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November 08, 2002 - Image 29

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2002-11-08

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Friend Or Foe?

Tumult over honoree at annual gala threatens to obscure the goals of Seeds of Pedce.

Copy Editor/Education Writer


rganizers of the second annual Seeds of
Peace Gala have little more than a week
to tie up the final details of a banquet
they hope will attract 600 or more multi-
ethnic guests to the main ballroom of the Ritz-
Carlton Hotel in Dearborn.
The last thing they need is a brouhaha over one
of the three men selected as honorees for the event
on Monday, Nov. 18.
But a brouhaha is exactly
what the organization has
encountered, with a widely cir-
culated letter by Jerome S.
Kaufman of Bloomfield Hills
disapproving of the choice of
U.S. Rep.- John Dingell, D- '
Dearborn, as recipient of the
2002 CongresSional Leadership
Rep. John Dingell
"Perhaps the Jews involved
with Seeds of Peace do not
know Dingell's record in the United States Congress
• vis-a-vis Israel," wrote Kaufman, national secretary
of the Zionist Organization of America.
Reached in his Washington office, the 74-year-old
congressman, whose Dearborn-centered 15th dis-
trict represents the largest Arab constituency in the
United States, repeatedly used the term "honest
broker" in reference to his views on the Middle
"My feeling is that the United States government
must take no position so we can broker an end to the
terrible situation in the Middle East," Dingell said.
While Kaufman stated that the congressman had
"consistently vote[d] against the foreign aid bill
whose largest beneficiary is Israel," Dingell respond-
ed that he has "voted for almost every foreign aid
bill since I came to Congress in 1955."
"Invariably," he added, "I make the point that I
support the existence of the state of Israel."
Dingell defended his lack of support for last
May's congressional resolution expressing solidarity
with Israel as an objection to an "unbalanced reso-
"This action stands in the way of the United
States' acting as honest broker and friend to all par-
ties," he said at that time.
Another of Kaufman's statements — that Dingell
was the only congressman voting against a February
2001 resolution congratulating Ariel Sharon, Israel's
prime minister, on calling for an end to violence —
is incorrect. The congressman who voted against
the resolution was Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas.
Last month, Dingell, along with 132 other mem-
bers of Congress, voted against the resolution grant-
ing President George W. Bush unilateral power to

take military action against Iraq. Sen. Carl Levin,
D-Mich., voted against the corresponding Senate
Dingell said the removal of Iraqi's Saddam
Hussein is "obviously a desirable change."
However, he said, whether the U.S. decides to
remove the Iraqi leader or instead disarm the coun-
try of its weapons of mass destruction, unilateral
action would be "a great strategic and -tactical

On The Podium

In addition to Dingell, the Seeds of Peace gala,
"Courage in the Pursuit of Peace," will honor
Robert Lutz, vice chairman of General Motors and
chairman of the automaker's North American
Operations. Lutz will receive the Peacemaker
Award, given in memory of Seeds of Peace founder
John Wallach, who lost his life to lung cancer earli-
er this year.
Janet Wallach, wife of the Seeds founder and co-
author of several of his books, will host the event,
which will feature presentations by a diverse group
of Seeds of Peace campers. The guest speaker, CNN
newsman Bernard Kalb, a close friend of Wallach,
also will be honored.
Also on the podium will be
Dr. Aaron David Miller, senior
adviser for Arabgsraeli negotia-
tions at the U.S. Department
of State and Wallach'8 likely
successor as Seeds president.
Janet Wallach has been filling
in as acting president.
John Wallach, a Pulitzer
Prize-winning newsman, began
Seeds of Peace a decade ago to
bring youth from regions of
conflict around the world to a summer camp for
purposes of mutual recognition and friendship.
Each participant, known as a "seed," is selected by
his home country's government and goes through a
rigorous multiple-step application process. After
graduation. from the Seeds program, participants
continue in various follow-up programs.
"We're not in the business of politics," said .
Farmington Hills' Florine Mark-Ross, who co-chairs
the Nov. 18 event with Jane Abraham, wife of for-
mer Sen. Spencer Abraham, U.S. secretary of ener-
gy. "All we are interested in is getting young people
to a camp and helping young people to learn to
know one another. ),
David Gad-Harf, executive director of the Jewish
Community Council of Metropolitan Detroit and a
board member of the Seeds Detroit chapter, said
the decision to honor Dingell, "a member of
Congress who has been supportive of Seeds of Peace
... was made at the national level."

"While I didn't think it was an appropriate choice
from the Detroit Jewish community's perspective, I
continue to support Seeds of Peace — its goals, its
summer camp program, the local programming for
Arab American and Jewish youngsters, and its fund-
raising," . Gad-Harf said.

Balancing Act

Amy Baroch, senior events coordinator of the New
York-based Seeds of Peace, said in an e-mail to the
Jewish News that Congressman Dingell had been
selected "primarily because John Wallach, the late
founder and president of Seeds of Peace, felt that, as
the longest-serving member of the House, Dingell
was a good choice to continue the Congressional
Leadership Award inaugurated last year — especial-
ly since Dingell represents the largest Arab con-
stituency in the nation.
"Seeds of Peace also recognizes Dingell as a pow-
erful Democratic member of Congress — a good
balance to [Rep.] Joe Knollenberg [9th District],
who was recognized last year and is a Republican.
Seeds of Peace is very careful to give balance to all
of our events ... "
Along with Congressman Knollenberg, last year's
gala, held Sept. 10, 2001, -honored Jac Nasser, who
then was Ford Motor Co. president and CEO. Ford
continues to give Seeds of Peace major financial
support, joined this year by General Motors Corp.
Last year's guest speaker, Martin Indyk, former
U.S. ambassador to Israel and assistant secretary of
state for near east affairs, drew criticism from mem-
bers of the Arab-American community.
Still, Kaufman calls Seeds of Peace a "pro-PLO,
anti-Israel organization."
Among his reasons: "Seeds has had on their pro-
grams to speak Yasser Abed Rabbo, chief media
spokesperson for Yasser Arafat, and Yossi Beilin, dis-
credited Israeli former member of the Knesset and
one of the authors of the disastrous Oslo Peace
Replying to this statement,•Detroit chapter co-
chair Ariela Shani of Rochester Hills pointed out
that, because the organization is dependent on the
cooperation of governments of diverse, and often
warring, countries, it works with political leaders
who may disagree on everything but the Seeds •
camp itself.
Among the Seeds graduates are children of PLO
negotiator Saeb Erekat and Jewish children from
the settlements of the West Bank.
"We bring together people from the left wing,
from the right wing. From wherever they are politi-
cally, we bring them together in- a nonpartisan way
to help bring about real peace," Shani said.
"The children who are at camp come to an
understanding that the enemy is a human being,
just as we all are. If they can do it, we can do it." E


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