JEWS WHO RUN CLINTON'S COURT - Part 1 By Avinoam Bar-Yosef, MAARIV, September 2, 1994* Several weeks ago the rabbi of the "Adath Yisrael" synagogue in Cleveland Park, Washington, dedicated his Sabbath sermon to the Jewish cultural and political center now being formed in America. "For the first time in American history," the rabbi said, "we no longer feel that we live in the diaspora. The U.S. has no longer a government of Goyim [Gentiles], but an administration in which the Jews are full partners in the decision making at all levels. Perhaps the aspects of the Jewish religious law connected with the term 'government of goyim' (1) should be re-examined, since it is an outdated term in the U.S." Indeed, as far as the Jews are concerned, President Bill Clinton has contributed towards a real change in Administration outlook, having concluded a series of changes which enhance Jewish power, a process that began under President Reagan and his Secretary of State, Schultz. True, the Jewish political influence was also evident in America in previous decades. We have already seen a Jewish Secretary of State, Kissinger, enjoying the full confidence of President Richard Nixon. There were Jewish Cabinet members also under Carter. However, they were exceptions proving the rule. Especially, pious Jews were seldom appointed to participate in political work concerning the Middle East. The picture has now totally changed, and not only about the Middle East. For example, every morning at about 6:00 o'clock, several staff cars travel from the CIA center to the White House with senior officers of the American intelligence community, who are about to present to the president and to the four top staffers a PDB - President's Daily Briefing - the term for the most exclusive report in Washington. The document, consisting of 5-7 pages, is often accompanied by top secret satellite photographs transferred by the Pentagon. It is composed in the course of the night by the best American intelligence experts who analyze the telegrams and reports arriving from the CIA's world-wide network of agents. It contains the most sensitive information regarding developments around the world. Its uniqueness, compared to all other American intelligence documents, lies in the fact that it almost always indicates the source of the information, whether it is a document stolen by a spy, or an agent or 'mole' infiltrating a foreign government, or whether the source is tapping by means of satellite. If Clinton is in Washington, he holds a short discussion on the contents of the document with the five other addressees: Vice-President Al Gore, National Security Advisor Anthony Lake, White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta, Deputy National Security Advisor Samuel ("Sandy") Berger, and National Security Advisor to the Vice-President, Leon Perth. Two of the addressees, Berger and Perth, are warm Jews. They have reached posts that are extremely sensitive for the U.S. policies. They are by no means exceptions. In the National Security Council, 7 out of 11 top staffers are Jews. Clinton has especially placed them in the most sensitive junctions in the U.S. security and foreign administrations: Sandy Berger is the deputy chairman of the council; Martin Indyk, the intended ambassador to Israel, is a senior director in charge of the Middle East and South Asia; Dan Schifter, the senior director and advisor to the president, is in charge of Western Europe; Don Steinberg, the senior director and advisor to the president, is in charge of Africa; Richard Feinberg, the senior director and advisor to the president, in charge of Latin America; Stanley Ross, the senior director and advisor to the president, is in charge of Asia. The situation is not much different in the president's office which is full of warm Jews: the new Attorney General, Abner Mikve; the president's schedule and programs manager, Ricky Seidman; deputy chief of staff, Phil Leida; economic advisor, Robert Rubin; media director, David Heiser; staff director, Alice Rubin; Ely Segall, in charge of volunteers; Ira Mezina, in charge of the health program. Two Cabinet members, Labor Secretary Robert Reich and Micky Cantor in charge of international trade agreements, are Jewish. They are joined by a long list of senior Jewish officials in the State Department, headed by the head of the Middle East Peace Team, Dennis Ross, and followed by many deputy secretaries and even more senior secretaries' chief of staff. One of the most interesting Jews from the Israeli point of view, who has rarely been exposed to view till now, is Rehm Emmanuel, Clinton's senior advisor in charge of coordinating special projects in the White House. His office is located next to the famous Oval Office. Rehm won extra points from his boss last week, when he succeeded in passing a law for combatting crime. He has become an expert at communicating with Congress and has already had many successes, the most prominent of which was the ratification of NAFTA. Now he is immersed in the passing of the Health Bill. Last Thursday his office was in shambles and he strode around it like a typical Sabra, simultaneously conducting a lively conversation with me, studying the protocols of the debate being held at the time by the Senate and watching the report of Wolf Blitzer (also a Jew) on the CNN and being updated by his secretary and three aides on the positions of the senators regarding the vote. "Do you prefer to meet over the weekend or early next week, after this whole nightmare is over?" I asked him. "That would be a real relief," he replied. The following day, after the law passed by one vote, I called to congratulate him: "If you want to come - you have to come now. The president decided to take a vacation and told us that whoever wanted to enjoy the summer should also take a vacation. So I'm packing and leaving on Sunday morning." Even then he was not calm but nervously fidgeting in his chair. He has a face that is more suitable for an Israeli tourist than for a senior official in the U.S. Administration. "You know, Rehm Emmanuel is a name that would not be out of place in the Tel-Aviv phone directory," I told him. A large warm smile spread across his face. "Our original name was Auerbach. We opened the first pharmacies in Tel-Aviv and in Jerusalem. My father changed his name after my uncle, Emmanuel, was killed in Israel's War of Independence [1948-49]. My father was then a member of Etzel [IRGUN] commanded by Begin and it was customary to change names in the underground. Yes, he is still a warm Likud supporter, but he also admires Yitzhak Rabin since he admires whoever becomes Prime Minister as a result of the last Israeli elections. After the war he came to America, studied medicine and met my mother who was then a social work student. I was born in Chicago". Rehm and his two brothers received a warm Jewish education. "You know, we studied at a Jewish school and had private Hebrew teachers. My first visit to Israel was three days after the Six Day War. My father said then that we had to go to Israel. I was eight years old, but I remember it as if it were this morning. The Arabs were completely defeated, there was such a joy and it was so very exciting. There were high hopes that as a result the Jews would enjoy freedom and peace. Since then I have continued to visit Israel every summer until 1972. Then I began my studies. When I matured I went into politics, the pastimes of an American youngster." What meaning does the connection to Israel and to Judaism have for you today? "Since 1972 I did not visit Israel until 1991. Then the Gulf War broke out and missiles landed in Tel-Aviv. I immediately volunteered for one month service in the Israeli army, through the 'Overseas Volunteer Unit'. (2) What I did then to help the Jews was not much. Naturally, it was not combat service. But we helped as much as possible and the main thing was that we were there. Does that answer your question?" Perhaps the most intriguing thing that happened to me personally in the course of the past year, since I have been posted in Washington, was the meeting with the organized American Jewry. The best place to see them as they are, the place where I always came each year to admire them, is the annual convention of the pro-Israeli lobby, AIPAC. This is the place not only to feel the pulse of American involvement in the Middle East, but also where I felt that somehow it helps me to ignore the deep distress inherent in the feeling of loneliness of living in a state located in the heart of so many hostile Arabs. I always asked myself what was the value of the Jewish experience in America as far as Israel is concerned. Did the identification with Israel derive from a deep sensation of a common Jewish fate or was it one of the tools of the local community to garner power for achieving truly equal rights in a mixed society comprised also of many emigrants and members of various faiths? Was the Jewish power in the U.S. a phenomenon which will decrease or increase? Were the intermarriages of Jews with Gentiles threatening to weaken the Jewish power in the U.S.? Or, so I was sometimes afraid, were the American Jews building a new Jewish cultural center that would compete with Israel? "Adat Yisrael" synagogue in Washington is not only a place of worship. It is a Jewish community center, with a prestigious Jewish kindergarten, a Jewish school with Judaism, literature, culture and of course, Hebrew classes. On Saturdays there are always two separate prayer sessions. The first is the large one, encompassing hundreds of worshippers, which ends in a food blessing at tables tastefully laid with Jewish delicacies. Its members belong to the creme de la creme of Washington society: senior administration officials, successful lawyers, rich businessmen. All are wealthy people. Next week, on the Jewish New Year, the prayers will be joined by many other Jews who usually spend their weekends at the most exclusive clubs, or on the most expensive golf courses, or riding the best horses, or at their expensive houses near the West Virginia lakes, or sailing in their private yachts. Next week, as during all Jewish holiday seasons, the most expensive limousines that can be imagined will stop at the entrance to the synagogue, to let out elegant women, the men mummified in their expensive suits at their side, followed by the well-dressed children. The entrance fee to synagogue is $1,000 for a single holiday. In addition to this prayer session another, with younger members and less expensive entrance fees, regularly gathers in one of the other halls, where prayers are held according to the customary Israeli style, except for the fact that men and women sit together. This famous session has several other characteristics. Most of the members visit Israel at least once every year. Most of them speak fluent Hebrew. All of them are familiar with the prayer procedures. Only a few of them come out of deep faith. Others do so out of the wish to meet the best Jewish society or to meet a Jewish girl whom they would like to marry. But the most important reason for their praying is that they feel a close connection with Israel. Those of them whose love for Israel is most ardent watch the Israeli TV news every night. It might sound strange, but the Washington cable station broadcasts the Israeli TV news program every night at half past midnight. The other synagogue competing for the young generation of wealthy Jews is located in Georgetown. It is a fully Orthodox synagogue, but its prayers are conducted in the Israeli style favored by "Gush Emunim". The Israeli flag is proudly displayed above the Sacred Ark alongside the American flag. On each Sabbath the prayers include the benediction for the Israeli Jewish soldiers and the prayer for the welfare of the Israeli government and its officials. Many Jewish Administration officials pray there. They not only don't try to conceal their religious affiliation but go to a great length to demonstrate their Judaism since it may help their careers greatly. ------------------------------------------------- (1) According to the Jewish religion the obligation to follow the rules and laws of a Gentile government is limited to some extent. For example, its customs and currency regulations of such government need not be followed by pious Jews in all cases. On the other hand, the regulations of a government in which pious Jews have a predominant influence, even if it contains also some Gentiles, have to be strictly obeyed. (2) By special permission of the U.S. Administration, which is not often mentioned in the U.S. media for reason clarified in this article, American Jews can volunteer to serve in the Israeli army and some of them often do so, especially during Israeli wars. The number of the U.S. Jews who rushed to volunteer in the Israeli army during the 1982 invasion of Lebanon and who helped it to besiege Beirut was quite large but since the Israeli censorship banned any mention of them they were "invisible" to the U.S. media. No other army enjoys a similar privilege. The service of the U.S. Jews in the Israeli army is not supposed to include combat duties but only such things as helping to repair tanks. Some of it certainly takes place in the Territories, including the Golan Heights. -------------------------------------------------- * From THE HEBREW PRESS, monthly translations and commentaries from Israel, by Dr. Israel Shahak, published monthly by the Middle East Data Center, P.O. Box 337, Woodbridge, VA 22194-0337. Reprinted courtesy THE CHRISTIAN NEWS, October 24, 1994, page 22, 3277 Boeuf Lutheran Rd., New Haven, MO 63068-9568.
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