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Washington Critical of Johnson’s Request to Jews on Vietnam

Disagreement with President Johnson’s request for a publicity campaign by American Jewry in support of the Administration’s involvement in Vietnam was indicated here by a number of State Department officials.

Such officials thought the President was mindful of domestic political considerations. From a foreign policy viewpoint, however, they thought that purely “Jewish” expressions within the United States might injure diplomatic objectives in Arab states where the United States was trying to win support for its Vietnam stand.

It was pointed out that if Jewish personalities and leaders, including businessmen and Zionists, publish statements identifying themselves as Jews with the U.S. position on Vietnam, this might be exploited by Arab propaganda and Hanoi sympathizers to depict the war as “backed” by Zionism, reaction, colonialism, and imperialism.”

A view emerging in the State Department, in the wake of publication of the President’s request to the Jewish War Veterans, was that Jews should adhere as individuals to their Government’s commitments in Vietnam but that a special Jewish pro-Vietnam campaign might prove “counter-productive.”

One official explained that “expressions on Vietnam by known supporters of Israel would not make our task easier in the Middle East, North Africa, and large areas of Asia including Indonesia, Their views as individual Americans are welcomed but a special Jewish demarche would pose problems abroad.” Some Administration Congressmen, who advocate President Johnson’s Vietnam policies, took a similar position. They asked not to be quoted.

(In Israel, reaction to the report that President Johnson, in his talks with the delegation of the Jewish War Veterans, bracketed his friendship to Israel with his desire for greater Jewish backing of his Vietnam policy, has been moderate and meager. The press reacted mildly while awaiting clarification on exactly what had been said by the President.)

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