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Jewish World Review /Feb. 5, 1999 / 19 Shevat, 5759

Jonathan Tobin

Jonathan S. Tobin

The Bibiphobia Conspiracy

I AM NOT a conspiracy fan.

Even though I grew up in a time when authority was questioned and cynicism was ever present, I just don't buy into that mind-set. As a student of history, I know that events are more random than we think, and most governments and organizations are too incompetent to pull off the kind of vast conspiracies that are the staple of modern fiction.

Who killed JFK? I've always believed it was Lee Harvey Oswald acting alone.

Never for a second did I believe that Paul McCartney of the Beatles was dead when all the other kids were playing their LPs backward to hear the secret obituary.

And I've always scoffed at all the pulp drama about CIA conspiracies.

But in the last couple of months, I'm beginning to have my doubts about our noble spooks headquartered in Langley, Va.

Why? Because the renowned secret agency has suddenly gone missing in action. The CIA, which was tasked by the president to monitor compliance with the peace accords by both Arafat's Palestinian Authority and Israel, has decided to lay low on all substantive issues.

For example, when Arafat released five high-ranking Hamas terrorists last week, the CIA played dumb. It so happens these terrorists are believed to be connected to the murders of dozens of innocents, including five Americans - Matthew Eisenfeld, Sara Duker, Ira Weinstein, Leah Stern and Yale Botwin.

Eventually, the CIA claimed these guys weren't involved with the murders. But how could they not be, since they were all senior members of the groups that planned and carried out the terrorism? The CIA won't say.

Why not? My conspiracy theory to explain it is Bibiphobia.

I would define Bibiphobia (Bee-bee-pho´-bee-ah) as hatred of all things related to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Admitting that Arafat has made a hash of the Wye accord (as he did with Oslo) might benefit Netanyahu in the upcoming Israeli elections. So the Bibiphobic Clinton administration tells the CIA to suddenly turn a blind eye to the P.A.'s revolving door for terrorists.

Is this a paranoid delusion? I don't think so.

The ironic thing about Netanyahu is that he makes peace deals and grants major concessions to the Palestinians but then goes out and talks tough for the Israeli electorate, as if he hadn't given away anything. So the left and the American administration treats him like a pariah. All breakdowns in the peace process are blamed on him, no matter what Arafat does. Since he has, at least, a fighting chance to win re-election in May, Washington is being careful to do nothing that might aid his cause.

And though Clinton and those following his lead in Langley may think of those five murdered Americans as sacrifices for "peace," I don't think we should be so cavalier about their memory.

I covered Matt Eisenfeld's and Sara Duker's funerals nearly three years ago. I can't forget the tears of their families, nor have I forgotten the Clinton administration's pledge to bring their killers to justice.

But instead of calling Arafat to account for this outrage, much of our national leadership was lining up to share some Cheerios and juice with the old terrorist at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington this week.

Clinton also planned to greet Arafat at the White House Thursday, while Republican hotshot (and ex-football star) Rep. Steve Largent is said to want to share the gospel with him!

The CIA can't get itself - let alone Hamas - arrested in Gaza, and everyone in Washington is thinking about oatmeal with Arafat. But there is one group that isn't asleep. The sleuths of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations are on the job.

That's right. The "investigative" powers of their search committee for a new chairman are being taxed to the utmost as they bravely uncover the truth about the mystery man who has been nominated for the role.

Who's the John Doe? None other than one of the most conspicuous American Jewish billionaires: cosmetics heir Ron Lauder. Lauder has run for mayor of New York, been U.S. ambassador to Vienna, funded countless Jewish charitable efforts overseas generously, and lately has been giving time and serious cash to the Jewish National Fund as its president.

He's also a friend of the current prime minister and is generally believed to have helped finance his campaigns.

Is there anything unknown about the Estée heir? I doubt it.

So what is Lauder being investigated for? Giving money to Netanyahu.

But wait, we already knew that, didn't we?

I doubt that there are many big Jewish givers on the national scene who haven't given something to an Israeli politician or a non-profit group linked to him. But because Lauder has helped fund the Likud leader, all of a sudden, there's something not kosher about his ascending to the throne of the Conference.

Lauder has denied giving money to Netanyahu. His critics say the question is whether he lied when he made the denial. Maybe he's telling the truth and maybe he isn't.

But who cares? Many of the same liberal Jewish groups lining up to stop Lauder don't care if the president of the United States commits perjury.

Why do they care about Lauder?

Call me crazy, but I think it is all part of the Bibiphobia conspiracy. The sharks of the American Jewish left have made anybody who is friends with the unlovable P.M. a marked man.

Personally, I think the Conference is a bloated joke. There are dozens of so-called "major" organizations, and the group is paralyzed by division and ultimately speaks for no one. But if Lauder wants to play the prince of exile, what's the harm?

Just because Bibi and his friends are paranoid doesn't mean a lot of people aren't out to get them. That's their tough luck, but when the truth is sacrificed by a U.S. government agency, that's when I join the conspiracy crowd.

Maybe the same people who are so uptight about who Lauder funded should worry more about where Matt Eisenfeld and Sara Duker's killers are today. Maybe the people who want to have breakfast and a prayer with Arafat should care about that, too.

Maybe the CIA should stop playing footsie with the P.A. on terrorism. Maybe Clinton should demand that Palestinian Arab killers of Americans be extradited to Israel or the United States.

And maybe American Jewish groups should be demanding that, too.

JWR contributor Jonathan S. Tobin is executive editor of the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent.


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©1998, Jonathan S. Tobin