NEW YORK (Jul. 11)
The Rev. Jesse Jackson’s latest verbal diatribe denouncing the American Jewish community’s leadership may lead to strains in the traditional relationship between the Democratic Party and the American Jewish community when the party’s national convention begins next week in San Francisco.
Hyman Bookbinder, the Washington representative of the American Jewish Committee, said in a telephone interview today that he fears Jackson’s suggestion that the Jewish community has sought to make him a “pariah” may be the beginning of scapegoating the Jewish community for his failure to be selected as the party’s Vice Presidential candidate.
Bookbinder, who will be in San Francisco to provide information on the Jewish community to reporters, indicated that former Vice President Walter Mondale, the party’s likely Presidential candidate, and other Democratic Party leaders cannot “remain silent” in view of Jackson’s claims that he has not been seriously considered for the slot because of “threats to Mondale by a significant number of Jewish leaders.” Jackson said this was “very evident.”
Jackson’s latest remarks were contained in an interview with The Los Angeles Times published yesterday. In it, Jackson complained of “the struggle by Jewish leaders to make me a pariah and isolate our support, and attempt to isolate me from the masses.” The interview was conducted last Friday, in Greenville, S.C.
Mondale’s press secretary Maxine Isaacs was asked by The New York Times whether Mondale has been pressured by Jewish leaders to keep Jackson off the Democratic ticket. She responded: “Reverend Jackson’s saying now that’s not what he meant. All I can do is refer you back to Reverend Jackson and ask him to clarify.” Jackson confirmed the content of his remarks published yesterday, in a telephone interview with The New York Times.
JACKSON ACCUSES MONDALE
Jackson, in The Los Angeles Times interview, also accused Mondale of placing greater political importance on Jewish voters, although, he said, Blacks have been “the most loyal” while Jews have issued” a real threat.”
Jackson was referring to suggestions that the Jewish community may vote in large numbers for President Reagan should Mondale fail to take into account the concerns of the Jewish community.
Bookbinder said today that Jackson’s comments indicate a “resurgence of Jackson’s challenge” to the Democratic Party and its leadership. He described the references to the Jewish community leadership as “absolutely horrendous,” adding that Jackson’s continued public attacks on American Jews require that “we all take a look at the Jackson phenomenon.”
Henry Siegman, executive director of the American Jewish Congress, accused Jackson of attempting to “polarize Americans and to set group against group. We will not allow his destructive and self-aggrandizing politics to widen the breach between the Jewish community and Black community.”
The Democratic Party leadership has “made a tragic mistake in their unprincipled assumption that they can exploit Jesse Jackson’s appeal at the polls while distancing themselves from his divisive policies,” Siegman said. “It is a partnership that can only lead to disaster for the Democratic Party. If they do not finally act to repudiate Jesse Jackson, it is a disaster they will have well deserved.”
In the Times interview, Jackson also accused Jewish leaders being under a “very arrogant and contemptuous assumption” that the Democrats can “stick another head on the body I’ve organized.”
Nathan Perlmutter, director of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, said of Jackson’s remarks, “Jews speak up for their dignity against his anti-Semitic statements and that becomes ‘arrogant’ and ‘contemptuous’.”
Rabbi Alexander Schindler, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, said Jackson’s remarks only confirm “the anxiety and dismay” that Jews have felt “about his politics of polarization. By seeking confrontation with the Jewish community, he demeans the political process and wounds the Democratic Party.”
Jews Against Jackson said in a statement here that Jackson’s remarks “give lie to both his alleged apology” for his past reference to Jews as “Hymies” and New York City as “Hymietown,” and his claim of “not being anti-Semitic.” Jews Against Jackson called for Jews and non-Jews to denounce his racial policies against Jews and Israel “which in the long run will effect all ethnic groups.”
JDL TO BE AT THE CONVENTION
Meanwhile, the Jewish Defense League announced today that some 250 members of its organization will gather in San Francisco to express “outrage” at the fact that Jackson “will be given the opportunity to maintain a power broker status within the Democratic Party.”
Fern Rosenblatt, national director of the JDL, said the theme of the demonstration will be to demand that Jackson be locked out of any influence in the Democratic Party. She said a contingent of JDL members will be on the convention floor with petitions circulating among the delegates, calling on Mondale to publicly condemn Jackson and to give firm commitment to not acquiesce to Jackson’s demands for political clout.