Special Interview Zacks Believes U.S. Committed to Israel’s Security but Troubled by Carter’s Policy

Gordon Zacks of Columbus, Ohio, vice-chairman of the United Jewish Appeal and chairman of its Study Conference currently in Israel, has “great faith and trust in the American people” and believes that the Carter Administration is genuinely committed to the security and independence of Israel even though he is seriously troubled by the drift of Carter’s policies in the Middle East.

Zacks, a member of the Board of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency and involved in the UJA for all of his adult life, told the JTA in an interview that the American people “are decent, compassionate and concerned” and his faith and trust in them allays some of the anxiety he admits he feels over the latest expressions of the Administration’s Mideast policy.

The “sense of moral decency” which permeated Jimmy Carter’s election campaign is still “operative,” Zacks said. The “commitment to the security and viability of an independent State of Israel are deep and strong-and I do not believe that Carter intentionally acts to harm Israel,” he said, though some of his policies are harmful, even though unwittingly so. According to Zacks, the previous Administration would “have nailed” the PLO after the drubbing it took in Lebanon. The present Administration, however, appears to have gone out of its way to hold open the possibility of future dealings with the PLO, Zacks contended.

DUTY OF THE U.S. JEWISH COMMUNITY

The duty of the American Jewish community, he said after meeting here with most of Israel’s top leaders, is “to understand the issues that divide the U.S. and Israel and to inform American opinion of the reasons behind Israel’s positions. The key issues in dispute are the Palestinian state and the role of the PLO. Zacks, like Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan, does not distinguish between a state and an “entity” which is the current American nomenclature.

Moreover, the Jewish community must explain what is essentially true and valid-that Israel’s opposition to a Palestinian-PLO state dovetails into genuine American interests in the stability of the region because, according to Zacks, a West Bank state, PLO-run, Marxist-oriented, “would surely be a destabilizing force… Americans have got to be made aware why this is so.”

Zacks spoke passionately about what he sees as an “Arab-inspired Third World-supported effort over recent years to rekindle the flames of anti-Semitism on a world-wide basis.” The American people must be alerted to this danger, he said.

“It is outrageous that then the ashes of Auschwitz are not yet cold, the Jewish people should again be forced to justify their right to exist. The crime they are accused of is being born Jewish. The unwillingness to recognize Israel’s right to exist, the challenge to its legitimacy, is simply a new form of the old disease. It is anti-Semitism directed against a whole people. We must appeal to the decency of people throughout the free world.”

“But at the same time,” Zacks said, “We do not need the approval of others. “I exist-therefore I am, as an individual and as a State.” He conceded that the Palestinians’ case for self-determination has a wide appeal among the American people, and this certainly poses a problem for Israeli and pro-Israeli leaders trying to explain the dangers of PLO nationalism. He stressed that the “PLO murderers” have no appeal whatever and Israel’s refusal to deal with them is well understood.

OTHER AREAS OF CONCERN

Zacks faulted President Carter on one of the President’s own avowed top priorities, human rights, which figured so prominently in his campaign and in the early part of his Presidency. Why, he asked, does the Administration not proclaim a total boycott of Idi Amin’s Uganda where human rights are desecrated on a gargantuan scale? “Carter has betrayed his campaign commitments,” Zacks charged.

In a Jerusalem Post interview, Zacks was openly critical of the Jewish Agency, saying it should be “less political” and that merit should be the sole criteria for appointment and advancement in the Agency.

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