JEWS WHO RUN CLINTON'S COURT - Part 2 By Avinoam Bar-Yosef, MAARIV, September 2, 1994 * The enormous Jewish influence in Washington is not limited to the government. In the Washingtonian media a very significant part of the most important personages and of the presenters of the most popular programs on the TV are warm Jews. A significant part of senior media correspondents, newspaper editors and analysts are Jewish and many of them are warm Jews too. Many of them are influenced in Israel's favor by attending suitable synagogues. AP's political reporter, Barry Schweid, and the Washington Posts's education reporter, Amy Schwartz, regularly participate in a prayer session which is considered to be close to Israel at the Cleveland Park synagogue. Also there the Israeli flag is posted proudly above the Sacred Ark. Let us not forget in this context the Jewish predominance in the Washingtonian academic institutions. At the National Center of Medicine the percentage of Jewish researchers is very much higher then their relative percentage in the population. In the field of security and science, in the film industry, in art and in literature, the Jewish influence can only be described as immense, with a corresponding enhancement of the Jewish power. Where did they all spring from? In Israel we are already accustomed to the names of the Jews called Dennis Ross, Dan Kurtzer and Aharon Miller, since they have taken part in each of the Secretary of State's visits to the Middle East in the last six years. But that is a relatively new phenomenon. When Dan Kurtzer, a pious Jew who observes the Sabbath and all commandments of Judaism, arrived at the American State Department 18 years ago with a doctorate in Middle East studies, he was told: "You have all the qualifications to serve in the Middle East division, but don't even think of suggesting it because of your Jewish origin." Today he is the boss of those who gave him that piece of advice, so much had the Jewish power increased meantime. When he arrived it was the time when the Arabists ruled the State Department and the few Jews who had infiltrated it preferred to conceal their Judaism. There were precedents, such as the late Arnold Rapel, who was a senior deputy of the Secretary of State's assistant for the Middle East, but his co-workers learned of his faith only when he was buried in a Jewish ceremony. Dan Kurtzer was the first to announce that he could not work on Jewish holidays since he observed all the commandments of Judaism and went to synagogue. Today, when the TV star Roseanne Arnold announced that she intended to produce a series on Hanukkah since the Christmas programs are already too numerous, and when public schools in the U.S. are closed on the first day of the Jewish New Year, the story about Kirtzer seems very distant. It happened several weeks ago. The Haiti crisis started to be accelerating. I phoned the State Department and requested a briefing from the person in charge of that area. They referred me to Yehuda Mirsky. I introduced myself to his secretary. Suddenly someone picked up the receiver and then I heard a voice saying in perfect Israeli Hebrew: "Good morning, how can I help you?" For a moment I thought that I had mistakenly dialed the Israeli Foreign Ministry. "Where do you know Hebrew from, and are you an Israeli?" "No, I am American, but I spent three years, mainly studying the Bible and the Talmud, at the military "Har Armital in Gush Etzion." Mirsky, like Kurtzer, belongs to the professionals of the American foreign service. Another Jewish official who came to the State Department through a trainees' course is Tom Miller, currently political attache in Athens. He was previously, among other things, Phillip Habib's assistant in Lebanon and the Head of the North African desk at the time of the dialogue with the PLO and then Head of the Israel and the Arab-Israeli conflict desk. I met Tom when he served as desk head in the anti-terrorism branch. His interest in Israel began when he was sent to Israel by his father during the Six Day war to help a family friend who had immigrated there some time ago. The friend was inducted to the army and his farm was in need of help. Afterwards Tom Miller spent six months at Orot collective farm, near Kiryat Malachi. The effect on him was similar to the influence which his first visit to Israel had on Rehm Emmanuel. "It was for me a period of euphoria, of great achievements for the entire Jewish people. It was impossible not to identify with Israel in the hour of its magnificent victory," he told me. The second event which left a harsh and life-long impression on him were the stories about the horrors of the Holocaust. "The Holocaust creates a sense of a destiny shared by all Jews. The Jews must act to strengthen Israel so that the Holocaust cannot be repeated," he told me in another conversation. Indeed, all the Jews at the top of Clinton Administration, including Dennis Ross and Martin Indyk, firmly believe that the change in the attitude of American Jewry towards Israel came mainly as the result of the Six Day War, since that war had first reawakened the Holocaust memories (3) and then filled them with enormous pride. "It was the Six Day War which brought the U.S. Jews out of the closet. They had been there, wielding power and influence in the fields of science and culture but they were rather distant from Israel," said one of the top Administration officials, who is very close to Clinton. "The main goal of our parents' generation was to become part of American society, perhaps even to become assimilated. It must be remembered that the Holocaust was also a traumatic event of American Jews. (4) They were unable to do anything for their brothers who were murdered. The Six Day War created tremendous identification with Israel among the American Jews. Its main importance was to create a deep link between the Reform Judaism, the largest Jewish tendency in America, and Israel." Today, when there is talk about 51 percent of interfaith marriages, the danger of assimilation appears to be even greater, yet when examining the phenomenon from close up one finds that the trend is opposite. More and more Jewish youngsters seek out the synagogue and Jewish education which are very good for advancing one's career. It is important that Israel do its bit in this area. Rehm Emmanuel is a living proof at that. Three months ago he was married in a Jewish religious ceremony to Amy, a young woman from a Christian family. She converted to Judaism and her Jewish name is now Yael. If Rehm had wanted to assimilate, he would not have married in a religious ceremony. Dennis Ross, so familiar and so friendly to us, has an even more amazing personal story. His parents were divorced when he was two years old. His contact with his father, the son of a cantor from Chicago, was almost totally severed. Two years later his mother married a Catholic and moved to California. However, she posed a condition for her new husband that her children were to have a Jewish education. Dennis grew up in a Reform Jewish environment and could have easily assimilated without remaining true to his roots. Although he attended a Reform Jewish school on Sundays, it was more of a social than a Jewish experience. But he did not forget and it was Israel which made a warm Jew of him. In 1970 he visited Israel for the first time with a group of American students in that glorious period of victory after the Six Days War. His connection with Judaism grew stronger ever since. Later he married Debbie who had had a traditional Jewish education in Jewish history. In her neighborhood she was very active in the synagogue. At a relatively mature age Ross began to study Hebrew, opened a prayer book for the first time and turned the prayer into a regular habit. His Jewish roots, he proclaimed, were most important to him and influence all his attitudes. His children follow in his footsteps. Almost every Saturday, if he is in Washington and is not hopping between Jerusalem, Damascus and Cairo, he goes to synagogue with his children. His eldest son has already celebrated his Bar Mitzva, and at the ceremony at the synagogue the ambassadors of Syria, Israel, Egypt and Jordan sat alongside each other. Can Israel really sense that at a distance of thousands of miles away there is a flourishing Jewish center that not only deeply admires and supports it, but also feels a shared destiny with it? There is no doubt about it, especially in the matters concerning its existence. All the Clinton's Administration officials dealing with Israel: Ross, Kurtzer, Indyk and Miller being just a sample, may have different views concerning the desired solution for the Israeli-Arab conflict but they are warm Jews in whatever they do. They sometimes disagree among themselves and they sometimes even disagree with the views of the Israeli governments, first and foremost since they are Americans and their primary loyalty is towards America. But they also firmly believe that the shared interests between the two states are fundamental and permanently enduring. It is because of this deeply held belief that they made a huge contribution to the fact that the Clinton Administration has fully adopted their approach on the issue of relations between the U.S. and Israel. Perhaps because of that belief they claim that they are upset about the Israeli violations of human rights in the Territories, and are even more upset when one or another Israeli minister takes an initiative concerning Iraq which does not accord with the American line. "If Israel wants American support for all its interests it also most coordinate its steps with us when this concerns the basic interests of the U.S.," one of the senior officials told me this week, following the news of the initiative of ministers Moshe Shachal and Binyamin Ben-Eliezer to add Iraq to the peace process. The many Jews in Clinton's Administration have not been created by design but their large number is not due to chance either. The American way of life supports the achievers. Despite the previous Jewish generation wish perhaps to assimilate, it gave its children the best education and not necessarily only in Jewish religion. It was especially their achievements and ability which, while preserving their Jewish roots, brought the present generation of Jews to their present positions of enormous influence. Dennis Ross, the founder of the theory of "the confidence building measures" between Israel and the Arab states, is a typical product of that Jewish generation in America. Their power might certainly boost the confidence of the Israeli Jews in the eternity of the Jewish people and dull their sensation of loneliness among the Arabs. Incidentally, although the Jewish power in the current Democratic Administration is huge, there are also many warm Jews heading for the top positions in the Republican Party. I met Paul Wolfowitz, for example, who was the senior deputy of the American Defense Secretary in the Bush Administration in the course of a visit to a Patriot missile base during the Gulf War. When he was received by the commander of the base, whose name was emblazoned over his chest, Lieutenant-Colonel Crimkowitz, his face glowed: "You're Crimkowitz. I'm Wolfowitz. We both have relatives here." That does not mean that they are all like that. Even in America there are and will be people with Jewish roots who do not support Israel, to say the least. Such was the former American Defense Secretary, Caspar Weinberger and such is Richard Hass, Martin Indyk's predecessor on the National Security Council. But now they are certainly exceptions. Perhaps the rabbi at Adath Yisrael synagogue intended to compliment Bill Clinton on his warm attitude towards the Jews and to strengthen the loyalty of his Administration Jewish officials to America. Rehm Emmanuel told me that Clinton's proximity to the Jews should be explained by his love for human beings which he exhibits on every conceivable occasion. Others mention the Jewish environment during his studies in university. I would add to that a mixture of various factors, of which certainly the most important is the great admiration for Israel he exhibited following the Six Day War. Clinton was also made conscious by his many Jewish friends about the distressing memory of the Holocaust, which still haunts the leaders of the U.S. Jewish community and about its importance for the continual support of Israel which is obligatory on the U.S. ------------------------------------------------- (3) Needless to say, these "Holocaust Memories" are a fake. The Israelis were not only not afraid but sure of victory before the Six Day War and of course Israel faced no real danger during the Gulf War. On the other hand, when the Israelis were really afraid during the 1973 October War, not of "a Holocaust" but of a stalemate affecting their interests. The American Jews swallowed all the stories about the supposed Israeli victory. (4) Actually it was not a trauma at the time when the Holocaust happened. The trauma developed much later, when the U.S. Jews acquired power. ------------------------------------------------- * 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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