NEW YORK (Aug. 30)
Sen. George McGovern (S.D.), the Democratic Presidential nominee, accused President Nixon today of arming Israel only to “expel” the Soviets from the Middle East and of maintaining “silence” on the plight of Soviet Jewry. Addressing an audience of 700 at Congregation B’nai Jeshurun at a meeting sponsored by the New York Board of Rabbis, the candidate charged, as he has before, that the Nixon administration armed Israel only after a “long and dangerous delay” and “voted with the Soviet-Arab bloc to condemn Israel five times in the United Nations in the past four years.”
Concurrently, McGovern said, the administration has in the past four years sought big-power imposition of a Mideast peace, pursued Secretary of State William P. Rogers’ “ill-conceived scheme” for nearly total Israeli withdrawal, and made Israel a “political football.” It is a “disservice” to Americans and Israelis to make Israel’s security “a partisan issue,” McGovern declared, adding that he himself has favored an “on-going” program of aid to Israel “based solely on the military situation of the day.”
Nixon has been “silent” on Soviet Jewry, McGovern declared, while he himself “would have told the Russians in the strongest possible terms” that Americans fully support equity for Soviet Jews. Nixon, said McGovern, “apparently concurred” with the Kremlin leaders that the Soviet Jewry issue is an “internal (Soviet) matter,” and the result has been that the status of Soviet Jews has “dramatically deteriorated” since the Moscow summit in May, what with “ransom charges” being imposed on educated would-be emigrants, “long prison terms” being meted out to activists, and the exit rate being “sharply reduced since the first of July.”
SOVIET JEWRY NOT INTERNAL MATTER
McGovern declared that the “struggle of Soviet Jewry to be free is the struggle of all those who believe in freedom and dignity around the world.” The situation is not an internal matter, “anymore than what was going on in Germany in 1930 was an internal matter,”
The South Dakotan received more-than-usual applause: When he scored Nixon for vetoing the child-care bill but backing an antiballistic missile system “that we don’t need”; when he said it was wrong to compare aid to the “corrupt” Saigon regime with aid to Israel, “which has the respect and support of its own people,” and when he said he hoped to be elected.
STOP JEWISH NUMBERS GAME
Introducing McGovern, Rabbi William Berkowitz, president of the New York Board of Rabbis, assailed talk of “Jewish vote,” declaring: “Let’s stop this game of Jewish numbers….They (Jews) will always vote according to personal conscience.” United States support for Israel, he said, “is not a matter of politics; it’s a matter of principle.” The rabbinical leader decried the “climate of innuendo and distortion” in the campaign on the issue of Israel.
At a press conference afterwards, Rabbi Berkowitz declined to endorse or reject McGovern’s candidacy but called his speech “a very perceptive presentation” that “didn’t duck the issues.” Contending that he was “sad to see Israel being politicized,” he downplayed candidates’ shifts in policy as less important than “the total picture.” It would be “foolish, impractical and dogmatic” never to change one’s mind.” The New York Board of Rabbis has also invited President Nixon to address it.