By Steve Gorman
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A leading Jewish human rights organization is calling on Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul to address newly published assertions by a former aide that Paul favors abolishing Israel.
Such a position, if true, would mark a radical departure from more than 60 years of bipartisan U.S. support for the Jewish state, said Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center.
"We hope that (Paul) would confront this issue," Hier told Reuters on Wednesday.
"If he says that his principal aide was mistaken and that he never said that, that's one thing. But if he adheres to such a position, that he believes there ought not be an Israel, that should be a wake-up call to America."
Neither Paul nor representatives of his campaign immediately returned phone calls or responded to email queries seeking comment on the issue.
The Wiesenthal Center is not the first Jewish group to express consternation with the Texas congressman over Israel.
The Republican Jewish Coalition declined to invite him to its December 7 candidates forum, citing what it called his extreme views following a debate in November in which Paul argued that the United States should be less involved in Israeli affairs.
"They can take care of themselves," he said then. "Why do we have this automatic commitment that we're going to send our kids and send our money endlessly to Israel?"
Paul has called for reduced foreign aid generally.
Paul, a leading contender in the race to win the January 3 Republican caucus vote in Iowa -- the first nominating contest in the nation -- has previously drawn fire for anti-Israeli and racist, anti-gay messages, contained in newsletters published under his name two decades ago.
Last Friday, a spokesman for Paul said the congressman apologized for not paying enough attention to "ghost writers" he said were responsible for the remarks in question and repeated the congressman's disavowal of those views.
But in a lengthy statement posted earlier this week on the blog site RightWingNews.com, former congressional aide Eric Dondero said his onetime boss has long harbored stridently anti-Israel opinions that he often expressed privately.
Dondero, 49, who said he served as Paul's senior aide in his Gulf Coast district from 1997 through 2003, denied ever seeing evidence that Paul was anti-Semitic.
"He is, however, most certainly, anti-Israel," Dondero wrote. "He wishes the Israeli state did not exist at all. He expressed this to me numerous times in our private conversations.
"His view is that Israel is more trouble than it is worth, specifically to the American taxpayer," Dondero continued. "He sides with the Palestinians and supports their calls for the abolishment of the Jewish state, and the return of Israel, all of it, to the Arabs."
Speaking to Reuters on Wednesday, Dondero, who publishes his own LibertarianRepublican.net blog and earns a living gathering petition signatures for ballot proposals around the country, stood by his assessment of his former boss.
He said he wrote about Paul in response to requests from other conservative blog writers seeking greater insights into the congressman's views.
Dondero, a Navy veteran, acknowledged that Paul's supporters have previously dismissed him as a "disgruntled former employee," and said he parted company with Paul in early 2004 over sharp differences on foreign policy matters.
(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Jerry Norton)