NEW YORK (Oct. 2)
The Issue of Israel’s defense and security preoccupies the Presidential candidates and their Jewish audiences whenever they are in proximity to each other.
President Carter, Republican Party standard bearer Ronald Reagan and Independent candidate John Anderson assure and reassure Jewish audiences of their unyielding support for Israel, give or take a nuance or two. Jewish audiences, in turn, indicate full, partial or hesitant support for one or another candidate depending on those nuances.
Many non-Jews feel, and many Jews also leave the impression, that the “single issue” of any real interest to American Jews and the “single issue” to which the Presidential candidate must repeatedly address themselves is that of Israel. Many Jewish spokespersons give credence to this by either ignoring or minimizing other vital foreign and domestic issues of concern to American Jews both as Jews and as Americans.
ISRAEL IS NOT A ‘SINGLE ISSUE’
However, the focus on Israel does not make the electioneering, either for Jews or the candidates, a “single issue” campaign”. The ways it is handled, does. When all the posturings and genuflections by the candidate’s toward Israel are over and done with, and when all the correct formulas and shibboleths are weighed in, the issue of Israel should be seen, properly, as a broad category within which vital elements of American foreign policy are subsumed.
Some related components, such as assuring future oil supplies to the U.S. and its allies and Soviet expansionist plans in the Middle East, are Invariably stressed by the candidates and Jewish spokespersons in connection with the issue of Israel. But other components which should be included are merely alluded to in passing or routinely ignored both by the candidates and the Jews.
It should be incumbent on the candidates to state where they stand on such related issues as the violation of human rights in Arab countries where dissidents, minorities, women and Jews are oppressed; the consequences of providing material aid to unstable and autocratic regimes; ways to help countries that are still feudal achieve industrialization and economic diversification to bring them into the 20th Century; programs to offset Soviet economic penetration; and ways to combat disease and illiteracy.
All these issues should be discussed and programs formulated because the future of Mideast peace and Israel and American contributions to both can be stymied unless there is a concerted effort to tackle these problems. After all, American aid is going to many of the Arab countries where these problem are rife and the question of future aid will be forced by the next Administration.
DOMESTIC ISSUES OF VITAL CONCERN
But there are other issues which need to be raised by American Jews and which the candidates must be asked to answer. These issues, of vital concern to the Jewish community, relate to the social and economic developments which create and reinforce tensions between classes and ethnic groups, as well as the fallout in the American economy resulting from, among other developments, heightened Arab financial activities in American conglomerates and banks and Arab financial arrangements with universities for special centers, study programs and chairs.
The issue of the American economy, like that of Israel, also contains a host of components. For example, a debilitated economy creates not only social problems at home but makes American aid to Israel more precarious. Too many Americans are angry over skyrocketing inflation, unemployment and spiraling taxes that are eroding their standard of living. More and more Americans maintain that defense spending and foreign military and economic aid are biting into their weekly paychecks.
EMERGING MOOD OF NEO-ISOLATIONISM
As a result, there is an emerging mood of neo-isolationism among ever brooder layers of American workers and the lower middle class which expresses itself in a feeling that their rights, beliefs and value systems are being trampled upon and destroyed by an indifferent federal government.
There is a greater demand, therefore, for less government spending abroad and more government saving at home. There is an increasing demand, especially by those victimized by the recession and inflation, for the federal government to deal with these vexing problems rather than with the problems of other countries.
All this is taking place within the context of a steady drift toward conservatism. One of the more ominous manifestations of this is the Fundamentalist Evangelical movement which calls itself the Moral Majority, which leaves open the question of who comprises the immoral minority. The strength of the Moral Majority movement can best be judged by the fact that a decode or so ago many of the Moral Majority people were involved in the Moral Rearmament movement. It seems that they managed to rearm.
The Rev. Jerry Falwell, founder of the Moral Majority, claims a membership of 400,000. Falwell also claims that this movement is no longer confined to the “bible belt,” but has a following in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Boston, New York City and Chicago. He also claims that his movement registered three million voters last year. In addition, even sections of traditional liberals have adopted what amounts to a neo-isolationist position in the belief that American intervention would lead to more Vietnamese.
CANDIDATES MUST BE PRODDED
Black and Hispanic organizations and spokespersons have no qualms about demanding that the Presidential candidates make public their views on how to deal with the various socioeconomic issues of concern to them. But where are the Jewish organizations and spokespersons who are making similar demands? Where, in fact, have all the issues, other than Israel, gone?
One major Jewish organization, for example, recently listed a number of key foreign and domestic issues that will have a bearing on how Jews vote in the Presidential election next month. On the domestic scene the issue noted was: “To what extent will each candidate support equal opportunity in employment and education for all Americans, regardless of race, color, sex or creed? In short, does the candidate support or appose quotas?”
This is, without doubt, an important issue and the candidates should address themselves to it. But this barely skims the surface and hardly begins to touch the concerns of the majority of American Jews. In fact, the issue of quotas is genuinely a “single issue.” problem. What about:
Economic aid for some 800,000 Jews who live at or below the poverty level defined as an income of $6600 for a family of four.
Funds for job training programs for Jews who lack the requisite skills to enter into a highly technological labor market.
Combatting inflation and recession through increased production and prompting more effective use of the productive capacity that now lies idle. According to the Federal Reserve Board, the nation’s factories have been operating at only 75-80 percent capacity during the last nine months. If the government can take measures to assure effective use of productive capacity during wartime, why can’t it do the same during peacetime?
Action to locate and prosecute Nazi war criminals living in the United States and deportation for those found guilty of war crimes.
Tough laws, with enforcement powers, against hate-mongering and anti-Semitic groups.
Tough laws, with enforcement powers, to halt the mailing of hare literature.
Tightening regulations to prevent on Arab takeover of banks, control by the Arabs, especially Kuwait, of some of the country’s oil company giants, and Arab stock purchases in major industrial firms. According to a recent report, a former American broker who now operates his own money investment firm in Kuwait said that 80 percent of the $100 million be manages for Kuwaiti businessmen is in U.S. equities, and of that 85 cents of every dollar is in U.S. energy stocks. That, he said, compares to only 25 cents of every dollar being invested in U.S. energy companies by investors in the U.S.
The consequences of high unemployment with its ensuing social tensions which could pose a danger to Jews in such states as New York, California, New Jersey, Florida, Illinois, Michigan and Ohia. These states have some of the largest concentrations of Jews, Blacks, Hispanics and other minorities.
It is urgent that these domestic issues, among others, be brought in to focus and onto the center stage. It is imperative that the Jewish community make known its concern about these issues and that the candidates have more than a glib reply. Mounting tensions and ensuing social violence bode ill for Jews in America — as well as for Israel. The real single issue, therefore, is to make all the issues which now remain implicit, explicit.