By: Joseph Stechler  | 

How Much Can We Sacrifice? (Vol. 38, Issue 2)

George McGovern is asking too much of American Jewry. He is asking too much of a people dedicated to their brethren in Israel and in the United States. He is asking too much of Jewish citizens concerned. about the future of America.

We say he is asking too much of us now because he has given us so shockingly little in the past. He has given so little support to beleagured Israel. He has given so little help in the fight against quotas, anti-Sabbath observance laws, and anti-Shechita legislation.

Yet, this November 7, there will be some Jews who will vote for McGovern. Not because the Senator from South Dakota has represented their interests so well in the past. Not because they see in him a man of idealistic vision. These Jews will vote for Senator McGovern because of his unmatched skill in putting on different masks to fit the political occasion. 

These Jews will vote for Senator McGovern because of his “courage” in making so many pro-Israel speeches during an election campaign. Yet, where was the Senator’s “courage” when he refused the appeals of his Jewish supporters at the Democratic convention to fire Rick Stearns, one of the top four men in his campaign staff, who is notorious for signing a number of blatantly pro-Arab newspaper ads following the Six-Day War? Where ‘was the Senator’s “courage” when he voted against U.S. arms sales to Israel in 1967 (votes #148, #154, #156), in 1970 (#580), and in 1971 (#422)? Where Was the Senator's “courage” when he declared in Congress on July 20, 1970, that Israel should pay the Palestinians “reparations” for “psychological” as well as material damages? Where was the Senator’s “courage” when he suggested: on March 3, 1971 that Jerusalem be “internationalized”? It seems that the Senator's “courage” to stand up for Israel has developed, and most opportunely so, on the campaign trail. 

Nor has McGovern been so “courageous” in defending the rights of religious Jews in this nation. Senator Humphrey declared in the California Jewish Voice issue of June 2, 1972, that McGovern had been the only member of the Senate Agriculture Committee not to oppose the Grey Amendment, which would have severely limited the practice of Shechita (ritual slaughter) which is such a fundamental tenet of the Jewish faith. When Larry O’Brien, the former Democratic Party National Chairman, asked all the Democratic Presidential hopefuls not to conduct delegate caucuses on the Jewish Sabbath, only one candidate did not agree, “Courageous” McGovern. The Senator’s caucuses were held not only on Saturday, but also on the night of Pesach,

There will also be some Jews who, despite their recognition of McGovern’s peril to Jewish interests, will vote for the Senator. After all, he is a liberal. Yet, what manner of “liberal” imposes quotas upon his political party, which laugh at the democratic ideals of merit and equality of opportunity without regard to race? What manner of “liberal” proposes Vietnam peace terms which offer more to the Communists than they themselves are asking for?

Of course, President Nixon is not a saint. Yet, despite his minimal support from Jewish citizens in the 1968 election, he has given Israel more military and economic aid than all the previous administrations combined. When Syrian tanks threatened to topple Jordan’s anti-fedayeen government in September 1970, President Nixon acted to protect Israel from a diversionary Russian-Egyptian counter-attack at the Suez Canal by mobilizing army divisions in Europe and the U.S., and by sending five carrier task-forces into the troubled region. The Syrian tanks withdrew. The President had not made any speeches, but his actions spoke remarkably clearly of his commitment to Israel.

The President is no raging liberal. Yet, he has achieved a significant arms-reduction treaty with the Russians. He has opened the Bamboo Curtain of China. His administration has appointed, without any quota system, more minority group members and women to meaningful governmental positions than any other. There can be no denying his many accomplishments.

Senator McGovern is asking American Jewry to be so upset about the rising costs of string beans and carrots that it is willing to risk electing a President whose commitment to Israel is only evident at election time. He is asking us to be so incensed with the current President’s business dealings that we will vote for a candidate whose “liberalism” does not extend to opposing a “quota democracy.” No thank you, Mr. McGovern.

The preceding column also substantially expresses the opinions of Charles Bernstein and Norman Blumenthal, Research and News Editors of The Commentator.