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April 21, 1989 - Image 10

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-04-21

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

OPINION

JOE PANIAN'S

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Continued from Page 7

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rights, it would have rallied
Jews behind Hillel. The cam-
pus crisis which triggered the
solicitation would have been
publicized. Arab Jew-hatred
would have been exposed,
enhancing Arab isolation by
demonstrating the distance
between Arab attitudes and
American values.
In this case, political
courage would have produced
substantial dividends. Pro-
perly handled, the ill-fated
solicitation letter could have
been a means for B'nai B'rith
to motivate the Jews, dis-
credit the Arabs, and align
the pro-Jewish/pro-Israel side
with fundamental American
values such as free speech.
Instead, Arab claims of
Jewish "racism" went un-
challenged. What should
have been a Jewish victory
was instead a resounding
defeat.
B'nai B'rith is not the only
Jewish organization practic-
ing politics badly. The Jesse
Jackson case is instructive.
Jackson's hostility to Jews
and to Jewish interests is an
integral part of his political
program, as well as an impor-
tant rallying point for many
of his political allies. With
Jackson's encouragement,
state Democratic Party
organizations have become
forums for attacks against
pro-Israel Democrats. Jews
who seek party office must
downplay their suport for
Israel to avoid antagonizing
Jackson allies.
Yet, Jews could have nipped
the Jackson problem in the
bud. In 1985, with the
Farakahn affair still fresh
and the Democratic Party
reeling from the Reagan land-
slide, Jackson was vulnerable.
Evidence of that vulnerabili-
ty was the fact that Sen. Joe
Biden of Delaware, a man
aiming for the 1988
Democratic Party Presiden-
tial nomination, stood before
a black audience and criticiz-
ed Jackson's religious pre-
judices and political
programs.
Any politician seeking the
Democratic mantle needed
black support, and Jackson
was preceived to have a lock
on the black vote. Yet, Joe
Biden took on Jackson.
Biden went after Jackson in
1985 because it appeared that
Jackson was on the fringe of
American politics. Jews, on
the other hand, played a ma-
jor role in the Mondale cam-
paign, and were perceived to
be useful allies. The benefits
of attacking Jackson — solidi-
fying Jewish support — were
thought to outweigh the costs
in black votes of such a move.
In this climate, and given
Jackson's hostility to Jews

Jesse Jackson:
Winning the non-confrontation.

and Jewish interests, the ra-
tional thing to do would have
been to push him further-and
further out into the
wilderness, while working to
develop better relations with
other black political leaders.
Inexplicably, instead of in-
creasing Jackson's isolation,
some Jews actually encourag-
ed his rehabilitation. A major
Reform organization invited
Jackson to speak in an effort
to find "common ground!'
Jewish Democratic Party
regulars . did nothing to
punish and isolate Jackson
supporters in state and local
party organizations.
Moreover, instead of going
public and strongly suppor-
ting Biden when he received
political heat for attacking
Jackson, the Jewish elite left
Biden hanging.
Such action failed all tests
of political rationality. First,
Biden had been a good friend
of Israel and the Jews for
years. His record alone
obigated the elite to rise to
his defense. Second, public
silence undermined whatever
political value it had as an al-
ly. With no apparent Jewish
benefit to be gained by at-
tacking Jackson, no politician
would risk the costs of black
support that an attack
against Jackson might cost.
Thus Biden, burned once,
never criticized, Jackson
again.
By 1988, Jackson's anti-
Semitic cloud had lifted. Yet,
his program had not changed,
his political war against
Israel and her supporters in-
side the Democratic Party
continued, and Louis
Farakahn even retained ac-
cess to his campaign. Even so,
when Al Gore and New York's
Ed Koch attempted to make
Jackson account to the Jews
for his record during the New

Continued on Page 12

.

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111

Imo

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