Group Urges Scrutiny of Jackson, but Warns of Racial Polarization

The American Jewish Congress welcomed Thursday the candidacy of Jesse Jackson for the presidency, claiming it “marks the coming of age of American democracy.”

But the congress said that the fact that Jackson is black “does not and should not immunize” him from being searched and examined on his views, as was the case with other candidates from groups never previously represented in the White House, namely John Kennedy, the first Catholic president, and Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman to be nominated vice president.

Jackson is one of the major contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination. Many in the American Jewish community oppose Jackson, because of his support for the Palestine Liberation Organization and remarks he has made that have been construed as anti-Semitic.

Robert Lifton, AJCongress national president, said in a statement issued here that the danger “of racial polarization as a result of Jesse Jackson’s candidacy and the reaction to the candidacy is real and disturbing.”

Lifton said that in order to avoid potential racial or religious conflict, “we call upon all Americans, first, to repudiate, sharply and unambiguously, anything that either directly or by implication disparages racial, religious or ethnic affiliation, or otherwise reflects a prejudiced attitude toward any racial, religious and ethnic group.

“And, second, to acknowledge publicly that differences of opinion, however acute or heated, are legitimate and appropriate in a democratic society.”

Continuing, Lifton said that all candidates must be expected to receive scrutiny and “heated criticism” during the campaign. “Where such a criticism can be demonstrated to mask racism or bigotry, it must be sharply and immediately denounced,” he said.

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