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December 30, 1988 - Image 28

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-12-30

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

INSIDE WASHINGTON

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1988 Saw Victories And Defeats
For Washington Jewish Activists

JAMES D. BESSER

Special to The Jewish News

I

t is an axiom of life in
Washington that each
year filled with unusual-
ly dramatic events, and por-
tends even greater events to
come.
And at year's end, there is
an unsettling feeling of flux
among Jewish activists here
— in part the natural conse-
quence of a long presidential
era winding to a close, in part
the result of a number of
storm clouds on the political
horizon.

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28

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 30, 1988

Two key stories, one early
in the year and one in the last
few weeks, bracket 12 months
of turbulence in the U.S.-
Israel relationship.
George Shultz's opening to
the Palestine Liberation
Organization — after a week
of furious behind-the-scenes
negotiations with Yassir
Arafat over his recognition of
Israel's right to exist and his
renunciation of terror — has
challenged some of the most
basic assumptions of the pro-
Israel community in
Washington.
When the intifada began in
December 1987, the few ob-
servers who predicted that
the rebellion would somehow
alter the Middle East equa-
tion were written off as pro-
phets of doom. Now, their
warnings seem eerily pres-
cient, although it is far from
clear how any new equation
might look.
The uprising has distorted
the lens through which
legislators and policymakers
view Israel. So far, this
change has not resulted in
any overt erosion in Israel's
support in Congress and the
outgoing Reagan administra-
tion apparently remains ful-
ly committed to the "strategic
relationship" between the two
countries. Israel, however, has
roundly condemned the open-
ing to the PLO.
But there is a subtle dif-
ference. Capitol Hill profes-
sionals who last year were
unswerving in their defense
of Israel today offer a more
cautious assessment. Last
March's "Letter of Thirty,"
the letter signed by 30 pro-
Israel senators urging the
Shamir government to adopt
a more balanced approach to
negotiations with the Palesti-
nians, rocked a Jewish corn-

munity accustomed to at least
the veneer of unity.
The new mood was particu-
larly evident in the reaction
to George Shultz's recent
diplomatic minuet with the
PLO. So, too, was the PLO's
aggressive public relations
campaign directed primarily
at an American audience —
and the group's dramatic
"declaration of independence"
which immediately won rec-
ognition from a number of
foreign governments.
And the lack of protest from
Jewish leaders, including
members of Congress who
typically leap to Israel's
defense, was one more in-
dicator of the new mental en-
vironment in Washington.
"It would be easy to exag-
gerate what we are seeing,"
said one Washington repre-
sentative for a major Jewish
organization. "But there has
been a change; you hear it at
parties, when people talk
about Israel, you hear it in
statements on the Middle
East. It's a subtle thing, but
very real?'
Shoshana Bryen, director of
the conservative Jewish In-
stitute for National Security
Affairs, put it another way.
"People here are simply get-
ting tired of these issues," she
said. "People are tired of
holding the line against ter-
rorism and they're tired of the
whole Middle East."
How this new mood will
play out in 1989 is far from
clear.

Mixed Bag
Through Maze
On Capitol Hill

Congress rarely moves in
straight lines. In 1988, a
number of issues important to
the Jewish community took
particularly roundabout
routes through the Capitol
Hill maze.
Jewish activists were
delighted by the passage of
the Genocide Convention im-
plementing legislation, the
capstone on the decades-long
struggle to ratify the treaty
officially banning genocide.
Almost every major Jewish
organization played an active
role in the lengthy struggle,
but the ratification will stand
as a monument to Sen. Wil-
liam Proxmire, (D-Wis.), who
made more than 3,000
speeches supporting the
treaty.
The year saw mixed results
on several "hate crimes"
measures, designed to stem

the rising tide of violence and
vandalism based on race,
religion and sexual
preference.
One bill, which makes cer-
tain types of hate crimes
federal offenses, successfully
ran the legislative gauntlet; a
second, which sought to col-
lect statistics on such crimes
at the federal level, was de-
railed by conservatives who
objected to its inclusion of
homosexuals.
And Jewish groups were ac-
tive members of the coalition
that successfully promoted
the Fair Housing Amend-
ment's Act, a key piece of civil
rights legislation.
School prayer remained a
lively undercurrent to legisla-
tive activity here, and Sen.
Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), the
primary force behind at-
tempts to strip the Supreme
Court of jurisdiction over

Jesse Helms: Primary force.

school prayer and similar
issues ran afoul of the GOP
leadership and most main-
stream Jewish groups.
Jewish groups fought long
and hard for the Act for Bet-
ter Child Care, but were
stymied by election year
politics — and by a mounting
debate over the role of sec-
tarian institutions in pro-
viding federally funded social
services.

For Soviet Jewry,
Victories,
Frustration

The year was a year of vex-
ing paradox for the small but
highly energetic group of
Soviet Jewry activists in the
capital.
On one hand, relaxation of
Soviet emigration restrictions
resulted in a new flood of
Soviet Jews seeking entry to

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