(December 3, 2018 / JNS) War hero. Congressman. U.N. Ambassador. Director of Central Intelligence. Vice President.
Former President George H.W. Bush died on Nov. 30 at the age of 94. At the time of his passing, he was the longest-lived president in U.S. history.
Similar to his views on the U.S.-Israel relationship, Bush’s legacy when it came to the American Jewish community was, at best, complicated.
In September 1991, backers of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee lobbied Congress for $10 million in loan guarantees for the Jewish state to assist constructing homes for the influx of Jewish immigrants flooding Israel from the Soviet Union.
Although Bush did not have an issue with the funding theoretically, he did not want it going towards housing in Judea and Samaria, in addition to Gaza.
“Bush 41 should be praised for helping bring Ethiopian and Russian Jews to Israel but must also be remembered for appointing Israel basher [Secretary] of State James Baker and refusing to grant loan guarantees (not grants) to Israel to resettle Russian Jews,” Zionist Organization of America president Morton Klein told JNS. “Bush also complained about the ‘Jewish lobby’ by proclaiming it as a thousand lobbyists against little me.”
That same month, he rebuked the United Nations for passing the 1975 resolution that declared “Zionism is racism.” It was soon repealed.
He said that it went against the U.N. Charter’s “pledge ‘to practice tolerance, live together in peace with one another as good neighbors.’”
“UNGA Resolution 3379, the so-called ‘Zionism is racism’ resolution, mocks this pledge and principles upon which the United Nations was founded,” he said.
“Zionism is not a policy. It is the idea that lead to the creation of a home for the Jewish people to the state of Israel,” he added. “And to equate Zionism with the intolerable sin of racism twists history and forget the terrible plight of Jews in World War II and indeed throughout history.”
He continued, “To equate Zionism with racism is to reject Israel itself. A member of good standing of the United Nations. This body cannot claim to seek peace and, at the same time, challenge Israel’s right to exist.”
Additionally, “We benefited from his adroit handling of the end of communism, restoring freedom to Central and Eastern Europeans and reviving Jewish life in that region,” attorney Norm Eisen, a former U.S. Ambassador to the Czech Republic, told JNS. “We appreciated his support for Israeli-Palestinian peace, including overseeing the Madrid conference and his powerful, but careful, handling of the aggression of Saddam Hussein—no friend of ours.”
‘Led his country with skill and wisdom’
The Jewish and pro-Israel community offered their respects.
“There were some bumps in the relationship along the way, such as Bush’s harsh criticism of Jewish communal efforts to secure loan guarantees for Israel from Congress or his campaign’s playing the Willie Horton race card in 1988,” said Eisen.
“But all people, especially in politics, are flawed, and he made up for his with a stellar post-presidency,” he continued. “Even Jewish Democrats such as myself, who never voted for him, appreciated the man.”
“We have lost an American hero, George HW Bush, who fought in the killing fields of the Second World War, knew to distinguish between good and evil and to build strong regional coalitions against cruel tyrants,” tweeted Israeli President Reuven Rivlin. “He led his country with skill and wisdom at the end of the Cold War.”
“Under his leadership our strategic relationship evolved into the strongest of alliances,” he added. “The Jewish people will always remember his help in bringing the Jews of Ethiopia to Israel and his determination to ensure the Arab world recognize our right to exist in peace and security.”
Under his leadership our strategic relationship evolved into the strongest of alliances. The Jewish people will always remember his help in bringing the Jews of Ethiopia to Israel and his determination to ensure the Arab world recognize our right to exist in peace and security.
— Reuven Rivlin (@PresidentRuvi) December 1, 2018
“I didn’t vote for Bush 41 in 1988 or 1992. I disagreed with plenty that he did, & there was rough stuff in his campaigns,” tweeted former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro. “But it was impossible not to see his approach to governing as one that put the nation’s interests first, that prioritized US leadership in the world. Respect.”
I didn’t vote for Bush 41 in 1988 or 1992. I disagreed with plenty that he did, & there was rough stuff in his campaigns. But it was impossible not to see his approach to governing as one that put the nation’s interests first, that prioritized US leadership in the world. Respect.
— Dan Shapiro (@DanielBShapiro) December 1, 2018
“President Bush was a great friend of Israel, the Jewish people, and the [Republican Jewish Committee],” the organization said in a statement. “Bush was instrumental in saving the Jews of Ethiopia and bringing them to Israel.”
RJC Statement on the Passing of Pres. George H.W. Bush pic.twitter.com/2SZ7EeZZmv
— RJC (@RJC) December 2, 2018
B’nai B’rith International echoed the RJC’s reaction. “We express sadness at the passing of George H.W. Bush, whose efforts contributed to the emigration of Soviet and Ethiopian Jewry to Israel, and to the repeal of the infamous Zionism=Racism resolution at the United Nations,” tweeted the group.
We express sadness at the passing of George H.W. Bush, whose efforts contributed to the emigration of Soviet and Ethiopian Jewry to Israel, and to the repeal of the infamous Zionism=Racism resolution at the United Nations.
— B’nai B’rith Int’l (@BnaiBrith) December 2, 2018
Sarah Stern, founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth, echoed to JNS the aforementioned sentiments about Bush’s posture toward the U.S.-Israel relationship and added: “On the wall in my study at home hangs a framed image from the front page of the Washington Jewish Week from September of 1991, depicting two photos, one of George HW Bush, and another of myself together with three female friends from suburban Washington. The caption is ‘One lonely guy against some powerful political forces.’ The irony was that this ‘one lonely little guy,’ was none other than the 41st President of the United States.”