Histadrut Scored by Jewish Youths for Honoring Police Commissioner Rizzo
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Histadrut Scored by Jewish Youths for Honoring Police Commissioner Rizzo

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The Philadelphia Histadrut Committee was embroiled in a bitter controversy today following its $50-a-plate dinner last night honoring Police Commissioner Frank Rizzo and Mrs. Rizzo. While some 1200 Histadrut guests heard Mr. Rizzo hailed as a civic leader and staunch friend of Israel, an estimated 200 youths demonstrated outside the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel accusing the Commissioner of oppressing blacks and other minorities. The demonstrators included a radical Jewish group known as Na’aseh and members of Habonim and Hashomer Hatzair, Labor Zionist youth movements. A separate contingent of protestors included black militants and supporters of El Fatah, the Palestinian guerrilla organization. A counter demonstration was staged across the street by members of the militant Jewish Defense League who claimed that since Rizzo had been honored by other groups there was no reason to single out a Jewish affair for picketing. Some of the Jewish, pro-Israel youths carried signs reading, “Labor Zionism is Not Equal to Police Stateism.” “Israel Yes, Rizzo No,” and “Jews Live By Isaiah’s Laws, Not Rizzo’s.” Habonim did not participate officially in the demonstrations although its members were among the pickets. But it sent a cable to Histadrut Secretary General Itzhak Ben Aharon in Tel Aviv deploring the Philadelphia Histadrut’s choice of a guest of honor. Several Jewish demonstrators said they were angry because Labor Zionism was “being perverted” by Histadrut’s choice of honoring Mr. Rizzo.

(Yehoshua Levy, Treasurer of Histadrut in Israel who is presently visiting New York, told the JTA today that Histadrut campaign functions are selected by local committees without prior consultation with Histadrut in Israel which is not responsible for local selections.) A Histadrut spokesman told the JTA that the Philadelphia Committee had checked beforehand with local trade unionists and civic leaders and their concensus was that Mr. Rizzo fully deserved to be honored. He said that a number of black leaders attended the testimonial dinner and noted that the benediction was recited by a black Baptist minister. The Philadelphia dinner was intended to raise funds to build a “Frank and Carmella Rizzo Youth Center” in Israel. It included a tribute to Mr. Rizzo from Dr. Sol Stein, national director of the National Committee for Labor Israel. In Dr. Stein’s absence, the statement was read by Nahum Guttman of New York, director of public and community relations of the Israel Histadrut Campaign. It thanked Mr. and Mrs. Rizzo for “linking your lovely city with a great humanitarian institution in Israel.” A Histadrut spokesman conceded to the JTA that Mr. Rizzo was a controversial figure because he used “tough” methods against black militants and other groups. He claimed, however, that despite such tactics the Commissioner avoided bloodshed and “kept the city cool.” He said that Mr. Rizzo, who Mayor James H.J. Tate has reportedly designated as his successor in the next mayoralty race, “has a good record among many people.”


According to Harold H. Salkind, chairman of the Pennsylvania Histadrut Council and regional vice-president, the youths who demonstrated against Rizzo were “disgruntled Communist hippies.” He said that only “the lower class elements,” white and black, were against the testimonial dinner. Asked by JTA to explain who the “lower class elements” are, Mr. Salkind replied, “trouble-makers.” He insisted that the demonstrators were really opposed to the dinner because “the money is going for Israel, not the Arabs.” Mr. Salkind’s views were disputed by Mike Masch, a spokesman for Na’aseh, the “Radical Jewish Fellowship for Action.” Mr. Masch, who described his group as committed to Jewish affairs and strongly pro-Israel though non-Zionist, told the JTA that it took part in the demonstrations as a constituent of the Coalition of Organizations for Philadelphia Police Accountability and Responsibility (Coppar). He said that Coppar represented a broad spectrum of Philadelphians ranging from the militant Black Panthers and Young Lords to such groups as the American Civil Liberties Union. According to Mr. Masch, Commissioner Rizzo ordered police to employ violence against Black Panthers and other unpopular groups and has publicly denounced even non-militant civil libertarian organizations.

He noted that Commissioner Rizzo and his department are under a temporary restraining order issued by the U.S. District Court in Philadelphia enjoining them from infringing upon the constitutional rights of certain black and white minority groups. He said the order was the result of a suit brought by Coppar against Mr. Rizzo and the Philadelphia police department. Similar charges against Commissioner Rizzo and sharp criticism of the Histadrut dinner honoring him were contained in a letter published in the Nov. 20 edition of the Jewish Exponent, a weekly newspaper published here. The writer, Burton Caine, charged that “The youth of our community have been the constant target of Rizzo’s tactics and the award to the Commissioner must seem especially abrasive to them” because the proceeds are going toward the construction of a youth center in Israel. The Philadelphia Histadrut Committee nevertheless defended its choice. In a statement intended for distribution to the demonstrators it said, “The committee would under no circumstances select an honoree whose record is known to be inimical to the best interests of the American people or of Israel. Thus, no Fascist or Communist has ever been cited by the American Friends of Histadrut.” A Histadrut spokesman in New York said that the dinner honoring Mr. Rizzo had been decided upon a year ago.

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