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June 25, 1993 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1993-06-25

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Community Views

Rep. Joe Knollenberg's
Encouraging Direction

Demanding Respect
For Jews And Israel

does not know enough to even
Part of the "art"
ask for it as its due?"
of psychology is
She related the story of
in helping those
reading, in 1979, a sign kept
needing it to be-
by construction workers mark-
come aware that
ing the days, 252 at the time,
the solution to
that Iran had held U.S.
problems they
face may indeed
"I was impressed," she said,
not be external
"because the sign expressed
but may lie with-
outrage and that we intended
in themselves.
to get them back. By my cal-
That diagnosis is just as
culations, it is 16,000 to 17,000
good for a people as it is for in-
days (since the establishment
of the state of Israel) for what
And that appeared to be the
is our due. I think the first
message of Dr. Ruth R. Wisse,
thing we must do again is ex-
professor of Yiddish literature
press outrage and keep that
at Harvard University, as she
kind of sign alive in our own
spoke recently about anti-
midst and for the rest of the
Semitism and anti-Israel atti-
world to see, saying we have
tudes at the Israel Bonds
expectations and they are the
Golda Meir lunch at the home
of David and Doreen Hermelin.
Talking on a theme ignored
by most Jews and Jewish or-
ganizations, Dr. Wisse, a
prominent writer whose work
appears regularly in Com-
mentary and the Forward,
and author of a recently pub-
lished book, If I Am Not For
Myself, said Jews cannot trans-
form their relationship with
the rest of the world and that
they have no control over how
the rest of the world feels about
But what they can, and
must do, is to "keep one's sense
of dignity intact."
"One has to know who one
is and know it with such firm-
ness, know why we are gath-
ering money, know the value
of the State one is supporting,
minimal expectations of a peo-
know who one is as a Jew and
ple with dignity."
the value of Jewish history and
Dr. Wisse added, "It is an in-
know it so no humiliation that
tense humiliation to have to
comes against you can break
care what Arab societies think
that sense of dignity," she said.
of me. It is demeaning and de-
The other major initiative
grading to spend your life wor-
Jews must take — where they
rying about the pathology of
have failed — she said, is,
other people who just happen
"Once we have affirmed our
to have chosen you as their tar-
sense of dignity, we have to
make the demand."
While Zionism has been suc-
"The Arab world owes us;
cessful in creating a Jewish
they owe us," she said. "We
state and establishing cultur-
have been waiting for a long
time for what is no more than
our due. That recognition is not
a gift. There has to be an end
of the war against Jews in
every form, economic and mil-
itary, an end to the belliger-
ence in our midst and an end
to propaganda against the
Jewish state in North Ameri-
"We have to ask for that,"
she continued. "If we do not de-
al autonomy and promoting an
mand that as our due, I don't
"in-gathering of exiles," and es-
think it will be forthcoming be-
tablishing strong defense
cause why should anyone give
forces, it has not been able to
something to a people that
"transform the attitude of oth-
er nations toward Jews."
Berl Falbaum is a freelance
Zionism did not bring reci-
writer from West Bloomfield
procity but it did create an-
and a frequent contributor to
other form of anti-Semitism
Community Views.


which may be stronger than
the anti-Semitism experienced
when Jews were dispersed, she
Given that Jews have not
been able to change the atti-
tude of the external political
forces, they have maintained
their own dignity and de-
manded "respect," although
she did not use this word.
What many Jews do not un-
derstand — particularly those
organizations which promote
"dialogue and consensus build-
ing" — is that one does not ne-
gotiate over moral imperatives.
Before either side comes to
the table, each must articulate
an uncompromising commit-
ment to decry prejudice, big-
otry, racism and anti-

Artwork by Matt Mahurin. Copyright. 1990, Matt Mahurin. Dietnbuted by Loa Angeles Timm Syndicate.

"It's time for Jews
to rid themselves of
suffering years of
humiliation and
demand respect."

Semitism. If either cannot do
that, the talks are doomed to
The side which remains at
the table while not receiving
such a commitment from the
other will not only lose the ne-
gotiations but will lose its dig-
nity and self-respect.
When that occurs, the other
side only has its own position
reinforced and, worse, despis-
es those who did not have the
fortitude to stand up for its
own positions.
Blacks have long understood
this lesson and are to be corn-
mended for creating not only
dignity but self-respect. And in
the process, blacks are, in Dr.
Wisse's words, "receiving their
due." Also, Arab Americans are
fighting and overcoming dis-
Jews have helped in the
struggle of other minorities to
receive their due. But Jews
have not exerted the same en-
ergy on their own behalf. As
Dr. Wisse said, it's time for
Jews to rid themselves of suf-
fering years of humiliation and
demand respect.
It's not only time; it's long

Seven years
ago, I was sit-
ting in the audi-
torium of the
Associated Jew-
ish Charities of
Baltimore lis-
tening to a can-
didate's forum
for the 7th Con-
gressional District. This dis-
trict covered a section of
Baltimore City where the Jews
used to live. It is also the dis-
trict where the federation is
There were only about 50
spectators listening to the
views of seven Democratic can-
didates. Six of the seven hope-
fuls were black; the other,
white and gentile. Of the black
candidates, two of them were
followers of Nation of Islam
leader the Rev. Louis Far-
rakhan. They were the most
In a room in a building
where Baltimore made its im-
portant decisions on the life
and vibrancy of Jewish conti-
nuity and the survival of Israel,
the words from these domi-
nating speakers were insult-
ingly anti-Semitic and
One of the candidates who
did more listening than talk-
ing was Baltimore City Coun-
cilman Kweisi Mfume. Mr.
Mfume was non-commital
when it came to aid to Israel or
his views on a Palestinian
state. He wasn't insulting,
though, and he listened care-
fully to the views of the pre-
dominately Jewish audience.
He would later be elected and
vote favorably on aid and is-
sues concerning Israel.
The other city candidate to
win that year was Ben Cardin,
the former president of the
Maryland House of Delegates
and a man active in the Jew-
ish community.
A week after his swearing
into office, I met with Mr.
Mfume in his new Longfellow
Building office in Washington,
D.C. The boxes were un-
packed; the computers hadn't
been placed on-line yet; and a
staff hadn't been formed.
Neither had his views on Is-
rael. Rep. Mfume said he
wasn't sure that Israel was do-
ing a good job in seeking peace
for all. Rep. Mfume wasn't sure
if he could support the $3 bil-
lion in appropriation for Israel.
Rep. Mfume had many of us
Then came a trip, sponsored
by the Baltimore Jewish Coun-
cil, to Israel that helped change
many of those opinions. Then
came a strong, binding rela-
tionship with Rep. Cardin that

also contributed. Rep. Ben
Cardin helped Rep. Mfume
with issues concerning Is-
rael. Rep. Mfume was there
for Rep. Cardin when the is-
sues involved South Africa.
The two were a visible team
in the black and Jewish com-
munities of Baltimore City.
The two became friends for
one another's causes as well.
It's good to read this
week's front-page story con-
cerning Rep. Joe Knollen-
berg. Like Rep. Mfume,
there was concern about his
feelings toward Israel. We
didn't learn a great deal
about Mr. Knollenberg on Is-
rael because the Republican
primary here was distracted
from the issues by the nasty
campaign between Jewish
candidates, Judge Alice
Gilbert and state Sen. David
Honigman. We knew that
Rep. Knollenberg's priority
was business and the econ-
omy, not Israel. He didn't

Rep. Knollenberg
has said that
foreign aid is
helping to turn
Israel into a nation
that is slowly
becoming more
and more

have a great deal to say to
make any of us comfortable
in this area.
Now, however, we learn
that he is a defender of for-
eign aid. We learn that Rep.
Knollenberg has a Novem-
ber trip to Israel in the
works. There, he'll see, and
he'll learn why a safe, secure
Israel is not only a Jewish
priority but an American pri-
ority. Yes, there's an eco-
nomic angle here as well.
Rep. Knollenberg has said
that foreign aid is helping to
turn Israel into a nation that
is slowly becoming more and
more economically indepen-
We hope that along the
way, he'll enjoy the friend-
ships and build the relation-
ships like the ones shared by
Reps. Mfume and Cardin.
The Baltimore model is one
that we in Detroit can learn
from. Already, it's refreshing
to see the direction our new
congressman is taking.

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