Jewish extremism in the future."
Aramo deplored the U.S. tendency to perceive Israel "as a like-minded country with similar democratic values." He warned, "This mirror-imaging has proven to be dangerous and misleading, because it deflects attention away from the powerful undercurrent of [orthodox Jewish] religion as a driving force in Israeli political life."
It Is Not for Us to Speak Dor Minds"
Despite the power of the Orthodox right, a number of Israel's most outspoken critics have been Jews themselves. In its efforts to quell criticism of Israel, the pro-Israel community's first goal is to still Jewish critics. In this quest it receives strong support from the Israeli government.
Every government of Israel gives high priority to maintaining unity among U.S. Jews. This unity is regarded as a main line of Israel's defense—second in importance only to the Israeli army—and essential to retaining the support that Israel must have from the United States government.
American Jews are made to feel guilty about enjoying safety and the good life in the United States while their fellow Jews in Israel hold the tamparts, pay high taxes, and fight wars. As Rabbi Balfour Brickner stated: "We hide behind the argument that it is not for us to speak our minds because the Istaelis have to pay the price." One Jewish reporter atttibuted Jewish silence to an organized enforcement campaign: "I have often been told—verbally, in Jewish publications, and in synagogues— that even if I have doubts about the Israeli government and its treatment of Palestinians, I should keep quiet about it and be steadfast in my support of a nation that needs to exist."2
For most Jews, open criticism of Israeli policy is unthinkable. The theme is survival—survival of the Zionist dream, of Judaism, of Jews themselves. The fact that the Jewish community in the United States has produced little debate in recent years on Middle East questions even within its own ranks does not mean that all its members are in agreement.
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Trampled to Death
Of the more than 200 principal Jewish organizations functioning on a national scale, only a few, like the New Jewish Agenda and its predecessor, Breira, have challenged any stated policy of the Israeli government.
In return for their occasional criticism of Israel's policies, the two organizations were ostracized and kept out of the organized Jewish community. Breira lasted only five years. Organized in 1973, its peak national membership was about 1,000. Named for the Hebrew word meaning "alternative," it called on Jewish institutions to be "open to serious debate," and proposed "a comprehensive peace between Israel, the Arab states, and a Palestinian homeland that is ready to live in peace alongside Israel." Prominent in its leadership were Rabbis Arnold Jacob Wolf, David Wolf Silverman, Max Ticktin, David Saperstein, and Balfour Brickner.
The National Journal reports that Briera was "bitterly attacked by many leaders of the Jewish establishment" and that a Breira meeting was "invaded and ransacked" by members of the militant Jewish Defense League. Some members of Breira came under intense pressure to quit either the organization or their jobs. Jewish leaders were warned to avoid Breira or fund-raising would be hurt.3
Israeli officials joined rabbis in denouncing the organization. Carolyn Toll, a reporter for the Chicago Tribune who had been on the board of directors of Breira, quoted a rabbi: "My bridges are burned. Once you take a position like this [challenging Israeli positions], the organized Jewish community closes you out."4 Officials from the Israeli consulates in Boston and Philadelphia warned Jews against attending a Breira conference.
Breira came under attack from both right and left within the Jewish community. A pamphlet branding some of its members as "radicals" was quoted by Jewish publications and later distributed by AIPAC. Breira was accused of being allied with the radical U.S. Labor Party. An unsigned "fact sheet" suggested that the organization was really a group of Jewish radicals supporting the PLO.5 The Seattle Jewish Transcript said it was run by a "coterie of leftist revolutionaries" who opposed Israel.6
Irving Howe, speaking at the final national conference of Breira in 1977, said that the tactics used to smear the organization were an "out
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rage such as we have not known for a long time in the Jewish community."7 At the same meeting, retired Israeli General Mattityahu Peled, who was often boycotted by Jewish groups while on U.S. lecture tours, said, "The pressure applied on those who hold dissenting views here [in the United States] is far greater than the pressure on us in Israel. I would say that probably we in Israel enjoy a larger degree of tolerance than you do here within the Jewish community."8 Breira disbanded shortly after that conference.
In December 1980, 700 American Jews gathered in Washington, D.C., to found another organization of dissenters, the New Jewish Agenda.9 Composed mainly of young liberals, it called for "compromise through negotiations with the Palestinian people and Israel's Arab neighbors," and it opposed Israeli policies in the West Bank and Lebanon.
It was soon barred from associating with other Jewish groups. In June 1983, its Washington, D.C., chapter was refused membership in the Jewish Community Council, a group that included 260 religious, educational, fraternal, and social service organizations. The council members voted 98-70 to overturn the recommendation of the group's executive board, which had voted 22-5 for the organization's admission.10 Irwin Stein, president of the Washington chapter of the Zionist Organization of America, charged that the group was "far out" and "pro-Arab rather than pro-Israel."11 Moe Rodenstein, representing the New Jewish Agenda, said the group would like to be a part of "the debate" and added, "We're proud of what we're doing."12
"It Is a Form of McCarthyism"
Like Jewish organizations, individual Jews rarely express public disagreement with Israel policies, despite the broad and fundamental differences they seem to hold. The handful who have spoken up have had few followers and even fewer defenders. To Carolyn Toll, the taboo against criticism was powerful and extensive:
I believe even Jews [when they are] outside the Jewish community are affected by internal taboos on discussion—for if one is discouraged from bringing up certain subjects within the Jewish community, think how much more disloyal it could be to raise them outside!13
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Toll lamented the "suppression of free speech in American Jewish institutions—the pressures that prevent dovish or dissident Jews from organizing in synagogues, Jewish community centers, and meetings of major national Jewish organizations." She also lamented the denunciations of American Friends Service Committee representatives as "anti-Semitics" and "dupes of the Palestine Liberation Organization" for insisting that "any true peace must include a viable state for the Palestinians."
A successful Jewish author suffered a different type of "excommunication" when she wrote a book that was critical of Israel.14 In The Fate of the Jews, a candid and anguished history of U.S. Jewry and its present-day dilemma, Roberta Strauss Feuerlicht explained that Zionism has become the "religion" for many Jews. This is why, she wrote, that "opposition to Zionism or criticism of Israel is now heresy and cause for excommunication," adding that the idealism attributed to Israel by most supporters has been marred by years of "patriotism, nationalism, chauvinism, and expansionism." She declared, "Israel shields itself from legitimate criticism by calling her critics anti-Semitic; it is a form of McCarthyism and fatally effective."
A year after its publication in 1983 by Times Books, the book was still largely ignored. The Los Angeles Times was the only major newspaper to review it.15 The publisher undertook no advertising, nor even a minimal promotional tour. Feuerlicht, the author of fifteen successful books, was subjected to what Mark A. Bruzonsky, another Jewish journalist, described as a "combination of slander and neglect." When copies sent to prominent "liberal Jews, Christians, civil libertarians and blacks" brought no response, Feuerlicht concluded, "It would seem that with universal assent, the book is being stoned to death with silence."
Other Jews who dare voice guarded criticism of Israel encounter threats that are far from silent. Threatening phone calls became a part of life for Gail Pressberg of Philadelphia, a Jewish member of the professional staff of the American Friends Service Committee. In her work she was active in projects supporting the Palestinian cause. She reported that abuse calls were so frequent that "I don't pay any attention anymore." One evening, after receiving several calls on her unlisted telephone in which her life was threatened for "deserting Israel," in desperation she left the receiver off rhe hook. A few minutes later the
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same voice called on her roommate's phone, also unlisted, resuming the threats.16
In my twenty-two years in Congress, I can recall no entry in the Congressional Record that discloses a speech that was critical of Israeli policy and was presented by a Jewish member of the House or Senate. Jewish members may voice discontent in private conversation but nevet on the public record. Only a few Jewish academicians, such as Noam Chomsky, a distinguished linguist, have spoken out. Most of those are, like Chomsky, protected in their careers by tenure and are thus able to become controversial without jeopardizing their positions.
"Dissent Becomes Treason"
Journalism is the occupation in which Jews most often and most consistently voice criticism of Israel. Richard Cohen of the Washington Post is a notable example.
During Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon, Cohen warned: ". . . The administration can send Begin a message that he does not have an infinite line of credit in America—that we will not, for instance, approve the bombing of innocent civilians."
In a later column, Cohen summarized the reaction to his criticism of Israeli policy: "My phone these days is an instrument of torture. Merely to answer it runs the risk of being insulted. The mail is equally bad. The letters are vicious, some of them quite personal."17 He noted that U.S. Jews are held to a different standard than Istaelis when they question Israel's policies:
Here dissent becomes treason—and treason not to a state or even an ideal (Zionism), but to a people. There is tremendous pressure for conformity, to show a united front and to adopt the view that what is best for Israel is something only the government there can know.
In a world in which there are plenty of people who hate Jews, it is fidiculous to manufacture a whole new category out of nothing more than criticism of the Begin government. Nothing could be worse for Israel in the long run than for irs friends not to distinguish between when it is righr and when it is wrong.
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His reference to anti-Semitism was ironic. In April 2002, Cohen published an editorial in the Washington Post entitled "Who's Anti-Semitic?" in which he criticized the tendency in America to automatically portray critics of Israel as anti-Semites:
Here, criticism of Israel, particularly anti-Zionism, is equated with anti-Semitism. The Anti-Defamation League, one of the most important Jewish organizations, comes right out and says so. "Anti-Zionism is showing its true colors as deep-rooted anti-Semitism," the organization says.
Cohen found this position ridiculous:
To protest living conditions on the West Bank is not anti-Semitism. To condemn the increasing encroachment of Jewish settlements is not anti-Semitism.
On the other hand, he noted, "To turn a deaf ear to the demands of Palestinians, to dehumanize them all as bigots, only exacerbates the hatred on both sides. The Palestinians do have a case."18
Mark Bruzonsky, a persistent journalistic critic of Israeli excesses, once said, "There's no way in the world that a Jew can avoid a savage and personal vendetta if his intent is to write a truthful and meaningful account of what he has experienced."
He may be right. Being Jewish did not spare the foreign news editor of Hearst newspapers from such problems. In early 1981 John Wal-lach produced a television documentary, Israel and Palestinians: Will Reason Prevail? It was funded by the Foundation for Middle East Peace, a nonprofit institute established by Washington lawyer Merle Thorpe, Jr. Wallach's goal was to offer a fair, balanced presentation of the problems confronting Israel in dealing with the Palestinians on the West Bank and Gaza. Before the film was produced, Israeli Ambassador Simcha Dinitz called Wallach, urging him to drop the project. When Wallach persisted, invitations to receptions and dinners at the Israeli embassy suddenly stopped. For a time he was not even notified of press briefings.
Public television broadcast the program without incident in Washington, D.C., New York, and other major cities, but Jewish leaders in Los Angeles demanded an advance showing.19 Upon seeing the film, they put up such a strong protest that station KCT inserted a statement disclaiming any responsibility for the content of the documentary.
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Wallach received many complaints about the presentation, the most common being that it portrayed Palestinian children in a favorable light—some were blond and blue-eyed, and all were attractive—a departure from the frequently negative stereotype of Palestinians.
Wallach found himself in hot water again in 1982, when controversy erupted after a formal dinner he had organized to recognize Ambassador Philip Habib's diplomatic endeavors in Lebanon. Several cabinet officers, congressmen, and members of the diplomatic community attended. During the program, messages from several heads of government were read. Wallach asked Senator Charles Percy, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, to read the one from Israel's Prime Minister Menachem Begin to the audience. On Wallach's recommendation, Percy did not read these two sentences:
In the wake of the Operation Peace in Galilee, Phil Habib made great efforts to bring about the evacuation of the bulk of the terrorists from Beirut and Lebanon. He worked hard to achieve this goal and, with the victory of the Israel Defense Forces, his diplomatic endeavors contributed to the dismantling of that center of international terrorism, which had been a danger to all free nations.
Moshe Arens, the Israeli ambassador, was furious. He sent an angry letter to Percy expressing his shock and stating, "Although I realize that you may not have agreed with its contents, . . . this glaring omission seems to me to be without precedent." He also wrote to Wallach, complaining of "unprecedented discourtesy" and calling the omission an attempt to "cater to the ostrich-like attitude of some of the ambassadors from Arab countries." Arens also wrote protest letters to the management of Hearst Corporation, which had picked up the tab for the dinner.
Wallach told another journalist the next day why he had recommended the omission: "I thought it was insulting to the Arabs [who were present] to have a message about war and terrorism at an evening that was a tribute to Phil Habib and peace."20 Wallach said, "The irony was that, while I got lots of harsh, critical mail from those supporting Begin, I got no words of support or commendation from the other side. It makes one wonder— when there is no support, only criticism, when one risks his career."21
Similar questions were raised by Nat Hentoff, a Jewish columnist who frequently criticizes Israel and challenges the conscience of his fellow
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Jews in his column for the Village Voice. During the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 he lamented:
At no time during his visit here [in the United States] was [Prime Minister] Begin given any indication that there are some of us who fear that he and Ariel Sharon are destroying Israel from within. Forget the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the groups they represent. They have long since decided to say nothing in public that is critical of Israel.22
Hentoff deplored the intimidation that silences most Jewish critics:
I know staff workers for the American Jewish Congress and the American Jewish Committee who agonize about their failure to speak out, even on their own time, against Israeli injustice. They don't, because they figure they'll get fired if they do.
Indeed, the threat of being fired was forcefully put to a group of employees of Jewish organizations in the United States during a 1982 tour of Lebanon. Israel's invasion was at its peak, and a number of employees of the Jewish National Fund (JNF)—a nationwide organization that raises money for the purchase and development of Israeli land—were touring Lebanese battlefield areas. Suddenly, while the group was traveling on the bus, Dr. Sam Cohen of New York, the executive vice president of the JNF, stood up and made a surprising announcement. A member of the tour, Charles Fishbein, who was at the time an executive in the Washington office, recalls, "He told us that when we get back to the United States, we must defend what Israel is doing in Lebanon. He said that if we criticize Israel, we will be terminated immediately."23
Fishbein said the group was on one of several hastily arranged tours designed to quell rising Jewish criticism of the invasion. In all, more than 1,500 prominent American Jews were flown to Israel for tours of hospitals and battlefields. The tours ranged in length from four to seven days. The more prestigious the group of visitors, the shorter, more compressed the schedule. Disclosing only Israeli hardship, the tours were successful in quieting criticism within the ranks of Jewish leadership, and they also inspired many actively to defend Israeli war policies.
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"The Time May Not Be Far Off"
Peer pressure does not always muffle Jewish voices. A pioneer in the establishment of the state of Israel, who helped to organize its crucial underpinnings of support in the United States, later became a frequent critic of Israeli policy.
Nahum Goldmann is a towering figure in the history of Zionism. He played a crucial role in the founding of Israel, meeting its early financial problems, influencing its leaders, and organizing a powerful constituency for it in the United States. His service to Zionism spanned nearly fifty years. During World War I, when Palestine was still part of the Ottoman Empire, Goldmann tried to persuade Turkish authorities to allow Jewish immigration. In the 1930s he advocated the Zionist cause at the League of Nations. During the Truman administration, he lobbied for the United Nations resolution calling for partition of Palestine and the establishment of Israel.
After the 1947 UN vote for the partition, unlike most Jews who were eager to proclaim the State of Israel, Goldmann urged delay. He hoped that the Jews would first reach an understanding with the Arab states and thereby avoid war. He lamented the bitter legacy of the war that ensued.24 He wrote, "The unexpected defeat was a shock and a terrible blow to Arab pride. Deeply injured, they turned all their endeavors to the healing of their psychological wound: to victory and revenge." To the Israelis,
The victory offered such a glorious contrast to the centuries of persecution and humiliation, of adaptation and compromise, that it seemed to indicate the only direction that could possibly be taken from then on. To brook nothing, to tolerate no attack, cut through Gordian knots, and shape history by creating facts seemed so simple, so compelling, so satisfying that it became Israels policy in its conflict with the Arab world.
When the fledgling nation was struggling to build its economy, Goldmann negotiated with West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer the agreement under which the Germans paid more than $30 billion in compensation and restitution to Israel and individual Jews.25 Yet he was
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bitterly condemned by some Israelis for his efforts. Philip Klutznick of Chicago, Goldmanns close colleague in endeavors for Israel, recalled the tremendous opposition, particularly from such extreme nationalists as Menachem Begin, to accepting anything from Germany: "At that time, many Jews felt that any act that would tend to bring the Germans back into the civilized world was an act against the Jewish people. Feelings ran deep."
Goldmanns disagreement with Israeli policy toward the Arabs was his central concern. To those who criticized his advocacy of a Palestinian state, he responded,
If they do not believe that Arab hostility can some day be alleviated, then we might just as well liquidate Israel at once, so as to save the millions of Jews who live there. . . . There is no hope for a Jewish state that has to face another fifty years of struggle against Arab enemies.
Goldmann respected the deep commitment to the Jewish people of Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, but he regretted that Ben-Gurion was "organically incapable of compromise" and that his "dominant force" was "his will for power." Goldmanns essential optimism and his instinctive striving to temper hatreds and seek compromise were qualities that distinguished him from so many of his contemporaries—on both the Arab and Israeli sides of the conflict.
"Goldmann might have been prime minister of Israel," Stanley Karnow wrote in 1980, "but he chose instead to live in Europe and act as diplomatic broker, frequently infuriating Israeli officials with his initiatives." Seeking an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict, he attempted to visit Cairo at the invitation of Egyptian President Nasser in 1970. But the Israeli government, headed by Golda Meir, resented his maverick ways and blocked the mission.
Goldmann was sharply critical of the Israeli government of Menachem Begin. He decried what he saw as Israels denial of the original Zionist vision. He rejected the claim of some Israelis that they must occupy "Greater Israel" because it was promised to them by God. He called this thesis "a profanation." Goldmann understood the need for U.S. support. He lived in the United States for more than twenty years and knew American Jewry well. In 1969 he wrote approvingly of Zionist political action in the United States: "It is not fair to single out Zionist pressure for cen
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sure. Democracy consists of a mutiplicity of pressure-exerting forces, each of which is trying to make itself felt."
Near the end of his life, however, Goldmanns views of the pro-Israel lobby changed. In 1980 he warned:
Blind support of the Begin government may be more menacing for Israel than any danger of Arab attack. American Jewry is more generous than any other group in American life and is doing great things. . . . But by misusing its political influence, by exaggerating the aggressiveness of the Jewish lobby in Washington, by giving the Begin regime the impression that the Jews are strong enough to force the American administration and Congress to follow every Israeli desire, they lead Israel on a ruinous path which, if continued, may lead to dire consequences.
He blamed the Israeli lobby for U.S. failures to bring about a comprehensive settlement in the Middle East. "It was to a very large degree because of electoral considerations, fear of the pro-Israel lobby, and of the Jewish vote." He warned of trouble ahead if the lobby continued its present course. "It is now slowly becoming something of a negative factor. Not only does it distort the expectations and political calculations of Israel, but the time may not be far off when American public opinion will be sick and tired of the demands of Israel and the aggressiveness of American Jewry."
In 1978, two years before he wrote his alarmed evaluation of the Israeli lobby, New York magazine reported that Goldmann had privately urged officials of the Carter administration "to break the back" of the lobby: "Goldmann pleaded with the administration to stand firm and not back off from confrontations with the organized Jewish community as other administrations had done." Unless this was done, Goldmann argued, "President Carter s plans for a Middle East settlement would die in stillbirth." His words were prophetic. The comprehensive settlement that Carter sought was frustrated by the intransigence of Israel and its U.S. lobby.
President Ronald Reagan revived the idea of a comprehensive Middle East peace agreement just four days before Goldmanns death in September 1982. A state funeral was conducted in Israel. As Klutznick, Israeli Labor Party leaders Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Rabin, and others stood on Israels Mount Herzl awaiting the great Zionist leaders burial alongside
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the five other former presidents of the World Zionist Organization, the conversation centered on the Reagan plan, which Prime Minister Begin had already rejected.
Symbolic of organized Jewry's reaction to Goldmanns life was the response of the Israeli government to his death. Begin gave permission for the burial but did not attend. In a strikingly empty commentary on the life of a man who had done so much to bring Israel into being and give it strength, Acting Prime Minister Simcha Ehrlich said only, "We regret rhat a man of so many virtues and abilities went the wrong way."26 It was a callous epitaph for one of Israel's great pioneers.
"You Must Listen When We Speak III"
At 7:45 a.m. the towering John Hancock Building in Chicago's downtown loop area was just beginning to come to life. On the fortieth floor were the offices of Philip Klutznick—attorney, developer, former U.S. secretary of commerce, president emeritus of B'nai B'rith, organizer and former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, and president emeritus of the World Jewish Congress. At that hour only Philip Klutznick was at work.
He was on the phone, seated on a sofa at one end of his spacious office, his back to a panoramic view of the building across the street where he and his wife made their home. On the walls were autographed photographs of the seven presidents of the United States under whom he had served.
This morning, in the fall of 1983, he was talking with Ashraf Ghor-bal, Egyprs ambassador to the United States and a friend of many years. Ghorbal was preparing for a visit to the United States by his leader, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. He wanted to make sure the right people would be available to meet with him. The right people included Klutznick.
Klutznick's vigorous appearance and unrelenting pace belied his seventy-six years. His deep, rich voice echoed around the near-empty offices. His eyes smiled through heavy glasses, and his firm, confident manner was that of a man in the prime of life. But his apparent confidence about the flexibility of U.S. Jews contradicted his own experience working within—and outside—the establishment for sixty years. A vis
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itor sharing coffee and conversarion would never guess that this short, handsome, optimistic man—whose persistence and spirit had helped to create Israel, pay its bills, and provide its arms—had become, in the eyes of many Jews, a virtual castaway.
Measured by offices held and services rendered, his credentials in the Jewish establishment were impeccable. But in the eyes of most Jewish leaders, he was guilty of a cardinal sin: daring to publicly challenge Israeli government policy. This put him at odds with the very Jewish organizations he did so much to bring into being.
He spoke from a base of confidence that included business success, public office in both Democratic and Republican administrations, and high honors in the Jewish community. After seeing his savings wiped out by the Great Depression, he recovered, became a successful community developer, a millionaire, a leader of the Jewish community, and a diplomat.
In his early years he worked to bring strength and unity to the Jewish community, a quest that took on urgency in 1942 when word arrived of Adolf Hitler's barbaric program to annihilate European Jews. Henry Monsky, an Omaha lawyer and president of B'nai B'rith, convened a meeting in Pittsburgh, inviting the membership of forty-one major Jewish organizations. This gathering, identified as the American Jewish Conference, marked the first serious effort to unite U.S. Jews against the Holocaust.
"You know, we are an unusual group of people," Klutznick chuckled. "We fight over anything." This time the fight was over whether Jews would back the establishment of a national homeland. Monsky, the first committed Zionist to head B'nai B'rith, pulled the organization from its neutral stance into advocacy. When the conference met in early 1943 and cast its lot with Zionism, two of the largest Jewish organizations— the American Jewish Committee and the Jewish Labor Committee— walked out in protest.
"Anyway," Klutznick continued, "that meeting started a movement that stayed alive for four years." It also brought him for the first time in close association with Nahum Goldmann. Klutznick and Goldmann wanted the American Jewish Conference to be permanent. In this effort, Klutznick battled to win the support of B'nai B'rith. "It was an enormous fight, and we lost," Klutznick later recalled.
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The bruises were still felt ten years later when Klutznick became president of B'nai B'rith. His first decision put him at odds with Goldmann, who wanted him to help re-create the American Jewish Conference. Despite his earlier effort, Klutznick now felt it would be divisive. "I looked him square in the eye and said, Tm not going to do it. If I tried it now it would split B'nai B'rith right down the middle. At this moment B'nai B'rith is too weak. I need these people together.'"
Klutznick told him he would "go all the way" on a program for a Jewish homeland, but he had what he believed to be a better plan for coordination of American Jews: an organization consisting of just the presidents of the major organizations. For one thing, he felt, the leaders needed to get acquainted with each other. "Believe it or not," Klutznick recalled, "many had attained these high positions without even meeting the presidents of other major organizations." Klutznick told Goldmann: "If we really want to do something, the presidents are the powerhouses." Goldmann agreed to the plan.
Klutznick recollected changes: "The fact is, during the 1950s people weren't as intense as they are now." As an example, he cited the Jewish response to the Eisenhower Doctrine, which pledged U.S. help to any nation in the Middle East that was threatened by international communism. Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion opposed such a sweeping commitment, arguing that it could lead to U.S. support for nations that were hostile to Israel. The Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations decided to support the United States' position.
Klutznick recalled the confrontation. "I presided at that meeting, and we took the position that we should not oppose the president of the United States, and we didn't. In those days," he said after a long pause, "we could have those arguments. There was mutual tolerance." Dealing with Israeli officials sometimes tested Klutznick's tolerance. In 1955 the United States was horrified by the Israeli massacre of Arab civilians in the Gaza raid, and Klutznick, as president of B'nai B'rith, reported the country's reaction to Jerusalem. He told Israeli Prime Minister Moshe Sharett: "Moshe, it was terrible. It wasn't the fact [that] Israeli forces were defending Israel. It was the overwhelming response. It looked like a disregard for the value of human life."
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After a pause, the prime minister answered quietly, "You know, Phil, I did not even know this was taking place. He [Defense Minister David Ben-Gurion] did this on his own. I hope you will tell him what you told me." Klutznick met Ben-Gurion the next day. "It wasn't long before he said, 'Phil, what was the reaction to the Gaza raid?' It was exactly the same question Sharett had asked, and I gave exactly the same answer."
Klutznick was astonished by Ben-Gurion's response:
He stood up. He looked like an angry prophet out of the Bible and got red in the face. He shouted, "I am not going to let anybody, American Jews or anybody else, tell me what I have to do to provide for the security of my people."
When the prime minister stood up, Klutznick stood up too. Ben-Gurion asked, "Why are you standing up?" Klutznick answered, "Well, obviously I have offended you, and I assume that our discussion is over." Ben Gurion said, "Sit down. Let's talk about something else." Klutznick recalled, "That's the way it happened. So help me God. That's just the way it happened, and we had a wonderful talk." Klutznick said Ben-Gurion could be as "tough or tougher than Begin," but when he had made his point he could go back to "being friends."
Klutznick had a similar experience years later with Prime Minister Begin. In the wake of the Camp David Accords, President Carter called in Klutznick and seven other Jewish leaders. Carter said, "Look, I need some help. I think I can handle [Egyptian President] Sadat. We have an understanding, but I am not sure that I can convince the Prime Minister [Begin]." One of the group interrupted and changed the subject: "Mr. President, Israel is upset because there will be arms sent to Arab countries. There is already a bill pending, as you know." Then the next man said, "Can't you do something to make it more comfortable for Israel?" Several men in a row spoke in a similar vein.
Klutznick noted Carter's irritation and undettook the role of peacemaker:
Mr. President, I don't think we've quite got your message. There are all of these requests for arms. I think what my colleagues are trying to say, if I
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may interpret them, is whether there is some way to defer these requests until the negotiations are over. I don't think it is for us with our limited knowledge to tell you who should get arms and who should not.
He recalled, "I said that if the questions of arms sales had to be answered during the Camp David negotiations, whichever way the president answered them would be difficult." Klutznick said he added, "And I am not here representing anybody except you, Mr. President. Our country has to back you as fairly as it can." Klutznick's remarks got the discussion back on the track Carter wanted, but they were badly twisted in a news report published the next day in Israel, where Klutznick was quoted as having told Carter that he was at the White House meeting representing Egypt, not Israel. He had, of course, said nothing of the kind, and he sent a cable to Begin denying the story. The next day when reporters asked about the incident, Begin said simply, "I have received a cable from President Klutznick of the World Jewish Congress. He denies any such statement was made, and that's the end of it."
But that was not the end of it. Klutznick flew to Israel in a few days for previously scheduled meetings, including an appointment with Begin. Klutznick recalled the frosty scene. It was the first time Begin did not stand up and greet him with an embrace. Klutznick spoke first:
Look, Menachem, I know you are angry, but I'm the one that's angry and entitled to be. When you told the press you got a cable from Klutznick and he denies it and that's the end of it—is that the right thing to say? I say no. If someone had said that about you to me, I would have said, 'I had a cable from the Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister denies it. And I've known the Prime Minister for a long time, and his word is good enough for me.'
Begin turned to his assistant and said, "Get that cable." He read a cable from his ambassador to the United States that gave an inaccurate account of what Klutznick had told Carter, and asked, "What would you have done?" Klutznick responded, "I would have fired the ambassador. In his cable he wasn't writing about Phil Klutznick. He was writing about the president of the World Jewish Congress. If he had any such information his first duty was to call me, not you. He never called me." Overcome with emotion, Begin stood and embraced his visitor.
Not All Jews Toe the Line 5
Despite such shows of affection, Klutznick did not pull punches in his criticism of Begins later policies and his recommendations on what the U.S. government should do. In 1981 he deplored the Israeli air attacks, first on the Iraqi nuclear installation and then in Lebanon. Later that year he traveled to the Middle East with Harold Saunders, a former career specialist on the Middle East who served as assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs under President Carter; former diplomat Joseph H. Greene, Jr.; and Merle Thorpe, Jr., president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace. Upon returning to the United States, Klutznick joined in the group s conclusion that the Camp David peace process was not enough and that the Palestine Liberation Organization should be brought into negotiations.27
Later in the year, when Saudi Arabia announced its "eight-point peace plan," Klutznick called it "useful" and argued that Israel at least "should listen to it."
All of these positions, of course, were violently opposed by Israel and its U.S. lobby. But Klutznick was not deterred. In mid-1982, in an article published in the Los Angeles Times and other major newspapers, Klutznick wrote:
It is up to the Reagan Administration to face the realities of the Middle East as boldly as did the Carter Administration. The first step is to halt the conflict in Lebanon immediately and have Israel s forces withdrawn. This must be followed by an enlarged peace process that includes all parties to the conflict—including Palestinians. Only by doing so without apology and with determination can America pursue its own best interests, promote Israels long-term well-being and protect world peace.
Despite public condemnation for these statements from the Jewish leadership in the United States, Klutznick privately received praise: When I opposed the Iraqi raid, my mail from Jews was about four-to-one supportive, and about three-to-one when I proposed dealing directly with the PLO," he recalled. "But, you know, some of that support has to be discounted. There are people in the Jewish community who will assure me of their support even when they think I'm wrong."28
Many believed him wrong and said so. Abbot Rosen, Midwest director of the Anti-Defamation League in Chicago, rejected Klutznicks
5 They Dare to Speak Out
proposal to bring the PLO into the peace process and to establish a state for the Palestinians as "pie in the sky." He reported to the Chicago Sun-Times one of the lobby's tired cliches: "Under the present political circumstances, another Palestinian state, adjacent to Israel and Jordan, would provide an additional Soviet foothold in the region."
Robert Schrayer, chairman of the Public Affairs Committee of the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago, joined the protest with another shibboleth: "Since no sovereign nation can be expected to negotiate its own destruction, Israel should not be pressured to negotiate with the PLO."29
The Near East Report, a weekly newsletter published by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, editorialized against Klutznick's views, and accused him of promoting a "sinister canard" in calling the Palestinians "a special people in the Arab world, in some ways like the Jews were in the West following World War II."30
The next year Klutznick took his crusade to Paris, where he joined forces with his old, ailing compatriot, Nahum Goldmann, and Pierre Mendes-France, a Jew and a former prime minister of France, in a plea to end Israel's war in Lebanon. Klutznick's reason for going to Paris was to attend a meeting of the World Jewish Congress, but as soon as he landed, Goldmann, then living in Paris and critically ill, told him, "We've got to get fifty of the most distinguished Jews of the world to sign a statement to bring this war in Lebanon to an end." Klutznick responded, "But, first, let's see if we can write a statement."
Goldmann agreed and took up the subject at lunch the next day with Mendes-France, Le Monde correspondent Eric Rouleau, and Klutznick, agreeing to consider a draft statement the next day. That night Klutznick, with the help of his aide, Mark Bruzonsky, wrote a brief statement that became the basis for the next day's discussion. Klutznick recalls the scene, "Mendes-France is one of the best editors I've seen in my life. He would look at a word in typical French fashion in several languages, turning it around every which way. Four hours later, after sitting there fighting over every word, we had a statement."31
Its conclusion was forceful:
The real issue is not whether the Palestinians are entitled to their rights, but how to bring this about while ensuring Israel s security and regional stability. Ambiguous concepts such as "autonomy" are no longer sufficient, for
Not AH Jews Toe the Line 5
they too often are used to confuse rather than to clarify. Needed now is the determination to reach a political accommodation between Israel and Palestinian nationalism.
The war in Lebanon must stop. Israel must lift its siege of Beirut in order to facilitate negotiations with the PLO, leading to a political settlement. Mutual recognition must be vigorously pursued. And there should be negotiations with the aim of achieving co-existence between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples based on self-determination.32
When it was finished, Klutznick asked, "What do we do with the damned thing?" Goldmann said, "We've got to get those other fellows. Branch out and find them." Klutznick protested that there was not enough time and suggested that Goldmann and Mendes-France issue it in their own names. The former prime minister said, "I've never done anything like that. I don't sign statements with other people." Goldmann and Rouleau added their encouragement, and, finally, Mendes-France said, "I'll sign provided you can get an immediate answer from Yasser Arafat."
Isam Sartawi, a close associate of Arafat, was in Paris at the time and arranged for a response by the PLO leader:
Coming at this precise moment from three Jewish personalities of great worth, worldwide reputation, and definite influence at all levels, both on the international scene and within their own community, that statement takes on a significant importance.
Klutznick took the podium at the meeting of the World Jewish Congress, then underway in Paris, to explain the declaration. The atmosphere, he recalled, was anything but cordial:
Heated is not the right word. If it had been heated it would have been better. It was sullen, solemn, and bitter. I tried to have the delegates understand why we spoke up as we did. I told them it was the first such statement Mendes-France had ever made. And I said they also should know that Nahum Goldmann does what he thinks is right. And he's not been condemned just once. He's been condemned many times in the past by those who later chose to follow him.33
The declaration brought headlines around the world, wide discussion, and some editorial praise. But it received little support among leading
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Jews and was largely rejected by Jewish organizations as "unrepresentative and unhelpful." It was Goldmanns last public statement. He died within a month; a month later, Mendes-France also died.
A few Jews helped Klutznick defend the statement.34 Newton N. Minow, a prominent Chicagoan who served in the Kennedy administration, praised Klutznick's "exemplary lifetime of leadership to Jewish causes and Israel" and "his independence and thoughtful criticism" in a column published in the Chicago Sun-Times. "As an American Jew pondering past mistakes, I believe that the American Jewish community has made some serious blunders in the past few years by choosing to remain silent when we disagreed with Israeli government policy."
Shortly after the Paris declaration, the world was horrified by the massacre of hundreds of civilians in the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian camps at Beirut. After four months of silence, Klutznick spoke at a luncheon in New York in February 1983. He launched a new crusade, pleading for the right of Jews to dissent:
We cannot be one in our need for each other, and be separated in our ability to speak or write the truth as each of us sees it. The real strength of Jewish life has been its sense of commitment and willingness to fight for the right [to dissent] even among ourselves.35
In November Klutznick took his crusade to Jerusalem, attending, along with forty other Jews from the United States and fifteen other countries, a four-day meeting of the International Center for Peace in the Middle East. Klutznick drew applause when he told his audience, which included several Israelis: "If you listen to us when we speak good of Israel, then you must listen to us when we speak ill. Otherwise we will lose our credibility, and the American government will not listen to us at all."
By the time of his death in 1999—despite his proven commitment to Israel, his leadership in the Jewish community, and his unquestioned integrity—Philip Klutznick was rejected or scorned by many of his establishment contemporaries. Said one professional in the Jewish lobby community: "I admire Phil Klutznick, but he is virtually a nonperson in the Jewish community." Another was harsh and bitter, linking Klutznick with other critics of the Israeli government as "an enemy of the Jewish people."
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Charles Fishbein, who for eleven years was a fundraiser and executive of the Jewish National Fund, provided a partial explanation for the treatment Klutznick received:
When you speak up in the Jewish community without a proper forum, you are shunted aside. You are dismissed as one who has been "gotten to." Its nonsense, but it is effective. The Jewish leaders you hear about tend to be very, very wealthy givers. Some give to Jewish causes primarily as an investment, to establish a good business and social relationship. Such people will not speak up for a nonconformist like Klutznick for fear of jeopardizing their investment.36
These thoughts echo those of Klutznick himself in our last interview. "Try to understand. See it from their standpoint. Why should they go public? They don't want any trouble. They are a part of the community. They have neighbors. They help out. They contribute." He paused, pursed his lips a bit, then added, "They have standing. And they want to keep it."
Klutznick smiled. "They say to me, 'You are absolutely right in what you say and do, but I cant. I cant speak up as you do.'" Another pause. "Maybe I would be the same if I hadn't gotten all the honors the Jewish community can give me." Klutznick saw Washington policy as a major obstacle to reforming the lobby's tactics: "Let's not underestimate the damage that our own government does. Our government has been writing blank checks to Israel for a long time. As a result, Begin would come over here for a tour, then go back home and say, 'What are you complaining about? I go to the United States, where the government supports me and all the leaders of the Jewish community applaud and support me.'"
A Growing Gap in Oor Liberal Tradition