SAN FRANCISCO (Jun. 14)
American Jews “do not want to be talked to as parochial special pleaders” by candidates in this year’s election campaign, according to Hyman Bookbinder, Washington representative of the American Jewish Committee.
American Jews are first and foremost concerned with “what is best for the protection of our democratic, pluralist society and what kind of foreign policy is best for American and the free world,” Bookbinder told the Annual Meeting of the San Francisco chapter of the AJCommittee yesterday.
He added, however, that the Jewish reaction to the candidacy of Rev. Jesse Jackson, who seeks the Democratic Presidential nomination, and to the various candidates’ positions on Israel was natural and understandable. Jews, he said, will closely observe the Democratic convention, to be held here next month, to note whether Jackson will help promote intergroup harmony and to see what stand will be taken on the Middle East.
The AJCommittee official decried the “exaggerations and distortions” that he said had characterized public discussion of the Jackson candidacy. But, he noted, Jews continue to have a special interest in that candidacy. “How could they not,” he asked, “when they have been confronted for the first time in recent memory with an aspirant for the Presidency whose record includes numerous instances of insensitivity and even hostility to basic Jewsih interests?”
BLACK-JEWISH CLASH TO BE AVOIDED
Bookbinder stressed however that American Jews have an “abi?ing interest” in avoiding a clash with the Black community and in affirming Rev. Jackson’s right to seek the nomination.
“We repudiated the senseless attacks on him by the Jewish Defense League. We welcomed his apology for his ‘Hymietown’ remarks. We sought to make it clear that our reaction to his candidacy was in no way due to his color–pointing to the very high support Jews had given to Black candidates for Mayor in Los Angeles and Chicago and Philadelphia. We recognized the contribution he made by motivating many thousands of new voters to register,” Bookbinder said.
Nevertheless, he continued, Jackson’s failure to repudiate the support of Black Muslim leader Louis Farrakhan and his pro-Palestine Liberation Organization posture in the Arab-Israeli dispute continue to “present problems.”
According to Bookbinder, Jackson “must be willing to acknowledge that Jews have been, and continue to be, strong and reliable allies in the struggles for human rights and social justice, and he should recognize that his campaign may have contributed ominously to divisiveness and poses a threat to American pluralism.”
JEWISH VOTE STILL UNDECIDED
Bookbinder indicated that neither of the two major parties should take Jewish support for granted. If the choice in November is between former Vice President Walter Mondale and President Reagan, Jewish voters can be confident that both are “decent, sympathetic, sensitive leaders leaders who understand the central concerns of Jews on such matters as anti-Semitism, Israeli security and the rights of Jews in the Soviet Union and other areas around the world,” Bookbinder said.
By and large, he observed, Jewish voters “will want to hear how the candidates will assure further and stronger economic recovery, how they will deal with America’s crime and urban decay problems, how they will use America’s strength and influence in the world to advance human rights but without undue interference in other nations’ affairs.”
The Jewish community, he added, also awaits inteligent discussion on immigration policy, women’s rights and feminization of poverty, church-state issues, affirmative action, energy, defense policy and education.