NEW YORK (Aug. 22)
Governor Mario Cuomo told almost 3,000 delegates to the 71st Hadassah national convention that in the continuing Middle East crisis “what is at stake is not only Israel’s survival but also our own.”
Speaking at a special session of the gathering, Cuomo said that “Israel’s enemies recognize better than many Americans do … that attacks on Israel are also attacks on the interests of the United States.
“The terrorists who murder Israel’s children and athletes and diplomats — and those who give these terrorists the means to do so — understand that, ultimately, their goals transcend the Mideast,” Cuomo said.
“It is critical that our government affirm the basic nature of the confrontation in that region of the world,” the Governor said. “It is not Jew against Arab — it is those who cherish democracy as a way of life against those who would destroy democracy as a way of life.”
Cuomo called for the United States “to make it clear that Israel will have the economic stability and the weapons with which to defend itself” and “that so long as Israel’s enemies continue to deny her right to existand continue to prepare for war, Israel will maintain an absolute military superiority.”
STRAINS ON ISRAEL’S ECONOMY
The Governor said that the strains of ensuring her security places tremendous strains on Israel’s economy. “A nation of idealists — of poets, scholars and scientists — is forced to divert its attention and its resources to the ceaseless necessity of defending itself.”
“It is a crushing burden fiscally and economically, and a draining one spiritually,” Cuomo stated, “but there is no alternative.” As long as the threat to Israeli democracy continues,” he said, “the United States must help Israel to solve the problems which result from having to shoulder a military responsibility that belongs to us all.”
Cuomo also strongly denounced what he termed the “potent and dangerous force” of anti-Semitism, and the “twisting of the truth” by Israel’s adversaries who equate Zionism with racism.
He pointed out that the decade-long campaign to link Zionism and racism “is an operating principle of one of the world’s two superpowers, the Soviet Union.” The Governor said that to let such a distortion go unchallenged is to accept “the first supposition of totalitarianism — that words mean whatever those in control want them to mean … that separate is equal, that slavery is freedom, that the purposes of history require mass murder and genocide.”
WIESEL: ANTI-SEMITISM IS INCREASING IN THE U.S.
Elie Wiesel, too, warned that anti-Semitism is on the rise. Addressing the banquet session of the Hadassah convention, where he was presented with 1985 Henrietta Szold Award for distinguished humanitarian services, he said that “anti-Semitism thrives and is spreading in Western democracies as well as in the Communist world, and is becoming increasingly violent.”
He also cited his own experience-following his outspoken criticism of President Reagan’s trip to a cemetery in Bitburg, Germany where Waffen SS soldiers are buried earlier this summer as evidence, that people are becoming more secure in their hatred towards Jews.
Following the Bitburg incident, Wiesel said he received numerous letters filled with hate and threats, which the author described as not unusual. What is unusual, he added, is that “for the first time their letters were signed — names and addresses.”
“Anti-Semitism is on the rise in our country as well,” Wiesel said. He noted that recent polls indicate that Israel is losing ground in American public opinion. Traditional left-wing supporters of Israel dislike the country’s attempts at becoming a stronger and more secure nation, he observed, and added that extremists of both the left and the right have established a rare common ground in their opposition to Israel.
“Our own government,” said Wiesel, “has threatened Israel with economic reprisals for its position … Israel is the only nation in the world which is threatened militarily by her enemies and politically by her friends.”
The Henrietta Szold Award is named for Hadassah’s founder and is presented annually to an individual or individuals whose lives and works reflect humanitarian values. Wiesel was presented with the award by Freida Lewis, immediate past president of Hadassah and current national chairman of the Hadassah Medical Organization.
Almost 3,000 Jewish women representing 385,000 members in 1,700 chapters throughout the United States attended the four-day Hadassah national convention which closed at the New York Hilton yesterday.