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Ex-Rep. Charlie Wilson dies at 76

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Charlie Wilson, the U.S. congressman who used his Israel connections in his bid to arm the Afghan resistance in the 1980s, has died.

Wilson died Wednesday at a hospital in his native Lufkin in east Texas of a heart-related disease. He was 76.

Wilson’s exploits, as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee, in securing funding for Afghans battling Soviets in the 1980s became the stuff of a book and a Hollywood movie, "Charlie Wilson’s War."

His credibility as a solidly pro-Israel congressional appropriator gained him entry into Israel’s defense establishment, which he drew into a complex plan to run high-tech weapons to the rebels.

"Only someone with Charlie Wilson’s charisma and talent could tie the many competing interests that he worked with together around common causes," the National Jewish Democratic Council said in a statement. "Of special importance to the Jewish community was his staunch support for Israel, as manifested in part by his long and close relationship with senior Israeli diplomat Zvi Rafiah — which  was profiled in detail in the movie ‘Charlie Wilson’s War.’ "

Wilson retired from Congress in 1996, but remained close to the Jewish establishment. He was a guest in 2008 at the NJDC reception at the Democratic convention in Denver.

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