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Jewish Influence in the U.S.

American Jewish influence in Washington is strong and growing because U.S. Jews are “educated, affluent, intense, cohesive and articulate” and perhaps most important-“because we will fight for Israel’s security without regard to how the struggle might affect our own status as a minority in America.”

This view was expressed by Howard Squadron, president of the American Jewish Congress, at a public forum here on “The White House and American Jews Politics and Pressures” sponsored by the Congress at the Van Leer Jerusalem Foundation. The event served as a curtain-raiser for the organization’s 15th annual American-Israel “Dialogue,” which brought together two dozen American Jewish and Israeli intellectuals, rabbis and communal leaders earlier this month.

Squadron cautioned, however, that “we win some and we lose some and “we have no assurance that we will prevail when we challenge the White House.” Despite this fact, however, the AJ Congress leader said, American Jews were still courted by the Carter Administration “not only for our own support but for our influence on other Americans.” He noted that when the White House launched its drive to win public support for the SALT II treaty, Jewish organizational leaders, including himself had been among the first to be invited to Washington to hear the Administration’s view and to bring it to the rest of the country.

Commenting on American Jewish activity in support of Israel, Squadron said: “Israel’s security-not our own safety as a Jewish community-is the determining factor.”

At the same time, he added, “we would hope to be able to advise the Government of Israel how best to present its case. If we can do that, we can serve Israel most effectively and our own country as well, for we share the fundamental conviction that a secure Israel serves America’s best interests.”

“DIALOGUE” THROUGH THE PRESS

Simcha Dinitz, Israel’s former Ambassador to the United States, told the forum that while he favored “honest and blunt dialogue” between American Jews and Israel, “I do not believe it should be conducted by open letters released to the New York Times.” Dinitz, now assistant president of Hebrew University, said he agreed neither with those U.S. Jews who felt Israel should be free of criticism because “it’s your country” nor with those who insisted an the right to participate in making policy for the Jewish state because they were Jews.

His own view, Dinitz said, was to encourage free and uninhibited criticism of Israeli policies by those who felt criticism was necessary but that it be done “not publicly through the newspapers but through direct conversations with Israel government officials.

“There is no lack of opportunity for American Jews to make their views known here,” Dinitz said, “Israel is not a closed society. Channels are available and open for giving us your advice. But you will not strengthen the Jewish cause by converting your opinions into a public argument–and you will not enhance our security by concentrating on secondary issues.”

The public display of American Jewish differences on secondary matters, Dinitz said, in an apparent reference to the dispute over Elon Moreh, “serves only to make a Jewish consensus on the major issues–such as the dangers of a Palestinian state and the indivisibility of Jerusalem–more difficult to impress on the makers of public policy and public opinion.”

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