American Jewish Groups Praise Late President George H.W Bush as ‘True Friend of the Jewish People and the State of Israel’
Leading Jewish groups from across the spectrum paid tribute over the weekend to former president George H.W. Bush, who died Friday at the age of 94.
Pro-Israel lobby AIPAC called Bush a “statesman and patriot” who “rightfully earned the deep respect of people around the world.”
The group pointed to Bush’s role in aiding Jews to emigrate from countries where they were being persecuted, noting, “President Bush played a critical role in the extraordinary effort to help rescue Ethiopian Jews and enable them to come to Israel.”
“His administration successfully reversed the despicable ‘Zionism is racism’ resolution at the United Nations,” AIPAC also pointed out.
Regarding his peacemaking efforts in the Middle East, AIPAC said, “President Bush was committed to finding a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As a leader who was devoted to America’s security, he understood the strategic value of the U.S. relationship with Israel, and his administration was instrumental in strengthening the military cooperation between the two democratic allies.”
The American Jewish Committee also praised Bush for his role in reversing the UN’s “Zionism is racism” resolution, in which he “played a key leadership role.” In addition, it cited his efforts on behalf of Soviet Jews.
AJC CEO David Harris said, “President Bush was an outstanding American, a veteran who courageously served his country in time of war, and a public official who left an impressive record of achievement. While in the Oval Office, he exerted particularly skillful, indeed visionary, leadership during a period of dramatic change in the world.”
“The overall record of support for endangered Jews worldwide and the quest for Arab-Israeli peace is also part of his enduring legacy,” he added.
The Republican Jewish Coalition echoed these sentiments, saying, “President Bush was a great friend of Israel” and “the Jewish people.”
“Bush was instrumental in saving the Jews of Ethiopia and bringing them to Israel; he worked directly with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin to assist Israel in bringing Jewish immigrants fleeing communism in the Soviet Union to Israel; he led the effort in the UN to repeal the ‘Zionism is Racism’ resolution; and he stood up to the aggression of Saddam Hussein, who threatened the safety and security of Israel and the entire Middle East,” it noted in a statement.
World Jewish Congress head Ron Lauder said, “President George H.W. Bush was a genuine American hero and a true friend of the Jewish people and the State of Israel.”
“The Jewish people will never forget the instrumental role played by the late President in making possible the dramatic airlift to freedom of Ethiopian Jewry, and his unwavering assistance in enabling Soviet Jews to emigrate,” he added.
“Despite occasional disagreements, he was a firm ally of the State of Israel and worked tirelessly to achieve an end to the Israeli-Arab conflict,” Lauder said.
Founder and Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center Rabbi Marvin Hier said of Bush, “The United States lost a great leader, a friend of Israel, and a champion of Soviet and Ethiopian Jewry.”
“First as US ambassador to the UN and then during his presidency, President Bush was a friend of Israel and the Jewish people,” Hier added. “He was also instrumental in the campaign to free Soviet Jewry and in rescuing and bringing Ethiopian Jews to Israel. Tens of thousands of Jews were saved as a direct result of his intervention.”
Bush’s relationship with the Jewish community was not always so warm. During his presidency, he sought to push then-Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Shamir to attend the Madrid Peace Conference by withholding loan guarantees to Israel necessary to absorb Soviet Jews.
Opposed by pro-Israel groups, Bush called his opponents “thousands of lobbyists” up against “one little lonely guy.” Many American Jews felt this statement fed into antisemitic myths of Jewish power. As a result, Bush’s support among American Jews cratered, with 90 percent of them voting for his opponent Bill Clinton in the 1992 election.