Remembering What George H.W. Bush Did for the Jews, Even within a Decidedly Mixed Legacy

While the first President Bush, who died on Friday at the age of ninety-four, did not always have easy relations with Israel and the American Jewish community—most notably, his administration convened the 1991 Madrid conference, which helped to legitimize the PLO and to pave the way for the Oslo Accords—it was in his tenure that, thanks largely to the efforts of John Bolton, then an assistant secretary of state, the UN was induced to rescind its infamous 1975 Zionism-is-racism resolution. Bush also did much specifically to help Jews. Ron Kampeas notes that when Bush served as the U.S. ambassador to the UN during the Nixon administration, he “made Soviet Jewry one of his signature issues.” And these efforts continued thereafter:

[A]s Ronald Reagan’s vice-president, Bush quietly helped engineer some of the pivotal moments in the effort to bring Jews out of the former Soviet Union, Ethiopia, and Syria. . . . Bush was deeply involved in foreign policy as vice-president, and Jewish leaders said he helped orchestrate the dramatic seder hosted by then-Secretary of State George Shultz at the U.S. embassy in Moscow in 1987.

He also ignored advice from much of his national-security team in 1991—the very period when he was in the throes of his most difficult arguments with Jewish leaders [over loan guarantees for Israel]—and approved American overtures to the Mengistu regime in Ethiopia that resulted in Operation Solomon, which brought 15,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel. . . .

Bush also was instrumental in persuading Hafez Assad, the Syrian dictator, to allow young Jewish women to leave Syria for New York so they could be matched with men in the Syrian Jewish community. While some of these actions were secret at the time, Bush was averse to claiming responsibility even in subsequent years.

As for Bush’s relations with Israel, Kampeas notes that in his memoir, coauthored with his national-security adviser Brent Scowcroft, Bush recounts “that he expected a degree of gratitude from Israel for protecting it during the Gulf War—apparently not realizing that it was precisely this unwanted protection that stirred resentment among Israelis fiercely committed to protecting themselves.” Protecting itself was exactly what Bush pressured Israel not to do when Saddam Hussein bombarded it with Scud missiles.

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Read more at Jewish Telegraphic Agency

More about: American Jewry, Ethiopian Jews, George H. W. Bush, Israel & Zionism, Soviet Jewry, Syrian Jewry

The Arab Press Blames Iran Rather Than Israel for Gaza’s Woes

Following the fighting between Israel and Islamic Jihad over the weekend, many journalists and commentators in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia didn’t rush to condemn the Jewish state. Instead, as the translators at the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) note, they criticized the terrorist group for “operating in service of Iranian interests and thus inflicting suffering on the Gaza Strip’s residents.” One Saudi intellectual, Turki al-Hamad, wrote the following on Twitter:

It is apparent that, if at one time any confrontation between Israel and the Palestinian organizations would attract world and Arab attention and provoke a wave of anger [against Israel], today it does not shock most Arabs and most of the world’s [countries]. Furthermore, even a sense of human solidarity [with the Palestinians] has become rare and embarrassing, raising the question, “Why [is this happening] and who is to blame?”

I believe that the main reason is the lack of confidence in all the Palestinian leaders. . . . From the Arabs’ and the world’s perspective, it is already clear that these leaders are manipulating the [Palestinian] cause out of self-interest and diplomatic, economic, or even personal motives, and that the Palestinian issue is completely unconnected to this. The Palestinian cause has become a bargaining chip in the hands of these and other organizations and states headed by the [Iranian] ayatollah regime.

A, article in a major Arabic-language newspaper took a similar approach:

In a lengthy front-page report on August 7, the London-based UAE daily Al-Arab criticized Islamic Jihad, writing that “Gaza again became an arena for the settling of accounts between Iran and Israel, while the Palestinian citizens are the ones paying the price.” It added that Iran does not want to confront Israel directly for its bombings in Syria and its attacks on Iranian scientists and nuclear facilities.

“The war in Gaza is not the first, nor will it be the last. But it proves . . . that Iran is exploiting Gaza as it exploits Lebanon, in order to strengthen its hand in negotiations with the West. We all know that Iran hasn’t fired a single bullet at Israel, and it also will not do this to defend Gaza or Lebanon.”

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Read more at MEMRI

More about: Gaza Strip, Iran, Islamic Jihad, Israel-Arab relations, Persian Gulf