By E.J. Kessler

Published July 16, 2004, issue of July 16, 2004.
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Hell in a Hand Basket: The Washington representative of a national Jewish organization is urging federal officials who attend the McLean Bible Church to distance themselves from the northern Virginia institution, which has launched a drive to convert Jews.

The church, whose pastor, Lon Solomon, is a Jewish convert to Christianity, counts among its attendees Senators James Inhofe and Don Nickles, both Oklahoma Republicans, as well as former independent prosecutor Kenneth Starr, whose investigation of President Clinton led to the president’s 1998 impeachment. Starr’s wife is a Jewish convert to Christianity.

The American Jewish Committee’s Washington-area director, David Bernstein, is demanding that the officials who attend Solomon’s church denounce the effort.

“It’s distressing that so many prominent people, including members of Congress, attend the church and study with the pastor,” Bernstein said in an interview with Washington Jewish Week. “That the pastor has made such disparaging remarks and engaged in intolerant actions means that they should take a stand and distance themselves from those activities.”

Solomon says he is leading the drive in order to prevent Jews from going to hell, a remark that has antagonized local Jewish organizations, thus mobilizing against his drive.

“Every Jewish person, just like every gentile, needs to believe in Jesus Christ as their personal savior, or they’re going to miss heaven,” Solomon said in a recent sermon, which was carried on radio and quoted in the Jewish Week. “That means that God expects you and me to do everything we can to tell them what nobody else has the courage to tell them.”

No surprise: The politicians are declining to touch this one. Inhofe spokesman Ryan Thompson wrote in an e-mail that because “Inhofe has only visited the church on two or three occasions… the senator is not in a position to offer the informed remarks that you seek.” Nickles’s spokeswoman declined comment.

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Holbrooke Headlines: Auditioning for the job of secretary of state in a Kerry administration, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke told a National Jewish Democratic Council luncheon in Manhattan two weeks ago that he belongs to the “Anybody but Arafat Party,” according to attendees who heard the off-the-record speech.

Holbrooke said that when he met Arafat after the failure of the Camp David talks in 2000, he came to the conclusion that the Palestinian leader is either unwilling or unable to sign an agreement. Holbrooke noted that during his 30 years as a diplomat, he had negotiated with a host of bad apples, including Slobodan Milosevic and Ferdinand Marcos, but he implied that Arafat, in effect, took the cake. Given Arafat’s inability to negotiate, Holbrooke said, any president, whether Bush or Al Gore, would have had to isolate him.

“Basically, what Holbrooke said was that the president should be complimented for his stance but that any Democrat would have done the same,” one Jewish Democratic activist said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Moreover, Holbrooke said that Bush’s failure to employ a high-level envoy [in the Middle East] has been devastating.”

Holbrooke noted that some say having a high-level envoy in the region in the absence of a Palestinian partner would lead to pressure on Israel, but he argued that the idea is wrong. He said the envoy should be used to pressure the Arab states to come up with solutions, according to those who heard him at the luncheon.

* * *

Friedman’s Fans: New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, a bugaboo of the Jewish right wing because of his liberal views on the Arab-Israel conflict, has found a fan or, actually, two.

Among the columnist’s boosters are the president of the United States and Bush’s Texan chum, indicted Enron chief Kenneth Lay, sometimes known by his Bush-given nickname, “Kenny Boy.”

Correspondence between Lay and Bush unearthed by the Web site The Smoking Gun shows the two men to be enamored of Friedman’s theories of globalization. Lay wrote to Bush on March 31, 1999: “Dear Governor George, [Please see] the attached article by Tom Friedman…. [This] article concerning globalization is an excellent overview of most of the major issues concerning international financial markets and trade… my very best to you and Laura.” On May 14, 1999, Bush responded: “Dear Ken, Thanks for the Friedman article. I too loved it — very interesting. All is well. — George.”

Friedman’s chief antagonist, Zionist Organization of America president Morton Klein, remains unimpressed. “After reading his views on the Arab-Israeli conflict, I’ve decided not to pay too much attention to his views on globalization,” Klein said.

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