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May 13, 1988 - Image 38

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-05-13

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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FRIDAY, MAY 13, 1988

According to House in-
siders, Rep. Howard Wolpe (D-
Mich.), a strong supporter of
sanctions legislation, has
been quietly working to in-
sure that the Israeli diamond
industry doesn't feel the bite
of the sanctions law.

JAMES D. BESSER

Expires 5-31-88

W

hen it comes to
legislation affecting
the Middle East,
quiet negotiations and
behind-the-scenes compro-
mises are often more impor-
tant than splashy public
battles.
Such was the case last
week, when House floor
debate on the Defense
Authorization Bill included a
curious legislative byplay
with potentially great
significance to Israel and her
congressional backers.
At issue was an amendment
to the giant bill offered by
Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy (D-
Mass.). Kennedy's measure
prohibits U.S. procurement of
defense materials from com-
panies that discriminate by
race, religion and national
origin.
Although it did not come
out in the curiously muted
debate that followed, the
amendment was really
directed at Northern Ireland,
where a big defense company
with U.S. contracts is alleged
to discriminate against
Catholics.
But other legislators saw a
problem: What would the
loosely worded amendment
mean for Israel, which is in-
creasingly dependent on
arms-industry exports to the
United States? Israel routine-
ly denies Arabs jobs in
defense-related industries on
security grounds. And would
the amendment offer new am-
munition for Israel's detrac-
tors in Washington?
As a result, Rep. Dave
McCurdy (D-Okla.) introduc-
ed another amendment which
would allow discrimination in
hiring — as long as it could be
demonstrated that the dis-
crimination was based on
legitimate security
considerations.
This entire sequence of
events took place on the
House floor, with almost no
for-the-record discussion. And
there were no direct
references to the two coun-
tries involved — Israel and
Northern Ireland.

Jewish Groups
Back Sanctions

Congress is working on a
sweeping set of sanctions
against the white-ruled
government of South Africa,
and Jewish groups have been
quietly working to build sup-
port for the proposal.

Lobby Effort
Takes Salad Bar
Approach

Rabbi David Saperstein:
High action alert.

"Recently, we sent out a
high-impact action alert to
more than 2000 rabbis," said
Rabbi David Saperstein of the
Religious Action Center of
Reform Judaism. "The South
Africa legislation is the topic
this month; obviously, we
think this is an urgent issue
for our people to address."
The National Council of
Jewish Women has also
played a leading role in bring-
ing together a coalition to
fight for a bill with more
teeth than the 1986 sanctions
measure, which was passed
over President Reagan's veto.
The American Jewish Con-
gress is expected to make a
decision supporting the pro-
posal in June; the National
Jewish Community Relations
Advisory Council is also
thrashing through the im-
plications of stiffer sanctions.

The bill, authored by Rep.
Ron Dellums (D-Calif.) and
recently approved by the
House Foreign Affairs Com-
mittee, would result in a vir-
tual embargo against South
Africa, and give U.S. corpora-
tions one year to eliminate in-
vestments in South Africa.
Israel's friends on the Hill
are closely watching the bill
for two reasons. One is a sen-
sitivity to the way critics have
compared Israel's handling of
recent unrest with South
African repression of blacks.
The second issue involves
diamonds, an important com-
ponent of the Israeli economy.
The question that pro-Israel
lobbyists are trying to sort
out is this: Will the bill's pro-
hibition against the import of
minerals mined in South
Africa affect diamonds cut
and polished in Israel, and
then sold in the United
States? Or have those
diamonds been "sufficiently
transformed" by craftsmen in
Israel?

Arecent Capitol Hill gim-
mick has many lobbyists
green with envy — and
Jewish groups were part of
the coalition that developed
the creative strategy.
The focus of the lobbying ef-
fort was the Pepper-Robyal
Long Term Home Health
Care bill, a supplement to the
catastrophic health care bill
now in House-Senate con-
ference. The measure would
provide benefits for people
who need to provide in-home
care for sick or disabled de-
pendents — including elderly
parents and children. The bill
was sponsored by Rep. Ed-
ward R. Roybal (D-Calif.) and
Rep. Claude Pepper (D-Fla.).

lb dramatize their concern,
the National Health Care
Campaign, a broad coalition
pressing for a variety of
health-care legislation,
brought busloads of older ac-
tivists from Baltimore and
Washington to Capitol Hill.
After a morning pep rally,
they were taken around to
congressional offices — where
they met with key staffers
and dropped off bags of green
peppers to visually punctuate
their efforts.
The American Jewish Con-
gress and the National Coun-
cil of Jewish Women were
among the groups leading
teams of activists in this
salad-bar approach to
lobbying.

According to AJ Congress
representative Ron Lebovitz,
the long-term health care
issue is important to the
Jewish community for several
reasons. "First, it's a matter
of compassion — and the
Jewish community has
always been a compassionate
one. And in terms of
demographics, the Jewish
community is older; many
Jews are trying to take care
of elderly parents in the
home."
The Pepper measure
cleared the House rules com-
mittee back in November, and
is scheduled to go to the
House floor this month.

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