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Hubert H. Humphrey Was a Friend of Israel and the Jewish People

January 16, 1978
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey, ever thoughtful of the concerns of the Jewish people, left a legacy to them in the form of a statement prepared shortly before his death. He died Friday night at his home in Waverly, Minn. of cancer at the age of 66.

Humphrey served in the Senate from 1949 until he was elected Vice President under President Johnson in 1964. After his defeat for the Presidency by Richard Nixon in 1968, Humphrey was re-elected to the Senate in 1970. Throughout his career he had been a strong supporter of Israel and had worked closely with the Jewish community on many domestic issues of concern to it.


In an exclusive statement to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency written shortly before his death, Humphrey urged American and Arab government leaders to understand that Israel has “a special relationship with America.” Explaining this, Humphrey said:

“I have absolutely no disagreement with the goal of securing the trust and friendship of the Arab world. In fact, I believe it to be imperative. But while we are pursuing this policy, we should not forget that Israel, for the United States, can not be regarded as just another nation among nations in the Middle East. We must declare without embarrassment, and without apology, that Israel has earned a special relationship with America.

“The Arab world must understand that if it desires better relations with the United States it must accept our good relations with Israel. No Administration should ever mislead any Arab leader to believe otherwise.”

Humphrey was eulogized at the Capitol’s Rotunda today by President Carter “as naturally loyal” and “most beloved of all Americans” and by Vice President Walter Mondale as “his nation’s conscience.” Violinist Isaac Stern, a long-time friend of Humphrey, performed at the memorial ceremony.


Humphrey was a firm supporter and friend of Israel throughout his political years dating back to the time he was mayor of Minneapolis when Israel’s birth was in question. He was elected to the Senate in 1948, the year Israel became a State. He visited Israel on numerous occasions during the following years.

His concern for the security of “this tiny democratic state in the Middle East,” as he had referred to Israel, was translated both spiritually in the form of inspired addresses as Senator and Vice President and also into effective action, particularly since 1973 when, as the Senate Democratic leader dealing with foreign aid, he insisted that U.S. assistance be adequately provided to Israel sorely wounded by the Yom Kippur War.

Humphrey was the confidant and friend of Israel’s leaders. When Golda Meir visited Washington on her last trip, she went to his Capital Hill office saying “I would have gone to Minnesota to see you.” When Premier Menachem Begin was in Washington in December, he went to Humphrey’s apartment to chat with him. Earlier, on Begin’s first visit as Premier in July, he was warmly welcomed by Humphrey at the Capital and posed for photographs with him.

In October, when Israel was under great pressure to yield to Arab demands for a Geneva conference that included U.S. acceptance of the Palestine Liberation Organization as a participant, Humphrey, although gravely III, declared:

“How can we expect Israel to announce prior to any negotiations that she is willing to give up large areas of territory to move to a militarily more vulnerable position if the other side, instead of committing itself to peace merely suggests it might consider moving to what is, in effect, a state of non-belligerence?…Israel has every right to believe until effectively shown otherwise that what the Arabs are offering is a non-belligerence signifying merely that they will not be fighting these today, but are leaving their options open for tomorrow.”


What was apparently the last award of the many given him by Jewish organizations was the “First Golda Meir Award” on Oct. 17 by Pioneer Women which carried with it “a perpetual scholarship for advance of education for deserving students.” Accepting the award for him, Humphrey’s sister, Mrs. Frances Howard, read a statement hailing Mrs. Meir “a woman who personifies the intellect, the humanity, the courage and the spirit which epitomizes one of the most exciting developments of this century–the establishment of the modern State of Israel.”

Humphrey’s defense of Zionism rose to a crescendo after the United Nations General Assembly linked Zionism with racism. In a Senate speech Dec. 3, 1975, he declared that ” the charge of racism against Israel is so manifestly absurd one’s first reaction is not even to dignify the charge with substantive response. But recent discussions and inquiries make it clear that there is much ignorance and confusion about the nature of Israeli society, the result of massive propaganda efforts designed by Israel’s adversaries to support their absurd charges.”

He referred to the General Assembly resolution as having “sinister implications” which “only add obstacles to the struggle for peace in the Middle East and which threaten the usefulness of the United Nations itself.”

In addition to his support of Israel, Humphrey worked closely with Jews on issues that he and the Jewish community were concerned with, such as civil rights, the need to end discrimination, help for the poor, providing jobs for the unemployed and numerous other social issues. There was deep affection for the Minnesota Senator in the Jewish community.

Leaders of Jewish organizations today issued statements and sent messages of condolence to Humphrey’s family and the White House. Among the organizations were B’nai B’rith, the World Zionist Organization and the American Section of the WZO, the Workmen’s Circle and the Committee for the Rescue of Syrian Jewry of which Humphrey was honorary chairman.

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