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April 15, 1988 - Image 31

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-04-15

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White House," Siegel says.
"That comparison offends me;
those Houston ministers were
bigoted. Is this to suggest
that we are bigoted? It's an of-
fensive parallel!'
Siegel's unforgiving at-
titude is characteristic of a
large number of Jewish ac-
tivists in Washington. In
discussing the political sur-
prises of the last few months,
many keep coming back to
the idea that Jackson has ap-
parently gotten away with
ethnic slurs that would have
rendered almost any other
candidate unacceptable in
normal political life.
Jackson's public embrace of
Yassir Arafat was a problem,
but something that could be
worked with, many pro-Israel
activists seem to suggest; his
"hymie-town" comments dur-
ing the 1984 race, and his
refusal to forcefully repudiate

There is a sense
that Jackson is
playing by a whole
new set of rules.

the overtly anti-Semitic
Black Muslim leader Louis
Farrakhan have generated a
gut reaction that makes the
candidate morally repugnant
in the eyes of many.
Within the inner circles of
the pro-Israel lobby —
generally, the most pragmatic
business on earth — the Jack-
son surge has touched off a lot
of worried ambivalence, and
some sharp debate.
One top pro-Israel lobbyist
argues that this new political
reality means that Jewish po-
liticos have no choice but to
play catch-up with the Jack-
son campaign. "At some
point, you have to make an at-
tempt; the man isn't going to
disappear. Right now, frankly,
he's getting his Jewish input
from people who are not real-
ly connected to the issue or to
the community, at least not in
a way I view as useful. Right
now, he's getting a lot of input
from the other side — from
the Arab groups. So I don't
think he's left us much choice,
unpleasant a prospect as that
But one of this lobbyist's
colleagues describes a sense
of resignation that such con-
tacts will not count for much.
"There has been contact be-
tween the Jackson campaign
and the pro-Israel communi-
ty. It's not as if nobody has
tried. So far, at least, we're

not seeing that it's producing
any results!'
Rabbi David Saperstein, of
Reform Judaism's Religious
Action Center, has probably
done more Jackson outreach
in recent weeks than any
other Jewish leader. Saper-
stein stakes out a somewhat
more optimistic position —
although he does not down-
play the enormous difficulties
in healing the troubled rela-
tionship between Jackson
and the Jews.
"It all depends on whether
we have the will to work with
him," Saperstein says.
"Jackson clearly wants it; he's
been talking more and more
about Israel's security needs.
But the community is
suspicious; the scars have left
de _ epseated distrust."
Saperstein sees encourag-
ing signs of a growing will-
ingness to build bridges to
Jackson — even within the of-
fices of the American Israel
Public Affairs Committee
(AIPAC). But he sees confu-
sion about how that can be
"Mostly, I think there's a
lack of ideas about how to
deal with what's happening.
Jackson is a credible political
candidate with whom we've
had a history of. confronta-
tion. There's a problem with
knowing how to deal with
someone whose positions are
more problematic than any-
one else we've had to work
Saperstein offers some sug-
gestions about how the gap
might be bridged. "A wise
and politically effective
response requires an ability
not only to criticize him when
he says things inimical to
Jewish concerns — but to ac-
tively encourage him when
he does things that reflect an
effort to reach out to the
Jewish community. We're
very good at the first thing,
not so good at the second!'
The stakes, Saperstein
warns, are high; the Jewish
community's response to the
Jackson dilemma will have
an enormous impact on the
already-strained relations be-
tween blacks and Jews.
Jews don't have to like
Jackson as a candidate, he
implies — but it is essential to
understand the fact that
Jackson has become the pre-
eminent symbol of the aspira-
tions of the black community.
"The Jewish community has
to interact with Jackson not
only as an individual, but as
this symbol," Saperstein says.

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