Fulbright Raps ZOA Head; Hits Israel for Supporting Lebanese Christians
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Fulbright Raps ZOA Head; Hits Israel for Supporting Lebanese Christians

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Former Arkansas Sen. J. William Fulbright assailed Zionist Organization of America president Joseph P. Sternstein and sneered at Israeli support of Christians in the Lebanese strife. In turn he was criticized by Sen. Jacob K. Javits (R.NY).

The clash took place last night during a panel discussion on the Middle East in which former Undersecretary of State George Ball and international lawyer Rita Hauser also participated. Joseph Sisco, also a former Undersecretary of State, chaired the discussion at the Capital Hilton Hotel, which was sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative public affairs organization, and attended by 200 invited guests. The discussion was recorded for national electronic and print media.

Fulbright, for 15 years chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee before he was defeated in the Democratic primary in Arkansas in 1974, hit out at Sternstein while declaring that the government of Menachem Begin has “no intention of giving up territory.”


The transcript shows Fulbright saying, “The other day, when the President said something regarding the PLO–I forget exactly–when Rabbi Sternstein characterized it–he equated it with an attack similar to the attack of the Arabs at the Yom Kippur War. This is a very provocative statement, it seems to me.”

Sternstein had protested in a telegram to Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, with a copy to the White House, over the State Department’s announcement on Rash Hashanah eve that the “Palestinians must” participate in a Geneva conference. Sternstein likened the timing to the Arab surprise attack on Yom Kippur.

Discussing the fighting in Lebanon, Fulbright said “all the blame” cannot be attributed to the PLO. He noted that “the Israelis have been shelling it (Lebanon) and have positions in it.” Hauser retorted, “That’s not how the war started.” Fulbright then said: “They (Israelis) have certainly engaged in a great crusade to save the Christians. I don’t know when they became so deeply interested in the Christians but that’s what they profess.”

Laughter from the audience greeted these remarks. The audience, which included many Arabs, appeared mainly sympathetic to Fulbright’s views. Javits responded to Fulbright’s remarks by stating: “I don’t think that’s an argument worthy of you, Senator Fulbright.”

These exchanges took place in the first of two 45-minute periods of the discussion. During the intermission Sisco remarked that Fulbright’s allusion to the Jews and Christians was “nasty.” Hauser said she did not know that Fulbright “had that streak in him.” Ball did not comment when asked about it. None of the participants nor anyone in the audience brought it up again in the succeeding session.

Fulbright, while still in the Senate, charged in another discussion sponsored by the Institute six years ago that Zionists “control” the U.S. Congress. Last night, Fulbright, who volunteered his law firm serves Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, but contended he was speaking as an American, attacked the Israeli view and upheld the PLO.

Ball also supported PLO participation in the negotiations. When he advocated U.S. pressure on both Israel and the Arabs, Fulbright agreed. However, the forms of pressure on the Arabs were not described by them.

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