Council for Judaism Fights Against Israel Plank in Democratic Platform
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Council for Judaism Fights Against Israel Plank in Democratic Platform

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A clash between an anti-Zionist witness and members of the Democratic Platform Committee today highlighted testimony before the committee which included discussion of proposals for an Israel-Arab plank, ratification of the United Nations Convention on Genocide, the situation of Soviet Jewry, and other matters of Jewish interest. One of the Committee’s panels is holdings on these issues, preparatory to the drafting of the entire Democratic platform, to be considered at the party’s national convention in Atlantic City next week.

Leonard R. Sussman, testifying for the anti-Zionist American Council for Judaism, alleged that the Johnson Administration had rejected “the Jewish people concept” in domestic and foreign affairs. He cited a State Department expression of last April 20 in this connection, and asked that the platform include a plank reaffirming this alleged stand by the Government.

Rep. Emanuel Celler, New York Democrat, a member of the Platform Committee, attacked the Sussman allegations. He cited a subsequent State Department expression on the same subject, addressed to Rabbi Philip S. Bernstein, of Rochester, N.Y., endorsing a statement by Rabbi Max Nussbaum, president of the Zionist Organization of America. The State Department had termed Rabbi Nussbaum’s assertion, that the ACJ had put up “a straw man,” as effectively resolving any possible misunderstanding.


The Platform Committee was also informed by Rep. Celler of the “exposure” and denunciation of the ACJ by the three major branches of the Jewish faith, issued by the New York Board of Rabbis. A heated situation developed in the hearing room. Spectators in the hearing room became disorderly and shouted demands to be heard by the committee. Acting Chairman William Benton, of Connecticut, called the hearing to order and refused to permit anyone to participate who was not a member of the committee or a witness.

Dr. Mohammed T. Mehdi, secretary-general of the Action Committee on American-Arab Relations, later told the press that he attended the hearing to support the ACJ position and to assist Mr. Sussman. He charged that Rep. Celler spoke as an “Israeli agent,” but asserted that Mr. Sussman “speaks as an American.” (Action by U. S. immigration authorities for deportation of Mr. Mehdi was sought recently when he intervened previously in the U.S. pre-election activity, involving the New York Senate race. He is a citizen of Iraq and an agent of Arab interests.)

John E. Powers, of Massachusetts, a member of the Platform Committee, told Mr. Sussman, that “I am not of your faith” but felt Israel merited America’s full support, including military backing. Mr. Powers said he was not concerned with the ACJ’s ideas on Zionism because the pro-Israel plank was in America’s own interests, and did not pertain to Zionism. Mr. Powers charged that the witness was anti-Israel when he refused to endorse a plank which Mr. Powers proposed.

The Powers plank included a statement that “as the only true democratic bastion in the Near East, Israel warrants and must have the continued financial, military and moral support of the leader of the democratic world, the United States. The Democratic Party pledges that support.”

Mr. Benton expressed assurance in the course of the hearing that “I am sure you will find the committee sympathetic to the protection of a free and independent Israel.” The disorder caused in the hearing room by supporters of the ACJ was considered by observers to be unprecedented and lacking in the decorum which, usually prevails.


Louis E. Shector, of Baltimore, testified next on behalf of the National Community Relations Advisory Council, his testimony pertaining to Genocide pact ratification. However, Mr. Shector noted the preceding heated exchange, and opened his testimony with support of the position of Rep. Celler and Mr. Powers, and voiced his own repudiation of the ACJ. He advocated “a plank urging speedy ratification of the Genocide Pact by the United States Senate.”

Mr. Shector said it was difficult to understand why the Senate Foreign Relations Committee did not send the Genocide Pact to the full Senate for a vote. He said that “after 13 years of inexcusable delay, let us have action.” He added “It there is one misery that is gnawing at the conscience of all men of good will, it is that the nations made it too easy and too cheap for the Hitler murderers to annihilate innocent millions.”

Rap. Leonard Farbstein, New York Democrat, testified earlier that the platform should seek Arab-Israel peace, limit American assistance only to peaceful nations, support Congressional backing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and voice protest against Soviet anti-Semitism.

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