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December 14, 1990 - Image 26

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-12-14

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

G U L

F

CRIS

THE SPLIT

OVER THE GULF

ARTHUR J. MAGIDA

Special to The Jewish News

A

lmost every day over
the last week has
taken the world on a
military and diplomatic see-
saw.
On Sunday, for example,
chances of a Persian Gulf
war briefly waned and a dip-
lomatic break-through was
rumored. But on Monday,
Saddam Hussein challenged
the world anew by declaring
again that Kuwait was
Iraq's 19th province. From
Baghdad came word that it
would not relinquish one
inch of the tiny nation con-
quered on Aug. 2.
As the world wearies of be-
ing repeatedly escorted to
the brink, Americans are in-
creasingly questioning the
need for American boys to
die in faraway Arab deserts.
The Jewish community is
no different. In recent
weeks, Jewish critics of the
White House have demand-
ed more time for anti-Iraq
economic sanctions to work.
Others have urged creative,
non-military steps to
weaken Saddam Hussein's
military capabilities.
But as anti-war sen-
timents mount, some Jews
have become the nation's
most outspoken advocates
for a Gulf war. The most
hawkish even demand an
immediate attack against
Saddam Hussein.
This hawk-dove dichotomy
is set against a backdrop of
increasingly strained
U.S.-Israeli relations.
Israel senses that events
over which it has absolutely
no control are sweeping the
Middle East. The United
States, Israel's oldest — and
still its closest — ally, is
distancing itself from the
Jewish state as it pursues
dubious alliances with Arab
states sworn to Israel's
destruction.

26

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 14, 1990

Some of these anxieties
were smoothed over during
Tuesday's meeting between
President Bush and Israeli
President Yitzhak Shamir.
Mr. Bush assured his visitor
that the United States would
not agree to any settlement
with Iraq that would com-
promise Israel's security.
Reportedly, the Israeli left
the White House "a happy
man."
Since the Gulf crisis
started, both American Jews
and Israel have been in a
quandary. They can't be
perceived as clamoring for
the United States to go to
war, yet Israel's survival
might require Saddam Hus-
sein's military obliteration.
These contradictory inter-
ests have been popping up in
statements from Israeli offi-
cials for months.
In August, Prime Minister
Yitzhak Shamir said, "Israel
isn't pushing the U.S. to do
anything. Who are we to
push the only superpower in
the world today?"
Yet about the same time,
Defense Minister Moshe
Arens said that if Saddam
Hussein remained in power
with his arsenal intact,
"then there will be room for
worry from us, the whole re-
gion and the whole world."

In October, a high Israeli
military official first cau-
tioned that Israel would not
advise the Bush administra-
tion on its policy toward
Iraq, then added that a polit-
ical settlement "is the most
dangerous option."
And recently, Ariel Sha-
ron, Israel's Housing Min-
ister, told visiting American
Jews, "For Israel, for the
Middle East and for the
world, it would have been
much better if the United
States had not stepped into
the Persian Gulf — if the end
of the crisis will be that
Saddam Hussein stays in
power."

Like other
Americans,
U.S. Jews are
divided over
a Persian
Gulf war.
But they
have an extra
worry: The
safety of
Israel.

Mr. Sharon is often con-
sidered an outspoken maver-
ick on such matters. But
"this time," said a senior
Israel official, he "is saying
what's on all our minds.
Maybe its not wise to say it,
but it's the truth."

Israel: The Great
Leveler

For almost every Ameri-
can Jew, regardless of their
political stripes, it is im-
possible to eliminate Israel
from the Gulf equation.
Iraq's threat toward Israel,
in fact, seems to be the great
leveler in American Jews'
attitudes toward the Gulf
crisis.
Largely because of that, it
is near-impossible to predict
just where U.S. Jews will
line up regarding American
policy in the Gulf.
Much of the pro-war talk
goes against the expected po-
litical grain, especially
against contemporary lib-
eral instincts that cringe at
armed conflict. Yet, many
Jewish liberals favor

military action as the only
way to ensure that Saddam
Hussein will no longer
threaten regional and global
stability.
Instrumental to some lib-
eral Jews' departure from
their positions regarding
Vietnam is seeing no con-
vincing parallels between
the Vietcong, clad in black
pajamas and walking single
file down the Ho Chi Minh
Trail, and the specter of
Saddam Hussein armed with
chemical and biological
weapons and ballistic mis-
siles.
In the current crisis, said
Kenneth Lasson, the chair-
man of the Baltimore Jewish
Council's Israel-Middle East
Committee who opposed the
war in Vietnam, "there's a
much more easily discerned
goal and principle. In maybe
fairly simplistic terms, we
are now dealing with good
versus evil. It is much easier
to see Saddam Hussein as a
reincarnation of Hitler than
to see the Vietcong as a
threat to the West."

And historian Michael
Walzer of the Institute for
Advanced Studies,
Princeton, N.J., said, "Even
when I was fully engaged in
opposing the war in Viet-
nam, I didn't extrapolate
that to every situation. I still
thought the United States
had acted properly in Korea,
a situation which closely
parallels this one."
The question, for now,
seems to be whether the
Jewish center will hold.
That center was articu-
lated last month when the
Council of Jewish Federa-
tions' General Assembly
(GA) in San Francisco
unanimously endorsed the
administration's policy in
the Gulf. The resolution did
not detail American objec-
tives in the Gulf, how they
should be achieved, or how
Israel figured in the Gulf

equation. Not one of the 700
GA delegates dissented. Not
one proposed a single
amendment.
Specifics and opposition
were avoided, said one high-
level Jewish communal offi-
cial, because delegates
implicitly understood "that
we would be entering an
arena that some would
perceive as becoming a
`Jewish issue.' We wanted to
parallel the low-profile that
Israel has been asked to
play. We couldn't imagine
anyone standing up and say-
ing, 'I'm for bombing. Does
anyone second the mo-
tion?' "
Such overt belligerence,
especially as the National
Council of Churches adopted
a strong anti-war resolution
the same week as the GA,
might have isolated Jews as
clamoring for war. To some,
it might have confirmed
syndicated columnist
Patrick Buchanan's claim
that only Israel and its
"amen corner" in the United
States seek war with Iraq.
Rabbi James Rudin, the
American Jewish Com-
mittee's interreligious af-
fairs director, anticipates
more protests against a Per-
sian Gulf war, particularly
from Protestant denomina-
tions and black churches.
If this occurs, said Arthur
Waskow, executive director
of the Philadelphia-based
Shalom Center and a former
leader of the anti-Vietnam
War movement, "and the
only community that sup-
ports a war is the Jews, and
even the white middle-class
opposes the war that its
children are fighting, then
the Jewish community will
be in a very different place.
"In 1965, when the anti-
war movement essentially
began," said Mr. Waskow,
"America was a place with
very high morale. We had
just made some major strides

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