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Jewish Groups Outraged at Moran’s Remarks

Some constituents stick by their congressman.

A group of seven Northern Virginia rabbis has called on U.S. Rep. James P. Moran (D-8th) to resign because of remarks he made at a town hall meeting in Reston. Rabbi Jack Moline of the Agudas Achim Congregation in Alexandria said Moran’s criticism of Jewish leaders “was very much the last straw.

“This one just crossed the line,” said Moline. “He’s not a competent congressman.”

At the March 3 meeting at St. Anne’s Episcopal Church, the congressman expressed his opposition to war with Iraq. “If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq,” Moran said, “we would not be doing this. The leaders of the Jewish community are influential enough that they could change the direction of where this is going, and I think they should.”

But in remarks that now appear prescient, Moran also said, “I’ve spoken up far more than I should have in circles where I should have kept my mouth shut.” Moran refused to be interviewed for this article.

Moline, who said he considered Moran a friend, said he could not ignore the Northern Virginia congressman’s remarks. “From a personal point of view, I am very sad. From a political point of view, I have to take action.”

This is not the first time Moran has been embroiled in controversy. A few years ago, Moran delivered a speech to a Muslim-American group that Jewish leaders said presented a “revisionist” view of Israeli history, Moline said.

FACED WITH MOUNTING criticism, Moran Monday issued a four-paragraph apology in which he said religious groups should be more outspoken in their opposition to war with Iraq.

“I should not have singled out the Jewish community and regret giving any impression that its members are somehow responsible for the course of action being pursued by the administration, or are somehow behind an impending war,” he said. “I don’t blame anyone who has criticized me for making such unreflected, if unintended, comments. I have only myself to blame. As such, I deeply regret any hurt that I may have caused and sincerely apologize to anyone I may have offended.”

But Ralph Nurnberger, a former lobbyist for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), said the seven rabbis were wrong to call for Moran’s resignation.

“What they should do is sit down with him and talk to him,” he said.

After speaking with Moran, Nurnberger said he was willing to stand by the congressman.

“Sometimes words come out of Jim’s mouth before they go through his thoughts, and this was one of those occasions,” said Nurnberger, a resident of Arlington, who is both an international relations professor at Georgetown University and a lobbyist in private practice.

MORAN’S APOLOGY did not satisfy Ronald Halber, the executive director of the Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington. “His apology is too little, too late,” he said. “This time he went over the line. He crossed into anti-Semitism.”

On Monday, the Council sent Moran a letter urging him to “do more than just issue half-hearted, meaningless pro-forma apologies after continuous inaccurate, insensitive and bigoted remarks.”

Ira Forman, the executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council, said Moran’s statement does not reflect the diversity of views in the Jewish community.

“There’s majority support in the Jewish community for war on Iraq, but the Jewish community is split like the country,” he said.

Moran has also been criticized by his own party.

“Congressman Moran’s comments were intolerable and highly inappropriate, especially from a Democratic member of Congress,” said Guillermo Meneses, a spokesperson for the Democratic National Committee. “Congressman Moran has apologized and rightly so. That kind of rhetoric is unacceptable and goes against the values and beliefs of the Democratic Party.”