Congressman Warns of Disaster if Jews, Other Ethnic Groups Remain Silent on Foreign Policy Issues of
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Congressman Warns of Disaster if Jews, Other Ethnic Groups Remain Silent on Foreign Policy Issues of

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Representative Benjamin Rosenthal (D. N. Y.) said today that Jews and other American ethnic groups, by taking stands on foreign policy issues that concern them, create a national debate on these issues, many of them like the recent sale of AWACS and other military equipment to Saudi Arabia harmful to this country.

If the ethnic groups did not involve themselves in the issues, it would leave foreign policy to the arms industry, oil companies, the New York banks, which lend money to countries to buy arms and the foreign policy establishment within and outside the government, Rosenthal said.

“To do that would be a disaster for this country and the democratic institutions we all believe in,” he told the monthly public affairs forum of B’nai B’rith International.

Rosenthal’s talk was an attack on the article by Sen. Charles Mathias (R. Md.) in Foreign Affairs Quarterly last summer in which Mathias said, ethnic groups like Jews, Greeks and Irish Americans should not seek to influence foreign affairs. Instead, Mathias argued, only the President has the national constituency needed to take the national interests into consideration in developing foreign affairs.

“One does not have to be a part of the Greek or the Jewish, or the Irish lobbies, as some would call them, to take serious issue with any argument that deprives groups of Americans of a competency and natural right to debate and seek to influence their government,” said Rosenthal, an 18 year veteran of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.


He said that Jews were charged with “dual loyalty” in the recent AWACS debate yet they were only supporting the policy they expected from President Reagan as a result of the stand he took during last year’s Presidential campaign. Rosenthal said that in his nearly 20 years in Congress every President from Kennedy to Reagan had said during their campaign “what we want to hear about Israel.” But he said that once they get into office they become “Presidential” and become a “captive” of the “national security apparatus” which he described as the State Department, the Defense Department and the intelligence community.

He said the AWACS deal was proposed because the Air Force wanted to cut the cost ratio of the plane and the Saudis are the only ones with the money to buy them. But he said, once the proposal was supported by the President, it became a test of the President’s ability to conduct foreign affairs.

Rosenthal said the same thing happened to Greek Americans who saw Jimmy Carter as a candidate support their stand against arms to Turkey and then reverse himself when be became President. But Rosenthal said that the Greek Americans were not subject to the same kind of “vitriolic attack” as were Jews during the last few weeks.

Rosenthal said that Mathias, while ruling out a role for ethnics in foreign policy did not say anything about the major corporations who lobby for their views. He said the role of Mobil in the AWACS sale was not mentioned nor did the oil company in its numerous newspaper advertisements mention it was the purchasing agent for the Saudis.


Also not mentioned he said, was the role of such companies as Bechtel, the San Francisco engineering corporation, which does millions of dollars of construction work in Saudi Arabia and for whom Caspar Weinberger was a Vice President before becoming Secretary of Defense.

Meanwhile in Boston last Saturday night, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D. Mass.) made some of the same points in a speech there. “I reject absolutely the unworthy appeals which in effect question the patriotism of Jewish Americans,” he told the New England Chapter of the American Associates of the Ben Gurion University of the Negev.

“The Administration complains that Jewish Americans were vigorously expressing their views. But where were the Administration’s complaints about the corporations that lobbied hard for AWACS because of the business it would bring? Now why were there no complaints about Saudi Princes gliding through the halls of Congress?”

Kennedy stressed that “support for Israel is not an act of charity; it is a matter of national security.” He said “Israel has no need of fairweather friends,” a reference to Senators who at the last moment switched their vote to support the AWACS sale. “Neither Israel nor the United States will be served by politicians who profess one thing and do another,” Kennedy said. “And none of us can rely on conservatives proclaiming a biblical allegiance to Israel who can then be turned around in a single White House meeting.”

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