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King Birthday Commemorated at D.c., New York Ceremonies

Democratic National Committee Chairman Ronald Brown said Monday that Jews and blacks “do not threaten one another.”

“It is not Jews that have bombed and threatened civil rights leaders, and it is not blacks who are painting swastikas on synagogues,” said Brown.

Brown delivered the keynote speech at the fifth annual commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday at the Israeli Embassy. The event, which marked what would have been King’s 61st birthday, is co-sponsored by the Jewish National Fund of America and the embassy.

Brown leaves Wednesday on his third visit to Israel, his first in 10 years.

“I think it’s important for me, as chairman of the Democratic Party, to have a great deal of sensitivity to the situation in Israel, to be a strong advocate, and to make sure that the security interests of Israel are preserved and assured,” he said.

Brown added that he plans to discuss with Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir various human rights issues “that have been raised recently,” including the “whole issue of the relationship between Israel and South Africa.”

He said that in Shamir’s meetings in November with the Congressional Black Caucus, the prime minister “made some commitments to take some action.”

‘TUTU SPEAKS FOR HIMSELF’

When asked if he shares Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s recent statements about Israel’s harsh treatment of Palestinians, he said, “I don’t think it’s useful to try to characterize others’ feelings. I think everyone knows where I stand on Israel. Bishop Tutu speaks for himself and I speak for myself.”

At the ceremony, civil rights awards were presented to David Brody, the former Washington representative of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, and to Robert McGlotten, a prominent black who in 1986 became legislative director of the AFL-CIO. AFL-CIO President Lane Kirk-land attended the ceremony.

A third award was presented posthumously to Leonore Siegelman, a longtime civil rights activist who died Jan. 4.

It was announced at the ceremony that a grove of 1,000 trees would be named for Siegelman in JNF’s Martin Luther King Jr. Forest.

A special award of recognition was given in memory of Rep. Mickey Leland (D-Texas), who died this summer while trying to aid famine victims in Ethiopia.

Israeli Ambassador Moshe Arad called Leland a “mensch,” and likened his tragic death to that of King. Arad informed the crowd that Leland’s wife, Alison, gave birth to twin boys on Sunday.

“What a powerful message to us all that we are dedicated to continue the mission of Mickey Leland,” he said.

Among the other Jewish commemorations of King’s birthday was one held in New York by the American Jewish Congress.

On Friday, Elizabeth Holtzman, the New York City comptroller, and Douglas White, the city’s personnel director-designate, celebrated King’s birthday at an AJCongress ceremony.

Holtzman told 100 students from area schools that “through much of our history, African Americans and Jewish Americans have worked closely together to achieve that dignity and destiny of which Dr. King wrote.”

The American Jewish Committee issued a statement urging Congress to approve new civil rights and anti-discrimination laws in 1990.

Ira Silverman, the group’s executive director, also said that “to keep alive (King’s) legacy, we must all continue to abhor recent manifestations of anti-Semitism and reject irresponsible attacks against Israel.”

Silverman also urged Congress to approve a bill requiring the Justice Department to gather statistics on hate crimes.

White supremacist leader Tom Metzger attacked AJCommittee and the ADL on his Washington area hotline this week for supporting the measure, which he called a “Jew bill.”

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