NEW YORK (Feb. 26)
An Israeli diplomat’s confrontation with Black Power militants and the harsh realities he discovered about their attitudes toward Israel and American Jews – which they identify as one and the same – were described by Paul Jacobs in the current issue of the Jesuit weekly, Commonweal. The diplomat was Ephraim Evron, Minister of Israel to the United States. He accepted an invitation by Mr. Jacobs, his close friend and a writer on the problems of Negro ghettoes in America, to visit Black nationalists in their own territory, the Watts section of Los Angeles. Mr. Evron’s purpose, according to the writer, was to find out why so many black nationalists in the U.S. had identified with the Arabs during last June’s Middle East war.
The scene of the confrontation was the headquarters of ‘Operation Bootstrap,” a self-financed Negro vocational training center and business enterprise in Watts. Almost as soon as he arrived, Mr. Evron was told by Tommy Jacquette, a young Negro militant: “You know them trees you got planted all over Israel from Jews here in Los Angeles, well, they should have our names on them, not the Jews’ names. The money from them trees comes out of my back, out of the back of every black of brother in the ghetto!”
Only one or two of the large gathering of Negroes who clustered around Mr. Evron “had any initial interest in Israeli accomplishments except for a grudging admiration about Israel’s military accomplishments,” Mr. Jacobs wrote. But they were bitter and vociferous in their denunciation of the role played by Jewish businessmen in the Negro ghetto.
“Two major themes emerged from the heated discussion,” Mr. Jacobs wrote. “The alleged exploitative role of some American Jews inside the ghettoes and the Negroes’ identification of the Arabs as supporters of the colored peoples of the world…It was clear that most of the people in the room knew little or nothing of the reality of Israel: vis-a-vis most Negroes, the Israelis are the victims of their own propaganda and that of their ardent American Jewish supporters. Instead of knowing that Israel is a complex country, with powerful internal strains and conflicts, American Negroes see it only as a simplified extension of middle-class Jewish Fairfax Avenue and upper class Beverly Hills. And they are convinced also that the American Jews exercise decisive influence over Israel’s internal and external policies.”
During the four hours of talk the Negro militants “discussed the failure of liberal Jews in America to understand what it is that American Negroes want and used advertisements taken out by the Zionists identifying the war against the Arabs as one against Communism as an example of Israel’s close identification with the United States and the Western powers,” Mr. Jacobs wrote. Later “the group was smaller and their questions were less hostile and focussed more on specifics about Israel. Obviously their interest in Israel had become piqued by what Epple (Evron) said. ‘How can some of us get over to Israel? We’d like to see those kibbutzes you’re talking about. Maybe we could start something like that here.’”
When Mr. Evron asked the Negroes what they want, he was told: “Self respect, self defense and self determination.” “As I listened to the members of the group shouting at each other, it was apparent that today the notion of integration is rejected by all these militants, even though they do not know precisely what separatism and self-determination mean, in political terms,” Mr. Jacobs wrote.