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http://www.jpost.com/Editions/2000/09/27/News/News.12914.html

Bush campaign steps back from supporter's criticism of Israel

By Janine Zacharia, Jerusalem Post, 09/27/2000

WASHINGTON (September 27) - The George W. Bush campaign is distancing itself from positions on Israel taken by a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who has endorsed the Republican Texas governor's bid for the presidency.

Retired Navy admiral Thomas Moorer has been an outspoken critic of what he and others contend was an American cover-up of the 1967 Israeli attack on an American intelligence ship, USS Liberty, which killed 34 crew members and injured 171.

In 1985, Moorer was quoted in a book by Paul Findley, a former congressman from Illinois who was a bitter critic of Israel, as saying: "I've never seen a president - I don't care who he is - stand up to them [the Israelis]. It just boggles your mind... If the American people understood what a grip those people have got on our government, they would rise up in arms."

A pro-Israel Democratic organization, The National Jewish Democratic Council, included the quotation in a statement protesting Moorer's inclusion on a list of 93 vice chairs of the "Veterans for Bush-Cheney National Coalition," that was released by the campaign last week.

A spokesman for Bush, Ari Fleischer, said Moorer's views did not reflect those of the governor. "Governor Bush has been unequivocal in his support for Israel and Israel's security. Admiral Moorer's views about US-Israel relations are entirely his own," Fleischer said.

Moorer said his critics were ignoring the assistance he helped funnel to Israel during periods of war.

"The facts are that I have been very concerned about the Liberty because I'm convinced that the attack was deliberate. Thirty-four American boys were killed and the Congress would not hold an investigation of the attack," Moorer said by telephone from his home in Bethesda, Maryland.

"Having said that, the idea that I am antisemitic is a gross overstatement. I am very critical of anybody who attacks an American ship in peacetime. When Mrs. Golda Meir was here for a visit, she thanked me very much for how I helped Israel in 1967. I was very instrumental in getting supplies to Israel when they really needed them and nobody every said anything of that," he added.

Moorer described the NJDC criticism as an unfair attempt to discredit Bush. "This is a political period and the... are indirectly trying to attack Bush. Whoever made that comment about me should forget about US politics for a while and remember what I did to help Israel."

Frank Gaffney, a Reagan-era Pentagon official who is now the director of the Center for Security Policy, a non-profit think tank that deals with foreign affairs and defense issues, described Moorer as a "very eminent and highly respected military officer" and added: "I have no evidence that he is antisemitic or anti-Israel per se."

Gaffney said he thought the Liberty incident "was deeply traumatic for him and for a lot of people in uniform," but that "to make much of his views on that episode," or to suggest that it implies anything about George W. Bush, "is a stretch and a disservice."


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