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March 05, 1993 - Image 50

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

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

Jesse Jackson

Bitburg, Germany, in 1985, a protest
that was lost quickly in the static of
Jewish suspicion.
"I try to put myself in Jackson's
shoes," said writer Leonard Fein, who
met with Rev. Jackson recently. "Rea-
gan went to Bitburg and three weeks
later, we're honoring him at our din-
ners. Jackson went to protest what
Reagan did, and we were excoriating
him. For Jackson, it has to be at the
least puzzling, and more likely, deeply
offensive."

Common Language?

The candidate: Rev. Jackson's initial successes during his race for the Democratic nomination for president in 1984 alienated many Jews.

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He listed a number of his activities
on behalf of the Jewish community go-
ing back to the 1970s: his decision to
stand with the Jews of Skokie against
Nazi marchers, his continuing efforts
on behalf of Syrian Jews, his aggres-
sive confrontation with former Soviet
leader Mikhail Gorbachev over the fate
of Soviet Jews, and his pro-Israel
speech at the Democratic National Con-
vention last summer.
Rev. Jackson suggested that his con-
troversial embrace of Yassir Arafat in
1979, a sin still unforgiven in the eyes
of some Jews, was actually another ex-
ample of his concern.
"I challenged Arafat face to face to
recognize Israel's right to exist with se-
curity, within internationally recog-
nized boundaries," he said. "I urged him
to seize the moment presented by Sa-
dat's trip to Israel."
Last fall, he worked behind the
scenes to help keep the black-Jewish
tensions resulting from the violence in
Crown Heights from escalating further
— a role that most mainstream Jewish
leaders acknowledge.
And, more recently, he played a role
in cooling tempers inflamed by charges
in the Forward, a Jewish newspaper
in New York, about Johnnetta Cole, a
black educator who was being consid-
ered for a post in the Clinton adminis-
tration. Those charges, revolving
around Ms. Cole's membership in two

One source of friction between Rev.
Jackson and the Jewish community in-
volves his use of language.
"He speaks out of a different tradi-
tion," said Ann Lewis, a Jewish politi-
cal consultant who worked with Rev.
Jackson in the 1988 presidential cam-
paign. "Even as a secular leader, his
speech is more church-oriented" than
what most Jews are accustomed to
hearing.
Another part of Jesse Jackson's Jew-
ish problem is a persistent and sur-
prising lack of knowledge of Jewish life
and sensitivities.
In response to a question about his
feelings about Zionism, he repeated his

far-left groups, incensed black leaders.
Rev. Jackson suggested that his re-
sponse could serve as a model for more
effective black-Jewish cooperation.
He said he convened a conference
call with about 10 African Americans
and about 10 Jewish leaders, "and it
became a tremendous call. We raised
critical questions; we resolved it. The
point is, we had a conference call, as
opposed to battling it out in the press,
with the press playing the role of
matchmaker."

Puzzled By Reaction

Rev. Jackson insisted that he is mys-
tified about the reasons for his long re-
jection by the Jewish community.
"I don't know," he said. "I can't an-
swer that objectively. I've often won-
dered about it."
But later, pressed on the issue, he
sought an explanation in terms of
David Dinkins' experience in New
York. Mr. Dinkins, the city's first black
mayor, is facing a serious political back-
lash from the Jewish community be-
cause of his performance in the Crown
Heights crisis.
"It's cultural," he said. "I mean, David
Dinkins has an outstanding reputa-
tion...having worked in coalitions, hav-
ing gone to the Wailing Wall, having
reached out over a long period of time
— and yet, when he ran against [Re-
publican mayoral candidate Rudolph]

In a self-described humanitarian gesture, Rev. Jackson traveled to Syria to help secure the release
of Navy Lt. Robert Goldman Jr. in 1984.

Giuliani, in a town that's 90 percent
Democratic, he got only 30 percent of
the Jewish vote."
[Mr. Dinkins received about 37 per-
cent of the Jewish vote, lower than nor-
mal in support of a Democratic mayoral
candidate, but higher than any other
white group in supporting the black
candidate.]
Rev. Jackson is sensitive to what he
perceives as a double standard in the
Jewish community's response to him.
Several times, he referred to his pub-
lic protest of President Reagan's con-
troversial visit to an SS cemetery in

assertion that Zionism, at its best, is a
national liberation movement, "an es-
sential political movement, organized
for the emancipation of a people."
But in talking about the infamous
United Nations Zionism-is-racism res-
olution, he seemed to express the be-
lief that Zionism is a matter of the
maternal blood line, not political belief.
He suggested that "...the prerequisite
that your mother had to be Jewish in
order for you to be a Zionist, that may
have been the basis [on which] the
United Nations condemned it as
racism."

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