Arab-Americans are lobbying strenuously to erode Israel's support in Congress and the Reagan Administration by citing beatings and killings by Israeli troops in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, an Arab-American leader said Tuesday.
Former Sen. James G. Abourezk said that Washington should withhold military and economic aid to Israel until the Jerusalem government eases its iron fist approach to the 11-week-old Palestinian uprising. At least 61 Arabs have been killed in the disturbances.
"The U.S. Congress must lay down the law and say 'No more money,' " said Abourezk, chairman of the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee. "But I think we are a ways away from that now."
The former Democratic senator from South Dakota said that his organization is getting a much more cordial reception on Capitol Hill than in the past, but he conceded that the key to the equation is the attitude of the American Jewish community. And, he said, there is nothing much that Arab groups can do to influence Jewish opinion.
"Nothing will change unless the Jewish community becomes outraged," Abourezk said.
So far, the leaders of most recognized Jewish American groups have avoided open criticism of Israel. But there is evidence of growing dissent within the American Jewish community.
Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun, a magazine that bills itself as a "Jewish critique of politics, culture and society," said that current Israeli policies are immoral and ridiculous. He said it is time for Jewish-Americans to say so.
"Israel is undermining our ability to generate the support needed for continued American military and economic aid ," Lerner said in a telephone interview from the magazine's office in Oakland. "That is unbelievably stupid."
He said that the Israeli government's West Bank and Gaza policy forces Jewish-Americans "to choose between our deep love for Israel and our loyalty to the essentials of Jewish tradition."
In an editorial prepared for the magazine's March issue, Lerner mounted a sharp attack on Jewish leaders who have defended Israeli occupation policy.
"We did not survive the gas chambers and crematoria of Europe so we could become the oppressors of Gaza," he wrote. "Most American Jewish leaders have displayed shortsightedness and cowardice in dealing with the current difficulties."