WASHINGTON (Feb. 9)
A B’nai B’rith International spokesman said Thursday that his group will issue a retraction to 14,000 recipients of a fund-raising letter which asserts that “the Arab presence on the college campus is poisoning the minds of our young people.”
The spokesman, who declined to be named, said the group will issue a retraction striking the words “Arab presence” from the January letter and maybe replace it with “anti-Israel propaganda.”
But at a news conference later in the day, Abdeen Jabara, president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said he wanted other changes to be made in the letter, including a phrase warning that “Arab money is pouring into college campuses all over the United States.”
“Just turn it around — Jewish money pouring into college campuses,” Jabara said. “That would smack of the worst McCarthyite tactics we could conjure up.”
The B’nai B’rith spokesman said that the retraction letter may contain other changes.
The Arab group had written to B’nai B’rith criticizing the letter. In a Feb. I response, Thomas Neumann, B’nai B’rith’s executive vice president, said “we had reviewed the letter even before hearing from your organization.”
Neumann termed the phrasing “a lapse,” and said “we are doing everything within our power to make sure that (it) cannot and will not recur.”
Other steps Jabara said he has taken are asking the Internal Revenue Service Feb. 7 if the letter violates B’nai B’rith’s tax-exempt status and asking the chief U.S. postal inspector if the letter violated special postal rates accorded non-profit groups.
The ADC is also seeking a list of who received the fund-raising letter as well as the name of the contractor who composed it.
In addition, Jabara said B’nai B’rith has refused to meet with him to discuss the issue and is seeking a formal apology from Seymour Reich, B’nai B’rith’s president, who signed the letter.
Jabara also charged that “perhaps Mr. Reich is out of touch with many of the attitudes in the American Jewish community.”
But the spokesman noted that Jabara, in citing Jewish groups that criticized the letter, “mentioned fringe groups like New Jewish Agenda, so that does not necessarily mean that Reich is out of the mainstream.”
Jabara also criticized the letter for allegedly “talking about political discussion on the Arab-Israeli conflict as being anti-Semitic.”
“Trying to tar and feather people who engage in legitimate political debate with the brush of anti-Semitism is really an attempt to stir up ethnic hatred,” he asserted.