Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Jews, Arab Americans Demonstrate As Shamir Winds Up His U.S. Visit

March 21, 1988
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

More than a thousand Arab Americans took to the streets of Brooklyn Sunday evening to protest the policies of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir as the Israeli leader was making a speech in honor of Israel’s 40th anniversary at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Waving the red-, black-, green- and white-striped flags of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the demonstrators chanted over and over again, “Shamir out of Brooklyn.”

Inside the academy, the Israeli premier gave a rousing speech to Jewish supporters who interrupted him with applause more than 20 times.

Earlier in the day, between 500 and 1,000 flag-waving Jewish demonstrators attended a strongly nationalistic pro-Israel rally across the street from the Regency Hotel in Manhattan, Shamir’s base while in New York. The rally was sponsored by the Zionist Organization of America, Americans for a Safe Israel and other pro-Shamir organizations.

The demonstrations capped an otherwise uneventful weekend for the prime minister, who spent the last four days of his American visit reemphasizing familiar policy statements, delivering pep talks to the Jewish community and pleading for unity between Israel and the diaspora.

At public appearances in Los Angeles Thursday and Friday and in New York on Sunday, Shamir stressed a number of themes he had developed earlier in his meetings with U.S. government leaders in Washington, including:

Opposition to an international peace conference as proposed by U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz. Arab and Soviet support of such a conference “reflects an attempt to create a U.N. type setting as a tool to extract concessions from Israel,” said Shamir.

Continued warm relations between Washington and Jerusalem. “Despite any differences of opinion, the basic relationship between Israel and the United States is as strong as ever,” he said.

A hard line on confrontations with Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The demonstrations there “are not civil rights demonstrations, but another expression of Arab refusal to co-exist with us,” the premier said.

Appeals to unity, often couched in terms critical of American Jewish leaders who go public with their opposition to Israeli government policy.


The last point received its warmest reception during Shamir’s address Sunday before the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in New York.

There, and earlier at a talk to leaders of the American branch of the World Sephardi Federation, Shamir railed against American Jews “who will exert pressure on their government and ask them to make pressure on Israel.”

Shamir hinted at the Sephardi appearance that Shultz’s proposal for an international conference came in part as the result of “international, American and Jewish factors.” He claimed the secretary of state had long been opposed to such a conference.

The prime minister declined, however, to disclose details of the measure Israel would take in response to the shooting death early Sunday morning of the first soldier killed in the territories since the beginning of the present unrest.

Neither in New York nor Los Angeles did the prime minister renew his earlier suggestion that the planned summit meeting between President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev be joined by Arab and Israeli leaders to launch direct Mideast peace negotiations. While Shamir was in Los Angeles, the U.S. State Department shot down the idea in a detailed rebuttal.

Shamir’s two-and-a-half days in Los Angeles proceeded without incident, despite predictions of protests and sharp dissent. On Thursday afternoon he unveiled the cornerstone at the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Beit Hashoah-Museum of Tolerance, a $30 million Holocaust memorial.


That same evening, Shamir spoke at a dinner sponsored by the United Jewish Fund and the State of Israel Bonds Organization. Despite the absence of a number of community leaders who disagree with Shamir’s policy and fears by the organizers earlier in the week of a poor turnout, 1,600 people showed up and others had to be turned away.

On Friday, Shamir addressed some 800 people at a luncheon of the World Affairs Council of Los Angeles. As he would also do at his first two meetings in New York, the prime minister answered questions from the floor.

At a Friday morning breakfast, Shamir met privately with 45 executives of the entertainment industry and some actors, under the auspices of the United Jewish Fund.

Film actor Richard Dreyfuss, who had been a main speaker at a Peace Now rally earlier in the week, said in a telephone interview that the tone at the hour-long meeting “was very polite,” but that the discussion had not been particularly “illuminating.”

In other events in Los Angeles, Shamir met with delegations from the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), B’nai B’rith, Youth Town of Israel and financial supporters of his Herut party.

In New York, apparently exhausted by his heavy schedule, Shamir appeared to doze briefly during his introduction by Morris Abram, chairman of the Conference of Presidents.

Aside from the Palestinian protest Sunday evening, demonstrations in both cities for and against the Israeli leader were mainly muted.

In Los Angeles, about 100 members of a group calling itself the Ad Hoc Committee for Palestinian Rights gathered outside the Century Plaza Hotel on Friday evening. Across the Avenue of the Stars, a smaller contingent of the Jewish Defense League took up station, but there were no incidents.

In the days prior to the Brooklyn event, leaders of the borough’s large Arab community lodged protests with Brooklyn Borough President Howard Goldin, whose office co-sponsored the event with the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York.

Before flying to Israel on Monday, the Israeli premier was scheduled to conduct a satellite conference from the offices of the Council of Jewish Federations and to speak to various New York ethnic leaders.

He was also scheduled to meet late Monday night with Sen. Albert Gore (D-Tenn.), who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Recommended from JTA