NEW YORK (Nov. 12)
Premier Menachem Begin of Israel paid tribute last night to Ze’ev Jabotinsky, the Zionist Revisionist Jewish leader who was one of the architects of the Jewish state, declaring that “without him, without his vision, without his thought and his suffering, without his fight, the State of Israel would not have come into being.”
Addressing more than 2000 people at a dinner at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel here, commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the birth of Jabotinsky, the Israeli premier said that Jabotinsky was his “spiritual father,” adding: “Our whole generation, and all the generations to come, owe a debt of gratitude to him, who led us and them from bondage to liberty.”
Begin’s 13-page address at the Centennial Dinner last night was conspicuous for avoiding any reference to contemporary political events. It was devoted from beginning to end to Jabotinsky whom Begin described as a “poet, philologist, statesman, sociologist; author, orator and soldier.”
Jabotinsky, Begin declared, “is a victorious personality. We owe him our ultimate salvation, when with the last vestige of our national strength we rose and fought and won in the unequal struggle of the few against the many, of the weak against the strong.”
The Centennial Dinner was sponsored by the Jabotinsky Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to perpetuating the ideological and literary legacy of Jabotinsky.
A dramatic presentation depicting the life of Jabotinsky was performed during the first part of the evening by Lee Strasberg, Roberta Peters, Jan Peerce, Otto Preminger and Ellen Burstyn. Sherry Lansing, president of the 20th Century Fox Productions, moderated the dramatic event.
A few hours before the dinner, Begin presented the Jabotinsky Centennial Medal to 100 distinguished Americans of all faiths and from all walks of life, including the arts and sciences, commerce and public affairs. The awards were conferred at a special ceremony in the Starlight Room at the Waldorf Astoria. They were given in recognition of distinguished service to the state of Israel and the Jewish people.
Among prominent Americans receiving the awards were: the Rev. Billy Graham, Sens. Henry Jackson (D. Wash), Jacob Javits (R.NY), and Daniel Moynihan (D. NY); Secretary of Commerce Philip M. Klutznick, Dr. Edward Teller, writers Leon Uris and Eli Wiesel, Danny Kaye, the comedian, Rev. Jerry Falwell, leader of the Moral Majority movement and Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, former chief of Naval Operations.
CHURCH REFUSES AWARD
One of the scheduled recipients, Sen. Frank Church (D. Idaho) rejected the award because Falwell was also being honored. In a telegram to Mordechai Hacohen, chairman of the dinner committee, Church declared that “Mr. Falwell has attempted to distort the American political process by imposing his views and morality as a political litmus test of a man’s moral fitness to hold office.” He added that “I have great respect for the integrity of the American political process and also for the rights, beliefs and prayers of the American citizens.”
Church, a liberal Democrat who was defeated for re-election on Nov. 4, also declared that “Our political and religious freedoms are cornerstones of our system and should not be undermined. Israel’s security and America’s freedom are inextricably bound together” and “I shall continue to fight for both.”
Hacohen told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that as of this afternoon he had not received any letter or telegram from Church. He added, however, “the telegram should not have been addressed to me in the first place. I was not the one who decided who received the awards.”
Hacohen stressed that he shared the views of Church as expressed in the telegram that was read to him over the phone by the JTA. “I deeply regret it that Church; who is a staunch friend of Israel, refused the award,” he said.
Falwell told reporters last night that he was a Zionist and friend of Israel for 25 years. He said support of Israel was one of the tenets of Moral Majority.
While Begin was honoring Jabotinsky at the Centennial Dinner two small demonstrations against his government’s policies took place outside the Waldorf Astoria.
Some 70 members and supporters of the Jewish Defense League demonstrated against the Camp David accords and Begin’s agreement to return captured territory to Egypt as part of the peace treaty. A few blocks away pro-Palestinians demonstrators shouted slogans against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. They carried on effigy of Begin with a placard hanging from his neck stating: “Palestinian blood is on Begin’s hands.”
Begin went today to Washington where he is scheduled to meet tomorrow with President Carter at the White House.