WASHINGTON (Apr. 26)
Several thousand persons yesterday filled Lafayette Park across from the White House in a “rally for the conscience of America” to demand that the United States keep its commitment to the security of Israel.
“As Americans we stand just opposite the White House, the heart and soul of America, to express our deep outrage concerning our government’s abandonment of Israel and the ideals of America,” said Rabbi Avraham Weiss, co-chairman of the Coalition to Stop the American Abandonment of Israel, the rally’s organizer.
Rabbi Solomon Sharfman, former president of the Synagogue Council of America and the Rabbinical Council of America, said that “we have come here to appeal to the conscience of America to prevent the dream of Camp David from becoming a night – mare.” He said that the U.S. has a “moral commitment” to the security of Israel and it should demonstrate this commitment by “deeds” not “misguided… even handedness.”
The persons attending the rally held a few hours after Israel had officially withdrawn from the Sinai, came for the most part from the New York, Baltimore and Washington areas. President Reagan was in the White House at the time but could not hear the speakers. However, shortly before the rally began, several demonstrators held up signs pointed at the White House.
REAGAN URGED TO KEEP PROMISES
Some of them read: “Israel kept its promises keep yours, President Reagan”; “Jordan is a Palestinian state”; and, “Weinberger — America is not for sale.” The latter referred to Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger’s efforts to sell weapons to the Arab countries. Some of the participants also carried posters from Reagan’s 1980 presidential campaign with his name in Hebrew letters on the back of which they printed the sign, “Keep your promises.”
Weiss noted that the President last week “led a moving tribute to the Holocaust victims,” and declared that “part of the Holocaust is to tell the U.S. government that the best and only memorial to the six million is a strong State of Israel.”
WILL MAKE “A BLOODY NUISANCE OF OURSELVES”
Weiss said that “the time for seminars, the time for committee meetings is over. We shall, in the words of Howard Squadron, chairman of the Conference of Presidents (of Major American Jewish Organizations), make a bloody nuisance of ourselves.” He urged the gathering to take a solemn pledge that unlike the situation during the Holocaust, “never, never shall we be guilty of the sin of silence again” and if the Administration’s commitments to Israel are not carried out the group will be back again numbering “tens of thousands.”
District of Columbia Councilman Jerry Moore, pastor of the 18th Street Baptist Church, a Black leader here, declared that “Israel must not be cast aside in favor of oil…strategic agreements…political policies.” Another speaker was the Rev. Isaac Rottenberg, chairman of the National Christian Leadership Conference in Israel. Other participants included Peter Goldman, of Americans for a Safe Israel and Rabbi Haskell Lookstein of New York.
The Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington urged Washington area Jews to attend the rally but it did not endorse or sponsor it. The Presidents Conference, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council had advised the local Jewish Community Council that they neither supported nor opposed the rally.
Before the rally, the audience was entertained with Hebrew songs by youngsters from the Hebrew Academy of Greater Washington. The children also led the audience in the singing of the national anthem and Hatikva. After the rally, many of the demonstrators joined the leaders of the coalition in crossing Pennsylvania Avenue and marching past the White House. At the gate, a shofar was sounded and a letter to President Reagan and a Book of Psalms were delivered.