Divestment Declaration

By E.J. Kessler

Published December 09, 2005, issue of December 09, 2005.
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The Democratic National Committee unanimously adopted a resolution at its national meeting in Phoenix on December 3 condemning divestment from Israel.

Stating that “efforts to isolate Israel through boycotts or actions that include the possibility of divestment are counterproductive to the search for peace,” the resolution declares the DNC’s “opposition to efforts to boycott, divest from, or otherwise single out companies for their work in Israel or the Palestinian Authority, and commends members of the Muslim, Christian, Jewish and other faiths who courageously continue to work together to attain a peaceful negotiated settlement to any conflict in the Middle East.”

One of the resolution’s sponsors, party vice chairwoman Susan Turnbull, said the resolution arose out of a meeting that DNC’s chairman, Howard Dean, had in October with members of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. “People were concerned about divestment,” she said. “When Dean walked out of there, he said, ‘I’m with you.’” The party then worked with the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the National Jewish Democratic Council to develop language. A co-chairman of the resolution committee, Arab American Institute President James Zogby, spoke in favor of the resolution. “I had differences, obviously, but on the whole it was forward looking because of the support it gave for the Palestinian Authority,” he said.

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Party Poop: To the consternation of the Bush administration and its supporters, the Jewish community has come to view the annual White House Hanukkah party, which was held December 6, as a barometer of who’s in and who’s out with President Bush and his minions. That’s inaccurate, sources close to the Bushes said. Rather, the president and his first lady, Laura Bush, like to invite new faces each year in order to expose as many people as possible to the White House, so some Jewish dignitaries who may have been invited one year may not be in another.

Be that as it may, however, it doesn’t stop the gossip and speculation about who got stiffed for an invitation and why. Not invited were some familiar faces: Presidents Conference Executive Vice Chairman Malcolm Hoenlein, Anti-Defamation League National Chairman Abraham Foxman, American Jewish Committee Executive Director David Harris and Union for Reform Judaism President Eric Yoffie. Foxman allegedly is in the doghouse because of his recent speech attacking the GOP’s Christian conservative allies. Yoffie made Republicans furious with a speech he gave in Houston last month blasting those same allies and the Iraq War.

The president of the Zionist Organization of America, Morton Klein — a frequent Bush critic — had been invited, giving rise to the theory that he was being rewarded for supporting the difficult nomination of United Nations Ambassador John Bolton.

Meanwhile, the gossipers said that Howard Kohr, executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, had not been invited, because of administration unhappiness over the lack of a grass-roots push for Bolton among the organization’s members. But in a blow to this piece of speculation, one source said that Aipac’s president-elect, Howard Friedman, had been invited. So had the president of the United Jewish Communities, Howard Rieger, who just hired a GOP operative, William Daroff, as his group’s Washington lobbyist.

At least 10 Lubavitcher Hasidim also had been invited, including Chabad’s ubiquitous Washington representative, Levi Shemtov, and two rabbis from New Orleans, Zelig Rifkind and Yossi Nemitz. Several sources said the Bushes pushed to invite many who had helped out in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, including an Orthodox rabbi from Houston, Barry Gelman, who gave an invocation. The whole board of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum had been invited, as well.

In a move that was deemed historic, Mrs. Bush, ever the gracious hostess, had the White House kitchen made kosher for the occasion. “The first lady said if the function is kosher, it makes it more comfortable for her guests, and it makes it more comfortable for her,” Shemtov told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

* * *

Holiday Hooha: Don’t tell Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, but Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman is one of those politically correct secularists who are expunging the word “Christmas” from the American language.

“I am writing today to ask you to help the Republican Party — and maybe help out your own holiday shopping while you’re at it,” Mehlman wrote in a December 4 RNC e-mail. “With the holidays here and the New Year just around the corner, the Republican National Committee is releasing the 2006 edition of our annual RNC Calendar.”

Self-described traditionalist O’Reilly and many conservative groups have launched a campaign to beat back what they describe as the secularist, liberal war against Christmas. Among their complaints are the growing tendency of stores to use such nonsectarian terms as Season’s Greetings and Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas.

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