Renaming of Street Opposite UN to Zion Square Defended, Attacked

A public hearing today by a City Council committee to rename a street across from the United Nations as Zion Square drew nearly 20 persons speaking in its favor and only two against. The Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Committee, which deals with street name changes, will act on the proposal later but approval by the full City Council is expected since Council President Paul O’Dwyer and 40 of its 43 members have endorsed it.

Councilman Henry J. Stern of Manhattan, who introduced the measure last November after the United Nations adopted the resolution equating Zionism with racism, today moved that Zion Square be located on the west side of First Avenue between 42nd and 43rd Streets in front of the Isaiah Wall. He changed the location from his original designation three blocks north after the New York City Commission for the United Nations had objected, citing among the reasons that two major firms would have to change their stationary.

Mrs. Frances Loeb, New York City Commissioner for the UN, said she approved the change and that it also had the endorsement of Daniel P. Moynihan, the U.S, Ambassador to the UN.

AFFIRMATION OF RESPECT

Stern said the naming of the street as Zion Square was an “affirmation of New Yorkers’ respect for the aspirations of the Jewish people for a national homeland.” Councilman Walter Ward of Queens, chairman of the committee, said that “speaking as a non-Jew, when you attack Israel you attack all of us.”

Speakers representing Jewish organizations and themselves as individuals applauded the action as a means of answering the anti-Zionist resolution and of affirming support of Israel.

Jack M. Elkin, chairman of the New York Metropolitan Council of the American Jewish Congress, said that “Zion Square will demonstrate that the people of the City of New York repudiate and reject the UN’s condemnation(of Zionism).” He said the creation of a Zion Square in New York will be the answer to the Palestine Liberation Organization’s terrorist bombing of Jerusalem’s Zion Square last fall.

Norman Kaish, a Queens resident, said that he would provide all the money needed for the changeover so that there could be no claim that it was costing the city money during this time of financial crisis.

AND THEN THERE WERE TWO

The only opponents to the measure were Dr. T.M. Mehdi, secretary general of the Action Committee on American-Arab Relations, and Alfred M. Lilienthal, chairman of the American Council on the Middle East.

Mehdi called the Council’s proposed action an “emotional reaction” which was not only “childish” but “also obscene.” He said if the Council goes through with the plan the south-west corner of First Avenue and 44th Street should be named Palestine Liberation Organization or Palestine Square because if peace comes to the Mideast it must come through talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

Lilienthal, a long-time opponent of the State of Israel and formerly connected with the American Council for Judaism, accused the City Council of declaring war on the UN, the Arab states and the Third World by its action. He accused the U.S. of subordinating its foreign policy for domestic interests and said that when the American people realize the cost of U.S. support for Israel he fears it will result in a backlash of anti-Semitism.

Lilienthal got into a dispute with several Councilmen when he accused them of interfering in American foreign policy. Ward said councilmen who spoke out were representing their people.

Earlier, O’Dwyer told the committee that the “one humanitarian effort of the UN which is worthwhile was the establishment of Israel.” Rep. Edward Koch (D.NY), whose district includes the UN, said through a representative that Zion Square will refilled UN delegates as they walk through it “of how low the United Nations has fallen in the esteem of decent, moral persons in the city of New York, or the United States or everywhere democracy rules.”

Other proponents included New York State Supreme Court Justice Abraham Multer, president of Bnai Zion; Rabbi Judah Cahn, president of the New York Board of Rabbis and representatives of Yavneh, the Zionist Organization of America, Union of American Hebrew Congregations, National Council of Young Israel, Pioneer Women, and the Synagogue Advisory Council of the United Jewish Appeal-Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York.

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