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September 19, 2003 - Image 24

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-09-19

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Action Hero

Jews divide by party over Arnold Schwarzenegger's governor bid.

Jewish Telegraphic Agency


Los Angeles

Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean
of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los
Angeles, recalls that in the mid-1980s
Schwarzenegger became an active mem-
ber and patron of the center, and later its
Museum of Tolerance.
"In 1990, Arnold came to see me and
said he was troubled because he really
knew so little about his father," Rabbi


Wiesenthal Ties

he recall election is a circus
and Arnold Schwarzenegger
is expected to holdup the
tent," says Saul Turteltaub, a
veteran television sitcom writer and pro-
Turteltaub knows Schwarzenegger
socially and thinks he is a nice guy and
sincere person, but that
doesn't mean he'll vote
for the movie action
hero for governor of
California. "First, I'm a
Democrat, and second-
ly, I think that the
recall election is a bad
idea," Turteltaub says.
Like the TV writer,
most Los Angeles Jews
who offer public com-
ment on the issue seem
tepid about both the
election and
Schwarzenegger's bid as
a Republican candi-
Republican gubernatorial candidate Arnold
date. That's partially
Schwarzenegger, left, greets Bakersfield fire chief Ron
because "Ahnold," as
Fraze and his 3-year-old son, Zack, in Costa Mesa.
he is universally
addressed, hasn't laid
out any political agenda for tackling the
Hier says. "He asked us to use our
state's horrendous fiscal problems, and
researchers and resources to track down
partially because the vast majority of
his father's past.
California Jews are Democrats.
The search showed that Gustav
The now-unpopular incumbent, Gov.
Schwarzenegger, a small-town Austrian
Gray Davis, a Democrat, drew 69 per-
police official, tried to join the Nazi
cent of the Jewish vote in last
Party in 1938, immediately after the
November's election. Sheldon Sloan, an
Anschluss, but was not formally induct-
attorney, former judge and founder of
ed into the party until 1941. He served
the Republican Jewish Coalition chapter
in the German army, stationed in
in Los Angeles is one exception.
Austria, in a police function. No records
"I've known Arnold for years," Sloan
or complaints were found to implicate
says. "He is a moderate in politics, he
the father in any war crimes or persecu-
knows how to pick good people and he
tion of Jews.
is a very successful businessman —
The actor's relationship with
something people underestimate. In my
Waldheim, who was barred from enter-
Republican Jewish circle, most support
ing the United States because of his
World War II record as a Nazi intelli-
Two aspects of Schwarzenegger's past
gence officer in the occupied Balkans,
may give Jews pause. One is the fact that has been controversial. It seems clear
the father of the Austrian-born actor was
that Schwarzenegger toasted the then-
a member of the Nazi Party and served
Austrian president, in absentia, when the
in the German army during World War
actor married Maria Shriver in 1986,
II. The second is the somewhat mur
and he was later apparently pho-
relationship of "the Terminator" with
tographed with Waldheim. But Rabbi
Kurt Waldheim, the former U.N. secre-
Hier puts this down more to political





naivete than to ideological leanings.
In any case, both Democratic and
Republican political analysts agree that if
no worse skeletons are found in
Schwarzenegger's closet, neither Jewish
nor non-Jewish voters will be much
troubled by this past.
During his ongoing relationship with
the Wiesenthal Center, Schwarzenegger
has donated between $750,000 and $1
million of his own money, and he has
raised millions more at parlor meetings,
Rabbi Hier says. The rabbi will not say
how he will vote, but he says he feels a
strong loyalty to Davis, the subject of
the recall. Davis, he says, has been a
strong supporter of his Wiesenthal
Center, the Jewish community and
Hollywood, with its large Jewish con-
tingent, might support Schwarzenegger
as one of its own and in the hope that,
as governor, he would take steps to halt
the runaway production of movies from
local studio lots to other states and
But don't count on it, says Arnold
Steinberg, a Republican consultant and
pollster. "People in Hollywood usually
separate their politics from their busi-
ness," he says.
Steinberg believes that whatever
Jewish votes go to Schwarzenegger will
be mainly from younger Jews who, he
notes, have a tendency not to show up
on polling days.
Dr. Joel Strom, now chair of the local
Republican Jewish Coalition, is support-
ing another Republican in the race, but
he thinks that fewer Jewish Democrats
will cross over to vote for
Schwarzenegger than would have for
former Los Angeles Mayor Richard
Riordan, who is not in the running.
According to polls, the one public fig-
ure who most easily could have turned
back Schwarzenegger is the state's Jewish
U.S. senator, Dianne Feinstein. But she
decided not to enter the race.
A more-jaundiced view of the whole
proceedings is taken by cultural critic
Neal Gabler, author of An Empire of
Their Own: How the Jews Invented
Hollywood. Gabler sees in the recall elec-
tion a validation of his thesis that poli-
tics in America has become a branch of
the entertainment industry, in which life
imitates art.
"What California voters are doing is

to consciously convert the political
process into a movie," Gabler says.
"Arnold understands that the election
has nothing to do with politics and
everything to do with entertainment val-
The outcome of the election, the New
York-based writer believes, hinges on
what approach the media decide to take.
"If the media report this as a serious
political issue, I don't think Arnold will
win," Gabler says. "But if they treat this
as just fun and games, then he's in." ❑


Editor's note: A federal appeals court panel
this week pos tp oned the Oct. 7 California
recall election because of punchcard ballots
that were scheduled to be used in several
areas. The decision may be appealed to the
U.S. Supreme Cou

1 insitA


Palestinian leader Saeb Erakat made
an interesting comment in response
to the diplomatic and media atten-
tion paid this week to Israel's threat
to exile, even kill, Palestinian
President Yasser Arafat to end his
active support for terrorism in the
West Bank and Gaza. Erakat said
that Arafat's removal would hasten
the deaths of Palestinian moderates.
His remarks reveal an unpleasant
aspect of Palestinian history.


Palestinian activists and radicals
have been killing each other since
the development of Palestinian
nationalism in the 1920s. More
Palestinians were killed by fellow
Palestinians than by the British dur-
ing the Arab revolt in British
Palestine (1936-39), and large
numbers have been killed by their
brethren both in the intifitda (upris-
ing) of 1987-91 and in the current

— Allan Gale, Jewish Community
Council of Metropolitan Detroit

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