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March 05, 1993 - Image 49

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1993-03-05

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the plight of the Palestinians, when he
refused to condemn Rev. Louis Far-
rakhan for anti-Semitic statements or
called New York "Hymietown," Jews
felt a pain that transcended the polit-
But now that Rev. Jackson seems to
have changed his ways, spearheading
efforts of black-Jewish cooperation,
speaking at synagogues and to rab-
binical groups and asking for teshuva,
or forgiveness, the community remains
deeply skeptical.
What will it take for the Jewish com-
munity, which has honed pragmatic
politics to an art, to allow Rev. Jackson
to heal the wounds he helped inflict? And
why does Rev. Jackson attach such ur-
gency to his quest for rapprochement
with the Jews?
In a recent interview of almost two
hours in his Rainbow Coalition office
in Washington, D.C., Jesse Jackson re-
vealed a passionate desire to heal this
troubled relationship — and provided
some unintended hints of why this at-
tempted reconciliation has been so dif-

Unselfish Interest

Rev. Jackson's office is less than
three blocks from another office he once
coveted — 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. His
office itself is not austere, but it is far
from ostentatious; unlike the offices of
many Washington luminaries, the
walls are not plastered with pho-
tographs featuring the occupant with
presidents, popes and premiers.
Regarded as one of the nation's most
stirring orators, Rev. Jackson in pri-
vate shows flashes of eloquence and a
mastery of images, particularly when
he talks about the broad moral visions
with which he seems to feel the most
But at other times he stumbles
along with incomplete sentences, his
thoughts sometimes trailing off.
At times — when he discusses the im-
portance of the black-Jewish alliance,

for instance — he speaks with visible
passion; other times, he seems some-
what detached and unfocused, as if his
interest had flagged.
At the outset of the interview he was
wary and a bit stiff. Only after 30 min-
utes or so did he visibly relax, putting
his feet up on a chair as he spoke.
Throughout, he gave the impression of
a man who wants very much to be un-
derstood and appreciated by the Jew-
ish community but who can't quite
figure out how to go about it.
One point of contention was his ac-
tivity on behalf of increased black-Jew-

Low Points
Along The Way

1979: Rev. Jackson meets with PLO chairman Yassir Arafat; photographs
of the two leaders embracing become part of the Jesse Jackson iconography.
Mr. Jackson called for the creation of a Palestinian state.
1979: Rev. Jackson, responding to the resignation of U.N. Ambassador An-
drew Young after unauthorized contact with Yassir Arafat, appears to sug-
gest that organized Jewish interests are, in part,
responsible for Mr. Young's departure.
1979: At Yad Vashem, Rev. Jackson, labeling the
Holocaust one of the great tragedies of human
history, connects the experience ofJews during
the Holocaust and blacks in the American South,
and declines to label the Holocaust "unique" —
angering some Jews.
1984: In a private conversation with a black
Washington Post reporter during his first presi-
dential campaign, Rev. Jackson refers to New
York as "Hymietown."
1984: At a campaign rally, Nation of Islam
leader Louis Farrakhan, a vocal Jackson sup-
porter and critic ofJews, introduces Rev. Jack-
son, and warns Jews that an attack on Rev.
Jackson will be regarded as an attack on all
Rev. Jackson, shown here with Atlanta mayor Andrew Young, criticized the Jewish
1985: Rev. Jackson, speaking to an Arab Ameri-
community for its role in Mr. Young's resignation as U.N. Ambassador during the
can group, labels Israeli settlements in the West
Carter administration. Mr. Young had met with PLO representatives.
Bank a violation of international law.
ish cooperation. Rev. Jackson insisted
1987: In an interview in Tikkun, a liberal Jewish magazine, Rev. Jackson
it has been ongoing, but that it is only
suggests a comparison between the situation in South Africa and the Holo-
recently being noted. And as for his mo-
caust, and — while insisting on his support for Israeli security — said that "af-
tives, he resented any inference that
firmative action for Zionism had to do with uprooting people from lands."
he was seeking to bridge gaps with the
1988: In a New York Times interview, Rev. Jackson insists that ties be-
Jewish community to increase his
tween South Africa and Israel are a major source of friction between Ameri-
chances to win a high appointment in
can Jews and blacks.
the Clinton administration.
1988: After Rev. Jackson fails to win the Democratic presidential nomina-
"My interest in bridge building and
tion, an American Jewish Committee survey shows that 59 percent of
reconciliation in relieving tensions is
American Jews regard the candidate as an anti-Semite.
an unselfish moral interest," he said.
1988: Rev. Jackson meets with Israeli ambassador Moshe Arad — a meeting
"I seek nothing but to revive a coalition
that resulted in considerable criticism of the Israeli envoy, but may have
that has the capacity to protect both of
started Rev. Jackson's slow rehabilitation process in the Jewish community.
us from a rise of fascism in the country
and in the international community."

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