Lessons of 1975–challenges in 1976

For Israel and the Jewish people 1975 could not have ended too soon. It was a year of diplomatic defeats for Israel and steam-roller victories for the Arab-Communist-Third World bloc. It was a year of economic crisis and political dissension in Israel which threatened to split the Alignment and the coalition government. It was a year when many friends of the Jewish State–including the United States, France, Sweden, Mexico, Chile and Brazil–left Israel in the lurch and capitulated to Arab, Communist and Third World pressure.

It was also a year of world wide economic crisis in which many Jewish communities were caught in an economic crunch; in which the plight of Soviet Jewry increased both in terms of a precipitous decline in emigration and in mounting harassment and arrests of Jews seeking to emigrate; and in which detente veered off course and threatened to collapse altogether over the issue of Angola.

The only bright moments for Israel and the Jewish world was the second interim Sinai accord between Israel and Egypt and the outpouring of international solidarity between Jewish communities and Israel over the issue of Zionism, Yet, even these positive developments were darkened by anxiety and fear regarding their long-range consequences. The ramifications of all these developments will be manifested in full scope in 1976 and confront Israel and world Jewry with some of the most crucial challenges and fateful decisions since the Jewish State came into existence.

NOTHING SEEMED TO GO RIGHT

In 1975 nothing seemed to go right for Israel. The deep-going economic crisis, reminiscent of the 1960s, provoked a series of major strikes. The government was under mounting pressure from doves within and outside the government to change its attitude toward the Palestinian issue. The illegal settlement move in Sebastia by the Gush Emunim and the compromise the government reached with the settlers created a furor in the Labor Party and caused Premier Yitzhak Rabin to threaten to resign.

The victory of a Communist Mayor in the Nazareth election brought a series of charges that the government had neglected the problems of Israeli Arabs and counter-charges that the Communists were preparing a base in that city for terrorist activities. Throughout all this, terrorist bombs ripped through downtown Jerusalem in July, October and November killing a total of 21 people and injuring 46, and terrorist activities in Tel Aviv and along the border were responsible for the death of some 24 Israelis and terrorists.

IRONIES AND PERVERSITIES

The year 1975 was also filled with a series of ironies and perversities for Israel and the Jewish world. The adoption by the General Assembly in November of a resolution equating Zionism with racism was a perversity because it was the culmination of a series of similar resolutions adopted in Mexico City at the International Women’s Year Conference. In Lima, Peru at a meeting of ministers of non-aligned states, in Kampala, Uganda at a meeting of the Organization of African Unity, which were convened to deal with the socially progressive issues involving the elimination of apartheid, colonialism and imperialism.

It was ironic that the groundswell of voices in Israel calling for talks with any Palestinian group that renounced terrorism and recognized Israel’s sovereignty was attributed in large measure to American pressure for accommodation with the Palestine Liberation Organization rather than an ongoing demand over the years by progressive and radical Israeli and Jewish political leaders and intellectuals. It was perverse that immediately after Israel signed the interim accord with Egypt in September the Jewish State was cast as the heavy in the Middle East by Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger and by major sections of the American news media.

Most ironic of all was that the universal solidarity of the Jewish people in the diaspora and Israelis was the result not of any internal intellectual or ideological development and Zionist consciousness-raising, but a reaction to the Assembly resolution.

NEW TWIST IN OLD ADAGE

The year 1975 also witnessed a new twist in the old adage that when American sneezes Europe catches pneumonia. This year, when America and Europe formulated ways to resolve the Mideast crisis Israel suffered from migraines headaches and vertigo. It was also a year in which history closed in on Israel and disclosed that no event anywhere in the world could occur without impinging on Israel’s interests and future. A case in point was the situation in Angola.

A decade ago, before the U.S. Congress was traumatized by American involvement in the Vietnam war and before the illegal global activities of the CIA came to light, a civil war in Angola and the involvement here by the U.S. and the Soviet Union supporting warring factions seeking state power might have been the subject for an objective and dispassionate study on superpower polities. Not so, however, in 1975. The rift between the U.S. and the USSR had widespread significance for the entire Jewish world.

Former Israeli Premier Golda Meir alluded to this when she called attention last week in an NBC "Today" program to the fact that Congressional refusal to support U.S. military aid for the anti-Communist factions in Angola raised a serious question about American security guarantees for Israel.

Earlier in the week, Kissinger told reporters at a press conference in Washington that Congress’ negative attitude toward U.S. aid in that West African country would be counter-productive and imperil American credibility in the international arena. He recalled that Congressional action in the form of the Jackson/Vanik Amendment to the trade bill caused the Soviet Union to repudiate its 1972 trade agreement with the U.S. and resulted in a outback of Soviet Jewish emigration, precisely the opposite effects, he noted, of what the J/V legislation intended to accomplish.

THE ANGOLAN CONNECTION

The conflict between the U.S. and USSR in Angola brought into sharp focus not only the economic rivalry between the two superpowers but also the economic rivalries and contradictions within the European Economic Community (EEC). It also revealed that the role of economics, ignored or minimized by many Israeli leaders and those of diaspora Jewry when dealing with vital political and diplomatic issues, was at bottom the motivating force at work in crystallized and compressed form at the United Nations and UNESCO.

The U.S. has extensive corporate interests in Angola and seeks to prevent the emergence of a government antagonistic to pro-Western regimes in Zaire and other African states. The areas which include South-West Africa and South Africa are rich in gold, iron, copper, uranium, diamonds, oil and petroleum and serve as relatively untapped markets for American trade and investments. In addition, a new radical regime in Angola would also pose a threat to South Africa and Rhodesia with which the U.S. has been friendly.

The Soviet Union, for its part, in addition to whatever material benefits it would reap with the emergence of a radical pro-Soviet regime in Angola, and whatever diplomatic advantages it can gain among. Third World countries after having been effectively dislodged and frozen out of the Mideast by Kissinger’s step-by-step diplomacy and Egypt’s shift toward the U.S. seeks strategic footing on the South African continent and possible naval bases at key Angolan ports.

INTERESTS OF THE EEC NATIONS

The situation in Angola and the rift between the U.S. and USSR brought to surface the economic interests of the EEC nations in developing trade and investments in Africa as a way of solving their own economic crises. Britain and France view the Angolan situation with nervousness and uncertainty, while West Germany agrees with the U.S. Administration’s view that the war in Angola is crucial to East-West relations.

On the whole, however, the EEC nations are loathe to become involved in the Angolan struggle. They do not want to lose their credibility with African and Asian states as maintaining a neutral stance regarding the struggles on those two continents or an independent position in relation to the U.S. on matters they feel not bound up with European or NATO security.

The Europeans, once having been the colonizers of these countries, understand better than the U.S. the seething resentment and hatred these countries harbor toward their former colonizers and allies. But the Europeans also understand the dire need of the Afro-Asian nations to develop their own technologies, which is impossible without the trade and know-how the West is able to provide.

This attitude, in part, explains why a number of European nations, especially Britain, were so critical of the attack unleashed against the OAU by Daniel Moynihan, the U.S. Ambassador to the UN, and by his scatter-gun attacks against African and Asian policies in the UN. The EEC nations are also relatively unconcerned with the issue of East West detente since most of them have trade relations with the USSR.

ECONOMICS IN THE UN

These economic developments also explain the real significance of the votes in the UN and UNESCO during 1975 regarding the anti-Zionist and anti-Israel resolutions and the real meaning of the "tyranny of the automatic majority." Israeli and diaspora Jewish leaders focused on voting patterns as if the UN represented a forum, albeit limited, for parliamentary activities. They overlooked the vital economic interests at play.

The tyranny of the automatic majority did not consist in the fact that the Arab-Communist. Third World bloc could muster a majority of votes at will but that in the last analysis they didn’t care about, nor did they need, the voting support of the Western nations. The West could play out its charade of voting against or abstaining on issues crucial to Israel because the interests of both the West and the bloc came together on the economic level. What counted, give or take a procedural approach or an incidental and secondary difference on short-range goals, was that the West and the bloc needed each other on the level of trade and capital investments.

France, for example, voted against the anti-Zionist resolution in the UN Third Committee on Oct, 17, but two weeks later authorized the PLO to open a bureau in Paris. Similarly. France voted against the anti-Zionist resolution in the General Assembly on Nov. 10, but a month later concluded an economic and arms deal with Egypt much to the satisfaction of both countries. In addition, Egypt’s plan to invest $8 billion in an armaments industry will also aid the British industry since Egypt place to buy helicopters and naval equipment from Britain.

Another example was Mexico’s seemingly paradoxical vote for the anti-Zionist resolution. Israeli and Jewish leaders attributed this to Mexican President Luis Echeverria’s ambition to become the next UN Secretary General. In fact, however, Mexico’s vote was due less to Echeverria’s ambition than to that country’s bid to be acknowledged as the representative of the Third World in Latin America. That was the essential reason for the strenuous campaign embarked on by Mexico to hold the International Women’s Year Conference in Mexico City.

THE FIVE MAJOR EVENTS

The year 1975 was marked by five major events that showed, above all, that Israel’s fate was not self-determined but more than ever dependent on the U.S. In March, the failure of Kissinger’s Mideast shuttle led President Ford to call for a reassessment of Mideast policy, which in practice, resulted in halting economic and military aid.

In September the Israel-Egyptian accord effectively isolated Egypt from the rest of the Arab world and brought Egypt closer to the U.S. In October, President Anwar Sadat’s trip to the U.S. was a triumph for American policies in further cementing relations with Egypt, while Sadat himself managed to secure for his country the certainty of large-scale economic aid, nuclear reactors for desalinating sea water and the possibility of obtaining military aid in the future.

Another event was the ongoing Arab boycott of American and European firms doing business with Israel or owned by Jews. This provided the Arab League boycott office with leverage to pit Jewish and non-Jewish business firms against each other and also tried, with not much success, to isolate Jewish firms from the rest of the economic structures.

But the crowning event, the one before which all others paled into relative insignificance, was the adoption of the anti-Zionist resolution. It set the stage for legalizing and rationalizing anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish activities in many of the countries that voted for the resolution. But, more than that, it marked an unprecedented move in which the national liberation movement of an entire people was condemned as a form of racism by an internationally constituted legal body, the same body that recognized Israel’s right to exist as a nation in 1947. The resolution was also unprecedented in that an ideology representing the highest collective political consciousness of a people was condemned as a form of racism.

KNEE-JERK REACTIONS

The resolution, although presaged by earlier ones during the year. stunned Israelis and Jews around the world. Reacting in knee-jerk fashion to this calumny. Zionist and Jewish organizations for the most part resorted to gimmicky and sententious ads in newspapers, shop-worn cliches and the manufacture of thousands of buttons.

They failed to seize the opportunity to present the historical contributions of Zionism as a movement of national liberation to other, more recently evolving liberation movements. They also failed to present Zionism as a body of theory dealing with the condition of Jews in the diaspora, the general nature and structure of diaspora reality and its role in developing Israeli society. Instead, the spate of ads was more calculated to win support for this or that Zionist organization than to deal with fundamentals.

The failure on the part of Zionist and Jewish leaders to rise to the occasion was not accidental. For years they had operated on the assumption that Zionism had been vindicated and absolved by history; their thinking on this issue had become stultified and cynical. In Israel, for example, the term zionist was invariably placed in quotation marks and used as a put-down.

The reaction to those countries that voted for the resolution, especially those who had been considered friends of Israel and some of the Third World countries, was one of unrestrained–and generally unthinking–fury. They were attacked as being anti-Zionist and anti-Israel without redemption. Yet the Zionist and Jewish leaders again overlooked reality.

Many of the Third World and Latin American countries voted for the resolution more in protest against the U.S. than against Zionism and Israel. By the same token, many of the countries that voted against the resolution did so not because they were in principle agreement with Zionism but to protest against the Arabs who had brought them to their knees during the oil embargo.

Because the Jewish and Zionist leaders were not prepared to deal with the issue of Zionism on a fundamental level they sought out heroes for acclamation and villains for condemnation. The arch-hero became Moynihan and the arch villain became Mexico. Despite the steadfast support by Moynihan for Zionism, many Israelis noted privately that his method of defending it gratified. American Jews but made it difficult for Israel to take a more balanced approach with some of the fence-sitting delegations in the UN.

The year ended with an embarrassing and disastrous series of snafus, on the part of the Israeli government to notify the Knesset and Jewish leaders abroad that it had reached an understanding with Mexico on the resolution in the General Assembly approving the Declaration of Mexico City.

PROSPECTS FOR. 1976

What are the prospects for 19767 Again, the state of the economy in the West will determine the political and diplomatic activities. According to forecasts by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), prospects for the industrialized nations are that they will move back to economic growth in the first period of 1976 but will falter later in the year.

The current balance of payments deficits for the 24 OECD-member states will nearly triple to $17.5 billion in 1976 from this year’s $6 billion and overall unemployment is expected to rise slightly above the present 15 million level by the end of 1976. The Economics Group of the Chase Manhattan Bank described the EEC countries as "recession-gripped" and suffering from an "economic slump."

As for the economic situation in the U.S. the Federal Board in mid-December reported that the output of factories, mines and utilities rose only 0.2 percent in November, providing further evidence that the economic recovery has slowed dramatically.

Thomas E. Mullaney, writing in the Dec. 14 issue of the New York Times, noted that forecasts depict a moderately expanding economy in 1976, with real growth rising on the order of 5 to 6 percent and inflation declining to the range of 6 or 7 percent. "If these prognostications prove to be accurate, there would be little cause for concern–except for the fact that the same computers are predicting an abnormally high unemployment rate of 7 percent or greater," he stated.

In addition, there are still a number of uncertainties and unknowns that will come into play next year: the extent of the financial crisis of the cities; the impact of labor negotiations; the Presidential election; the lagging world economy, and the mood of Congress regarding spending on foreign projects. Undoubtedly, all these developments will affect a wide number of issues involving Israel and the Jewish communities, not the least of which will be the extent of economic aid Israel can expect from the U.S. or American Jewry.

STRAWS IN THE WIND

In fact, Israeli Premier Yitzhak Rabin has already cautioned Israelis that economic aid will be rendered more difficult. Several days ago he stated that U.S. aid will not continue forever at a rate of 20 percent of Israel’s budget. "It is not a question of tightening our belts." he said. "They will be tightened for us." Some Israeli economists have noted that the austerity

In broad outline, the economic, political and diplomatic developments that began to unfold in 1975 will become more pervasive and relentless in 1976. The new year will begin with a major concern as to whether the Security Council debate on the Mideast will conclude with an amendment of Resolution 242 to take into consideration the resolution adopted last month in the General Assembly calling for the right of self-determination and national independence for the Palestinians and their right to "return to the homes and property from which they were uprooted."

THE PROBLEM OF LEADERSHIP

A decisive factor for Israel and world Jewish communities will be the role and nature of Jewish leadership. In 1975 many Jewish leaders, especially in this country, were under fire from grass roots Jewish communities for lacking creative and innovative responses required by the world situation. A great deal of dissatisfaction was expressed that little was done, or done haphazardly, to mobilize communities on vital issues. Jewish leaders were also berated for relegating much of their activities to issuing press releases and engaging in private consultations with Administration officials.

Jewish and Zionist organizations were also criticized for being unable to function at full capacity except under crises situations, failing to develop a corps of future leaders, duplication and overlapping of services, insufficient efforts to involve the membership in decision-making processes, and a general parochialism toward broader social issues.

The major ongoing need in 1976 will be to defend Israel against American pressure for more territorial concessions while demanding of the Arabs that, at most, they normalize their relations with Israel. There will also be the need to take Zionism out of the stalls of idolatry and present it as a vibrant, viable force for peace and progress in the Middle East, and to transform this year’s button Zionists into next year’s ideological and activist Zionists. There will be the need for heightened awareness regarding aliya and less bureaucratic impediments in this country and in Israel that turn off actual and potential olim.

In 1976, therefore, the Jewish and Zionist leaderships will require a major overhaul in their approaches to myriad issues and a basic retooling for the tasks that lie ahead. The alternative may be a series of setbacks for Israel and the Jewish people.

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