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Arafat Gets Indian Peace Prize, to Jewish Organizations’ Dismay

January 22, 1992
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An Indian organization’s presentation Tuesday of a new peace prize to Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasir Arafat has drawn sharp protest from Jewish organizations and a newspaper serving the million-strong Asian Indian community in the United States.

Arafat received the first Indira Gandhi Award for International Justice and Harmony of the Indian Council of World Affairs at a ceremony Tuesday in New Delhi.

Malcolm Hoenlein, executive director of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, pointed out that the award is named for India’s two-time prime minister, who was “cut down by a terrorist’s bullet” in 1984.

“Yasir Arafat is the world’s leading terrorist,” said Hoenlein, who administers the umbrella group of 48 national Jewish organizations. “Honoring him for his contributions to ‘international justice and harmony’ is a bizarre travesty that reminds one of George Orwell’s ‘1984,’” he said.

Rabbi Alexander Schindler, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, said that the group presenting the award “has brought shame to itself, dishonored the name of Gandhi and embarrassed the Indian government.”

John Perry, editor of the English-language weekly News India sent a letter of protest to Indian Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao.

The Jan. 19 letter said, in part: “As we are all aware, the PLO and its leaders are responsible for initiating acts of terrorism and kidnapping that have become commonplace in our world today. News India does not acknowledge that Yasir Arafat has made any contribution toward world harmony and justice, which is the stated purpose of the award.”

Arafat arrived in New Delhi on Monday for a stay described locally as a “state visit.”

The president of the Indian Council of World Affairs, Harcharan Singh Josh, acknowledged that the award presentation had been scheduled for last March 15 but was canceled by the V.P. Singh government “for political reasons.”

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