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The World: Israel’s American Supporters

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They came from all over the East Coast—as far north as Maine and as far south as Georgia. They spoke in a dozen American and countless foreign accents. Crowding into New York’s Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza across from the United Nations, they overflowed into side streets and onto the avenues in a huge protest demonstration involving at least 65,000 people. Their message: an increasingly isolated Israel must be saved.

The rally had originally been timed to coincide with the arrival at the U.N. of representatives from the Palestine Liberation Organization, the ostensible target of the protest. In fact, there was no one to protest against, since the P.L.O. leaders postponed their arrival for the General Assembly debate on the Palestinian issue until this week. American and U.N. officials were worried, in fact, that last week’s remarkably peaceful demonstration might be counteracted this week by groups bent on violence, and they were already planning elaborate security precautions to protect the P.L.O. representatives.

Last week’s outpouring was organized in only 14 days by Rabbi Israel Miller of New York City, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and was backed by 32 Jewish groups around the U.S. Not all participants, however, were Jewish. Among those who addressed the crowd—in addition to former Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban and ex-Defense Minister Moshe Dayan —were Democratic Senator Henry Jackson and Roy Wilkins of the NAACP.

The rhetoric was as angry as the posters borne aloft by the crowd. One banner read, P.L.O. is MURDER INTERNATIONAL; another proclaimed, DEATH TAKES A SEAT AT THE U.N. Eban bitterly denounced the current pro-Arab mood of the U.N., which, he said, “would refuse to support the Ten Commandments because they came out of Israel.”* Lane Kirkland, secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO, added that “there is a stink of Munich in the air, and it reeks of Arab oil.”

Though they met outside the U.N., the demonstrators did not, in fact, expect to influence the upcoming debate so much as to garner their own strength for the struggle that many feel is inevitable. Indeed, not since the foundation of Israel have American Jews been so fearful about the pressures on that country, and the feeling last week was decidedly anxious. “We feel we’re back in 1947 with all that that implies,” said Rabbi Miller. “It’s not just a little piece of territory—Gaza or Nablus —that’s involved. What’s involved is the future of the Jewish state, its very existence.”

* According to Scripture, the Commandments were handed to Moses on Mount Sinai, which is in Egyptian territory that has been occupied by Israel since 1967.

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