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Jewish World Review Sept. 15, 2000 /14 Elul, 5760

Jonathan Tobin

Jonathan Tobin
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The Friends of Our Foes

The Arab lobby gears up to punish pro-Israel politicians -- AS THE WEEKS pass since the collapse of the Camp David Middle East peace summit, one thing becomes clearer: Peace between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs is not imminent.

To the shock of the Jewish left -- and the relief of the Jewish right -- even the Israeli offer that would divide the city of Jerusalem was not enough to convince the Palestinians to enter into an agreement. Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat made it clear last week at the United Nations that he still wants nothing less than sovereignty over the entirety of the eastern part of the city, including all of the Old City.

Perhaps Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak planned this rejection all along and deserves credit for his clever strategy. Or maybe Israel was saved from the consequences of Barak's blundering concessions by Arafat's intransigence. As in the book of Exodus, maybe sometimes G-d really does harden Pharaoh's heart.

But regardless of the cause of the breakdown, the continuance of the conflict is something for which many American Jews -- who have spent the seven years since the signing of the original Oslo agreement gradually losing interest in pro-Israel activism -- are unprepared.

On the other hand, this complacent attitude is not shared by supporters of the Arab cause. For them, the work of opposing Israel and Jewish interests on every front has only just begun.

Evidence of this is on display in the latest issue of The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. The Washington Report is a glossy monthly that serves as the guidebook to the Arabist lobby in the United States.

The Washington Report specializes in defaming Israel. But far from being the product of fringe Islamic fundamentalists, it is written and published by a Washington, D.C., outfit that is staffed by former U.S. foreign-service officers who haven't stopped hating Israel even though they are no longer on the federal payroll. As such, it is a must-read for friends of Israel who want a reliable indicator of the thinking of the anti-Israel crowd.

One of the most noteworthy features of the magazine is an election-year report card on Congress that evaluates members of the Senate and the House on hostility to Israel and related causes. In other words, if you want to know who is on the list of good guys and bad guys for Israel, all you have to do is look at the pro-Arab crowd's "Hall of Fame" and "Hall of Shame."

The 535 House and Senate members were evaluated on, among other issues, the following: opposition to the use of anti-Semitic propaganda in the Palestinian media and textbooks; opposition to asking the Palestinian Authority and Syria about the whereabouts of missing Israeli soldiers and linking aid to that issue; support for Palestinian statehood prior to the achievement of a peace agreement; support for a bill prohibiting the use of intelligence on terrorism for evaluating immigration cases (as in supporters of Hamas who are liable to deportation); the signing of a letter opposing commutation of the sentence of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard; opposition to moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem; and opposition to sanctions on rogue nations like Libya and Iraq.

As far as the Arab lobby is concerned, the more members of Congress opposed anti-Semitism and terrorism and/or were willing to support Israel, the less The Washington Report liked them.

Chief among the members of The Washington Report's "Hall of Fame" is Rep. David Bonior, D-Mich. Bonior's animus for Israel is no surprise, given the large number of Arab-Americans in his Detroit-area district. It is ominous however, since he is in line to become the House Majority leader if, as many expect, the Democrats win back the House in November.

Among the other anti-Israel House favorites are John Conyers, D-Mich.; John Dingell, D-Mich.; Amos Houghton, R-New York; Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill.; John Lewis, D-Ga.; Jim McDermott, D-Wash.; Cynthia McKinney, D-Ga.; Ron Paul, R-Texas; John Sununnu, R-N.H.; and Maxine Waters, D-Calif.

In the case of Jackson and Sununu (sons of their famous namesakes), the anti-Israel apple didn't fall far from the tree.

The Washington Report's favorite senators are Spencer Abraham, R-Mich.; Robert Byrd, D-W.V.; Lincoln Chafee, R-R.I.; Chuck Hagel, R-Neb.; Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.; Charles Robb, D-Va.; Strom Thurmond, R-S.C.; and Paul Wellstone, D-Minn.

While nobody should be surprised at the high marks given ex-klansmen Byrd and Thurmond, the pro-Arab ranking of Wellstone may surprise some, since he is one of the Senate's 11 Jews. Wellstone, is, however, also the far-left Tikkun magazine's idea of a good politician, and thus way out of the pro-Israel mainstream.

The Arabist "Hall of Shame" included Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y.; Peter Deutsch, D-Fla.; Michael Forbes, D-N.Y.; Bob Franks, R-N.J.; Sue Kelly, R-N.Y.; Rick Lazio, R-N.Y.; Nita Lowey, D-N.Y.; Jerold Nadler, D-N.Y.; Ileana Ross-Letinen, R-Fla.; Matt Salmon, R-Ariz.; Jim Saxton, R-N.J.; and Brad Sherman, D-Calif.

Only four of the House's 23 Jews made it to the list: Deutsch, Lowey, Nadler and Sherman.

While both parties are well-represented on both sides of the ledger, it's worth noting that two of the Republican Party's most notable challengers for the Senate made it to The Washington Report's "shame" list: Bob Franks, who is facing an uphill battle against billionaire financier Democrat Jon Corzine in New Jersey; and Rick Lazio, who is the man who hopes to defeat Hillary Clinton in her bid for a New York Senate seat.

Surprisingly, of the Senate's 11 Jews, only one, Philadelphian Arlen Specter, R-Pa., made it to the Arabist "Hall of Shame." He was joined there by Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and Connie Mack, R-Fla.

The Senate's most famous Jew, Democratic vice-presidential candidate Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., missed out on the "Shame" list for his position on two issues: his failure to sign on to a Senate letter condemning Palestinian anti-Semitism, and his decision to sign a letter opposing clemency for Jonathan Pollard.

Better luck next time, Joe.

To show those opposing Israel that there was no penalty for bucking the supposedly "all-powerful" Jewish lobby, The Washington Report‘s September issue also provided a chart showing just how much pro-Israel PAC money each member of their halls of "fame" and "shame" received.

Their chart illustrated the fact that the pro-Israel community is often far more interested in backing long-time incumbents and legislators in leadership positions -- no matter what their policies on key issues -- than anything else.

Thus, anti-Israel stalwarts such as David Bonior and Robert Byrd got big bucks from friends of Israel despite their awful records.

On the other end of the spectrum, while some of the good guys were rewarded by friends of Israel, that wasn't true in every case. Specter received $366,123 in pro-Israel money, but, put together, the pro-Israel PAC contributions received by Lazio, Franks, Kelly and Salmon did not equal the amount Bonior got! Pro-Israel sentiment from those backbenchers apparently isn't as valued by some people as much as Bonior's leadership position.

Given the continuing refusal of the Palestinians to be realistic about Jerusalem and the consequent need to maintain Israel's strong support on Capitol Hill, the question of who is or is not pro-Israel remains significant. Though most American Jews seem, like the rest of the body politic, almost totally focused on domestic issues, Israel should still be on the minds of Jewish voters and contributors. Thus, we can thank The Washington Report for a reminder of just who some of our friends and enemies really are.

JWR contributor Jonathan S. Tobin is executive editor of the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent. He was the recipient of the American Jewish Press Association's highest awards in two categories: First Place in the Louis Rapoport Award for Excellence in Commentary and Editorial Writing for his column "Israel's China Syndrome -- and Ours" and First Place for Excellence in Arts and Criticism for his column "Jewish Art, Jewish Artists." The awards were given to Mr. Tobin at the AJPA's 2000 Simon Rockower Awards dinner at Washington D.C. on June 22, 2000. Let him know what you think by clicking here.

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