Jewish Leaders React to Reports of Anti-semites in Bush Campaign

Jewish leaders reacted with alarm Thursday following a report in the Washington Jewish Week that said Vice President George Bush has appointed an ethnic coalition for his presidential campaign that includes a Holocaust revisionist and people with fascist associations.

The leaders of the ethnic outreach campaign include:

Jerome Brentar, co-chairman, a Croatian American who has been active in groups that deny the Holocaust took place;

Florian Galdau, honorary chairman, a Romanian Orthodox priest described by Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal as New York chief of Romania’s anti-Semitic, pro-Nazi movement, the Iron Guard, which is still in existence; and

Philip Guarino, vice chairman, a Catholic priest who has been listed as a member of P-2, a conspiratorial Italian group led by longtime fascist Licio Gelli, with whom Guarino is close.

Late reports Thursday evening said Bush had dismissed Brentar from the campaign.

Bush’s American Nationalities Coalition also includes Laszlo Pasztor, who served in Hungary’s pro-Nazi, anti-Semitic Arrowcross regime as a junior envoy to Berlin, though he has since expressed regret over that period of his life.

Still others have been identified as longtime agitators against the Office of Special Investigations, the Justice Department’s Nazi-hunting unit, and have been quoted as making anti-Semitic statements.

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League issued a statement Thursday, calling for “an immediate investigation by the Bush campaign of the backgrounds of members of its ethnic coalition who are known anti-Semites and have been linked to Holocaust revisionist and anti-OSI activities.

“There is no place in any political campaign for anti-Semites. The league urges that these persons be summarily removed.”

Chris Gersten, executive director of the National Jewish Coalition, said, “Obviously it creates a very serious problem.”

He said that if some of the individuals mentioned as anti-Semitic are indeed so, “then I’m confident that the Bush campaign will make the appropriate decision.”

There was no official comment from the Bush campaign nor from the White House as of late Thursday afternoon.

Albert Vorspan, senior vice president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, attacked the Bush committee in a statement Thursday, saying Bush “should either renounce the entire committee or remove all the rotten apples from the barrel.”

Calling the composition of the committee “both outrageous and frightening,” Vorspan said “the suspicious will grow that a Bush administration will be soft on anti-Semites and intends to dismantle the Office of Special Investigations, thus putting an end to the honorable efforts by the United States government to apprehend and bring to justice the Nazi perpetrators of crimes against Jews and others during World War II.”

Henry Siegman, executive director of the American Jewish Congress, called the presence of this minority in the group a “shocking revelation. It suggests a high degree of either insensitivity or incompetence on the part of George Bush’s staff.

“I’m sure George Bush is personally unaware of the sordid personal history of these people. But now that he has been made aware of them, we have every right to expect him not only to remove these people but to repudiate what these people stand for.”

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