Menu JTA Search

Jewish Activists Pleased over Bush Removal of Ethnic Coalition Member

Jewish activists from both political parties welcomed Vice President George Bush’s decision last week to dismiss a member of his ethnic campaign panel linked to anti-Semitic activities.

But they reserved judgement on two other members of the panel who are still being probed.

The Bush campaign on Thursday dismissed Jerome Brentar, co-chairman of Bush’s Coalition of American Nationalities, after a report by Larry Cohler in the Washington Jewish Week that said Brentar was active in efforts to defend John Demjanjuk.

Known as “Ivan the Terrible,” Demjanjuk was sentenced to death last spring by an Israeli court for war crimes he committed as a Nazi guard at the Treblinka death camp.

Brentar was also linked to the Institute for Historical Review, a group based in Torrance, Calif., that is a leader in the Holocaust revisionist movement.

Two other members of the nationalities coalition, Florian Galdan and Philip Guarino, are being investigated for anti-Jewish activities or links to fascist groups.

David Sandor, a spokesman for the Bush campaign, said Friday that in the cases of Galdau and Guarino, Bush will not decide on their fate “until there is substantiation” of the charges.

“If there is, we will obviously take the appropriation action at that time,” he said.

Sandor added that “the only real official statement” on the issue was from campaign Chairman James Baker III, who was quoted as saying “there is absolutely no room for anti-Semitism or bigotry of any sort in our campaign.”

Jacob Stein, former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and a Republican Jewish activist, praised Baker and Bush on Friday for quickly dismissing Brentar.

CHARGES ‘BEING CHECKED OUT’

He said that in the other two cases, “allegations are being checked out.” Stein said if charges against them are true, “those parties will be dismissed” as well.

Stein denied that the revelations may alienate Jewish voters in the same way that a prayer breakfast at the 1984 Republican National Convention did. The breakfast, attended by President Reagan, included prayers for Jesus and distribution of Bibles containing the New Testament.

Stein said that in this instance, the logic “should work just the other way. Here’s a Bush campaign which is truly committed to ending anti-Semitism and not tolerating bigotry in its midst.”

Marshall Breger, chairman of the Administrative Conference of the United States and a former Reagan White House liaison to the Jewish community, praised the Jewish Week for bringing the issue to the campaign’s attention.

He said that the matter of Brentar “was resolved before the article left the printing house Thursday and arrived in people’s homes for Shabbat. You cannot expect any quicker action than that.”

Breger called on Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis to condemn supporters in Chicago and elsewhere who are “associated with anti-Semitism.”

DUKAKIS ON ANTI-SEMITISM

Hyman Bookbinder, special adviser to Dukakis on the Middle East, human rights and the underprivileged, said Dukakis did condemn those associated with anti-Semitism in his speech at the B’nai B’rith Inernational convention Wednesday.

In that speech, Dukakis said, “It is up to all of us, public officials and private citizens, to speak out forcefully against anti-Semitism, racism, and every form of bigotry, whether in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles or New York, or anywhere else in America.”

Bookbinder said he was “glad” Brentar was dismissed, and expects that “nobody else is left with that kind of background” as a member of the committee.

He added that while it is “unfair” to suggest that Bush knew the backgrounds of the committee members, it is not unfair to ask why “they chose Bush as the person they want to support?”

NEXT STORY