Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Notes from the Gop Convention General Media Was Silent on Strong Pro-israel Plank in Gop Platform

July 28, 1980
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Although Arab-Israeli affairs was highlighted in the news and in commentaries during the winter and through the spring, usually marked by denunciations of Israel, the general media was silent on the strong pro-Israel plank in the Republican Party platform that was adopted at its convention in Detroit. Neither was attention given to the pro-Israeli statements by Presidential candidate Ronald Reagan in his first news conference as nominee and in his acceptance speech at the GOP convention.

At the GOP conclave, literally thousands of reporters from around the world hung on every nuance but they did virtually no reporting that the Republicans warned the Arabs against reimposing an oil embargo and asserted opposition to the Arab boycott of American companies doing business with Israel – strong medicine for the oil-producing Arab nations despite their big contracts with American oil companies and construction firms.

The media also was strangely quiet about the in-fighting between the adherents of President Carter and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D. Mass.) when the Democratic Party’s platform was being written in Washington a month earlier. That fight was over whether the platform should say, as it did in 1976, that the U.S. Embassy should be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The Carterites wanted to quality that plank, the Kennedyites balked and in the end the qualification was moved to another place in the plank. While other Carter Kennedy squabbles were extensively reported at the platform writing, the difference on support for Israel was virtually ignored.

A general attitude seemed to be that platforms are meaningless because Presidential candidates don’t feel bound by them. Some reporters felt support for Israel in platforms was the usual stance for electioneering purposes. “No news in that,” one said. “Wait until next winter, “another remarked. “It will be news if the President, new or old, backs up the platform.” But the major question remains: If the public is told when Israel is attacked should it not be informed when Israel is defended?

The 93 Jewish delegates among the 1994 delegates at the Republican convention were divided like the others over Vice Presidential candidates. For example, in the Connecticut delegation, Robert Katz, of Bridgeport, favored New York Representative Jack Kemp, while George Lewson of Danbury, backed George Bush. A significant fact about the size of the Jewish number of delegates is that it formed about 4-1/2 percent of the total, about double America’s Jewish population.

The right and liberal wings of the Republican leadership were both represented at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s reception for Jewish delegates and others at the Detroit Plaza Hotel. Of the approximately 350 that attended there were at least a dozen Senators and a score of Representatives. The chief attraction included Elizabeth Taylor, accompanied by her husband, Virginia Senator John Warner, and Mrs. Strom Thurmond wife of the conservative South Carolina Senator who could not attend.

Another guest was Philadelphia’s Arlen Spector, who may make it this time to the U.S. Senate. In his two previous state-wide Pennsylvania races he lost – in 1978 for Governor to incumbent Richard Thorburgh, and in 1976 for Senator to John Heinz. This time, pollsters say, Spector’s chances against former Pittsburgh Mayor Peter Flaherty, a Democrat, are excellent. They are campaigning for the seat being vacated by Republican Richard Schweiker, a friend of Israel. David Garth, a master at political strategy, is helping Spector’s campaign.

Spector, a district attorney in Philadelphia for eight years and a counsel for the Warren Commission that probed President Kennedy’s assassination, will be Pennsylvania’s first Jewish Senator if he wins. He is on the board of Orthodox Mikvah Israel Synagogue in Philadelphia’s Independence Square and of the American Museum of Jewish History His wife, Joan, an activist for Jewish causes, is a member of Philadelphia’s city Council.

Fred Gottfurcht, a Los Angeles investment banker who is a founder of the National Coalition for Reagan and has been backing Reagan since 1966, is the father-in-law of Rabbi Richard Hertz of Detroit’s oldest congregation, Temple Beth El. Max Fisher, “Mr. Republican,” is a member of it. Gottfurcht was a member of the California delegation at the GOP convention.

During the GOP convention, “Mr. Republican” was not Governor William Milliken or Henry Ford II or even Reagan. Since the Republicans have never before held their national conclave in Detroit and since Reagan was their unquestioned leader one suspected that the top honor would go to one of three mentioned. But no, indeed.

The “Monthly Detroit,” a slick 200-page magazine selling for $1.50 a copy, devoted the cover of its July issue to “Max Fisher – Power Broker.” It showed him smiling, spectacled, thinning gray hair and wearing a white shirt, blue tie and white handkerchief in the breast pocket of his dark suit befitting the conservative style of the globally known benefactor who achieved riches in gas and oil in a typical “made in America” story that Detroit’s Junior Leaguers, like Bev Curtis of Detroit’s plush Grosse Point suburb, proudly told visitors, including the Jewish Telegraphic Agency’s reporter.

Inside, under a two-page spread entitled “The Power Broker,” by Kirk Cheyfits, the magazine reported in big type beneath another head photo of Fisher backgrounded by the American flag. “Max Fisher was a poor kid from Ohio. Now his wealth is in nine figures. He advises Presidents and Prime Ministers, directs corporations, raises millions for charities and politicians. He’s a member of the permanent government.”

The magazine describes “the permanent government” as “that elite band of wealthy men and academics whose steady influence on national affairs continues virtually undisturbed by the temporary changes in leadership occasioned by elections or shifts in political power. In Fisher’s case, Detroit’s mayors, Michigan’s governors and America’s Presidents come and go but Max Fisher remains a constant force in the affairs of the city, the state, the nation and, to some extent, the planet.”

Detroit Renaissance Inc., which led Detroit’s big businesses to favor the vast changes from the warehouses and slums on Detroit’s river front to the magnificent complex known as Renaissance Center, where the convention took place, was Fisher’s idea in 1970. He organized it and become its first – and thus for – its only chairman. Along with is friend and partner, Al Taubman, Detroit Renaissance was behind Henry Ford’s decision to build the center.

How important is Fisher to the Republicans? Stephen Bull, President Nixon’s Appointments Secretary, used to watch the power brokers come and go through the Oval Office. “Of course, I know Mr. Fisher,” Bull said. “And it’s always Mister Fisher. I think he is probably the most prominent Republican in the country.”

Mel Larsen, Michigan’s Republican Party chairman, speaking of Fisher’s role in the past 18 years, said “We’ve been very fortunate to have him involved in the Republican Party because if you look at the most prominent, influential individuals across this country, Max Fisher has to be right in the top.”

Incidentally, and to come incomprehensibly, titles on the Detroit magazine’s cover also had a guideline to “Bishop Trifa: Prelate or Persecutor?” He is covered in eight pages in which the “lonely, persistent effort” by a now 83-year-old New York Jewish dentist, Charles Kremer, is basically credited for the federal case to strip U.S. citizenship from Trifa, who has been accused as having been a key leader of the viciously anti-Semitic Rumanian Iron Guard that massacred hundreds of Jews in Rumania during World War II. Ironically, the magazine prominently noted that Richard Nixon, when Vice President, invited Trifa to deliver the opening prayer to the U.S. Senate May 11, 1955.

Recommended from JTA