Controversial state Sen. John G. Schmitz today announced, to a group of reporters and frogs, Yasser Arafat's plan for peace in the Middle East.
Schmitz, a Republican from Orange County, met with Arafat, leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization, in Beirut March 30 at Arafat's invitation, and agreed to act as his messenger.
The proposal does not break new ground for Arafat's group. He said the PLO would recognize Israel in return for the United States' recognition of the PLO and a homeland in Palestine for the Palestinians. Schmitz characterized these as "a new combination of old offerings." The offerings have been rejected by the Israelis each time they were made.
The setting for the announcement was, however, not what one has come to expect from international diplomacy.
The press conference, held on the patio of the Los Angeles Press Club, was interrupted by Gloria Allred, a Los Angeles attorney and feminist leader who has been exchanging insults with Schmitz for months.
"Senator Schmitz," yelled Allred as she pushed her way through a knot of reporters, "why are you holding this press conference on the first day of Passover?"
Placing a small plastic aquarium full of frogs on the table in front of Schmitz, next to a bouquet of microphones, she shouted, "A plague on the house of Schmitz!"
Allred later explained the symbolism: when the pharoahs refused to let the Jewish people go, God visited upon Egypt a number of plagues, one being the plague of frogs.
"The Jewish people," said Allred, "survived the House of the Pharoahs, and they will survive the House of Schmitz."
The last time Allred used symbolism to make a point to Schmitz the gift was a chastity belt and the presentation was made at a hearing on abortion legislation.
The senator subsequently put out a press release describing Allred and her supporters as "bulldykes" and "lesbians" with "hard, Jewish and (arguably) female faces." Allred was singled out as a "slick butch lawyeress." Allred filed a $10 million libel suit, which is still pending.
Schmitz said it was that press release, and the resulting publicity, that inspired Arafat to invite him to Lebanon. Arafat saw press clippings in which Schmitz was criticized because "I used the word Jewish in a non-adulatory manner," the senator said. The "Zionist-influenced" American press has made "caricatures" of both himself and Arafat, Schmitz said, adding: "It is an affliction we have in common."
Schmitz was publicly criticized by the California Republican Party, stripped of his Senate committee chairmanship and ousted from the National Council of the John Birch Society for the disparaging remarks about Jews and homosexuals.