NEW YORK (Apr. 25)
Vice President Dan Quayle has sought once more to allay doubts and fears among Jews that the Bush administration has veered away from its strong alliance with Israel.
Giving the keynote address at the 49th annual commemoration here of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, Quayle, sporting a yarmulke, called Israel “our most dependable ally that we have in the Middle East.”
The phrase “never again,” he told the 4,000 people assembled at the Javits Convention Center, “is more than the vow of Jewish survivors. It’s the deep, unshakable resolution of the world’s sole military superpower, the United States of America.”
The vice president and his wife, Marilyn, sat on the dais at the convention center, watching as lines of children bearing candles approached the stage and illuminated a big Magen David.
He recalled how he and Marilyn had visited the site of the Auschwitz death camp in Poland last year with their two children, wrestling with a manner in which to explain what had happened there.
He spoke, too, of his friendship with Elie Wiesel, the Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor, who was seated next to them.
The vice president said he had told Wiesel he wants to “be remembered as a Christian who helped make Israel more secure and who helped make the world a little more tolerant.”
Speaking-next, Wiesel-pleaded with Quayle to “be our intercessor” in the international efforts to stop a German development company from razing and covering an old Jewish cemetery in Hamburg to construct a shopping mall.
“If they didn’t honor the living in Hamburg,” said Wiesel, “let them at least honor the dead.”
Quayle was introduced by Jewish Republican leader George Klein, who sought to explain to the vice president that his audience was composed of “people who remember what every survivor personally saw,” and that Judaism enjoins Jews to remember.
“The world was indifferent” to the plight of the Jews during World War II, Klein said, “because the British wanted no Jews to go to Palestine,” and America “didn’t want immigrants. We remember President (Franklin) Roosevelt’s indifference” to the Jews who needed saving, shelter and recognition.
“Mr. Vice President,” said Klein, “all the survivors have taken a sacred oath: We will never be silent again.”
Wiesel sought to point out America’s cumulative indifference to the plight of Jews through history. “How come, in all those years, the White House was so insensitive to Jewish pain?”
The specter of Jews being called upon to refrain from expressing their pain and for Israel’s need to be a secure haven for immigrating Jews was reaffirmed by Shoshana Cardin, chairman of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
She drove a polite but direct broadside at the mayor of New York, David Dinkins, who was seated on the dais and one of the afternoon’s speakers, along with New York Gov. Mario Cuomo.
“Here, in New York City, a tragic automobile accident” that occurred in the racially mixed Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn and resulted in an accidental killing of a black child “is equated with a deliberate, violent murder,” of a yeshiva student, she said.
“And otherwise audible and clear voices are silent or muted for the better part of several days — a serious lapse of moral courage and requisite civic action on the part of all involved.”
“Here in the United States,” she said, “anti-Semitic statements, whether by a valid presidential candidate or influential decision-makers, are largely unchallenged by those who shape public opinion.”
She also reminded her listeners that Jewish leaders had “immediately conveyed to President Bush, in clear and direct language, our concern at the forces inadvertently unleashed on Sept. 12,” after the president linked loan guarantees to settlements in the territories.
“And unlike 50 years ago,” she said, “President Bush apologized publicly and affirmed that which Vice President Quayle reiterated just three weeks ago: that we have every right to exercise our democratic prerogative to advocate to our elected officials, at all levels, those issues which are of deep concern to us as American Jews.
“For we have learned that silence is our enemy and advocacy is our strength,” she said. “We will not abandon any Jew in distress.”