KIAMESHA LAKE, N.Y. (Jun. 13)
An official of the B’nai B’rith’s Anti-Defamation League said here last night that “Black-Jewish relations have reached the lowest ebb in the United States” but urged Jews to regain their perspective in order to see the conflict in its proper context as part of the persistent economic, social and political problems of the nation that still cry for solution. Addressing 2000 delegates at the 120th annual convention of B’nai B’rith District 1 here, Alexander F. Miller, director of the ADL’s Community Service Division, chided Jews for being “preoccupied by the violence, the anti-Semitism and the quest for special treatment stemming from the Black community almost to the exclusion of all other domestic Jewish issues.”
“As for the Black community,” Miller said, “I am not nearly as sure as are so many of our constituents that anti-Semitism is its main concern. Blacks have too many other problems which occupy a far more important place on their agenda of priorities.”
Miller conceded that “to deny that anti-Jewish feeling has been intensified in certain elements of the Black community is to close one’s eyes to a potentially dangerous thrust.” But he urged Jews not to overlook or forget “that the power base in the United States does not reside in the Black minority, nor are the Blacks the brokers or levers or the instruments of power.”
“The real power,” Miller declared, “resides in the white Christian majority. An anti-Israel resolution by the National Black Political Convention will do little to affect the security of Israel although it may undermine domestic Black-Jewish relations,” he said.
Miller observed that “Part of the problem of Jewish concern with Blacks has been the anxiety of Jews concerning a number of issues such as preferential treatment, the merit system, scatter-site housing, busing and cross-busing.” However, he pointed out, “These matters are not solely the concern of the Jewish or Black communities” but “cut across the entire American community” and “making these issues into conflict points between Jews and Blacks add to the current abrasions between the two communities.”
Miller noted a parallel emergence of intense ethnic awareness in both the Black and Jewish communities which exacerbates the polarization between them. Black nationalism and Black separativeness is fed by the notion that many democratic institutions–those which reward Jews and other whites–are an obstacle to Black advancement and must be radically reformed or destroyed. The reaction in the Jewish community “has been reflected in the rise of Meir Kahane and the Jewish Defense League,” he said. “A quasi-nationalistic philosophy has been adopted by some rabbis and other Jewish leaders who have asserted that it is time Jews looked after their own interests” and that “Jews can no longer be the custodian of the problems of all groups.”
While it is legitimate for Jews to desire social justice not at the expense of Jews, Miller said, he warned that “Nationalism, looking inward, establishing group pride and group survival…must lead to breeding in-group spirit and xenophobia towards out-groups. This process has become part of the Jewish-Black confrontation” and “has led…to both groups perceiving each other as being monolithic, which, in turn, helps feed distrust and suspicion,” he said.