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Wednesday, August 27, 2003

IMPORTANT: Jews must reward Bush for stance on Israel

by EDWARD I. KOCH, former mayor of New York City
published by Jewish World Review
I think it is critical that Israel be supported during these trying times. In the aftermath of the recent bus bombing in Jerusalem which killed 21 people — including seven children, and injured 100 others, including about 40 children — the Israeli government demanded that the Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas take immediate action against Hamas and Islamic Jihad, both of which took responsibility for that heinous terrorist act.

Prime Minister Abbas requested 24 hours to take police action against the terrorists. The Israelis took no military action during that period. When the Palestinian Authority failed to act, the Israelis exercised their right of self-defense and eliminated a top Hamas leader, Ismail Abu Shanab.

The terrorist organizations and the people of Gaza poured into the streets during Shanab's funeral, threatening revenge. That should not give the Israeli army pause. If they hadn't killed Shanab, would Hamas and Islamic Jihad suicide bombers have refrained from engaging in any more such attacks? Of course not. And Shanab would be planning them.

The goal of all Palestinian terrorist organizations is the destruction of the State of Israel.

Under the road map, the government of Prime Minister Abbas was required to begin to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure. It has not done so. The Israelis have no choice but to pursue the terrorists directly.

In President George W. Bush, Israel has a friend and supporter who has exhibited more concern for the Jewish state than any other President, Republican or Democrat. President Reagan was a firm supporter of Israel. But George W. Bush is far and away more willing to stand up for the Jewish state and support its right to a secure existence.

Israel's security should be a very high priority for American Jews. When Jews were persecuted and murdered in Nazi-occupied Europe, almost no one was willing to help them or give them refuge. During the Holocaust, from 1941 to 1945, six million Jews were murdered. The citizens of almost every country occupied by the Nazis, particularly France, collaborated with Hitler and turned their Jewish fellow citizens over to the Germans for extermination in the gas chambers.

Had the State of Israel existed in 1939, when Hitler offered to allow Jews to leave Germany if any country would accept them, ultimately six million Jewish lives would have been spared. Today, Europe again abounds with anti-Semitism not seen since the 1930s.

The American Jewish community adored President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He was one of our greatest presidents, ranking with Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln. Our vote for him was monolithic. Yet, it was not until mid-1944, two years after he knew that Hitler was intent on killing off every Jew on the planet, that he spoke out and told the world of the Nazi plan to exterminate the Jews.

And yet — except for 1,000 Jewish refugees admitted in 1944 — FDR kept America's doors overwhelmingly closed to most of Europe's Jews, who could have escaped death had he allowed them to enter the U.S.

President Harry S. Truman, for American Jews an icon in the pantheon of presidents and, for me personally, a hero, was recently revealed in a newly-discovered diary written in his own hand to have held Jews in great contempt. Will we learn as a community to never again walk in lockstep with a single party, undeviating in our support, and instead, hold those at the top of our government accountable for how they feel about our community's worldwide security and concerns? How public officials feel about abortion and taxes is important, but not as vital as how they feel about our living and dying.

The American Jewish community appreciated the support President Reagan gave to the Jewish state and it responded with 39 percent voting to reelect Reagan in 1984, whereas normally Democrats receive up to 90 percent of the Jewish vote. I believe that next time around, the American Jewish community will express its appreciation to President Bush by voting for him in even greater numbers than was the case with President Reagan.

Before Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was decapitated by his Muslim abductors who videotaped the atrocity, he was compelled to say with his last breath, "My mother is a Jew. My father is a Jew. I am a Jew." Every Jew should embrace his or her identity with pride and vote their conscience. I remain a Democrat, but have supported candidates from other parties when my conscience so dictated. So let me now proclaim, "My mother of revered memory was a Jew. My father of revered memory was a Jew. I am a Jew."

Kol hakavod, Ed Koch. For my part, my mother wasn't a Jew and my father wasn't a Jew, but I am a Jew. By choice. And after thirty years of voting pretty much straight Democrat, I will most likely vote for the Republican --pictured above at the Kotel-- for President.

Wonders never cease,