A delegation of Black American civil rights and trade union leaders met today with Premier Menachem Begin and told him they would work to improve relations between American Blacks and Jews. The meeting was intended to patch up some of the strain caused recently by the resignation of Andrew Young as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and the visit to the Middle East by Rev. Jesse Jackson who heads the Chicago-based Operation PUSH.
William Pollard, director of the civil rights department of the AFL-CIO, who is heading the seven-member delegation, said after the meeting, “We want to cement the relationship between Blacks and Jews and Israel.”
While the Blacks came out in strong support of Israel, they expressed concern about the Cabinet’s decision last Sunday to expand the settlements on the West Bank. Begin rejected their views on this issue. “Jewish settlements in this land are no obstacle to peace,” he told them. “It was proved that we can live together side by side. We do not evict anybody, we do not take from anybody anything, and the idea of full autonomy proves this wish of ours to live together.”
Begin called on American Blacks to cooperate with Israel and American Jews in pursuing peace and equality. At the some time, he said, Israel could not accept the attitude of some Blacks who supported the Palestine Liberation Organization. “How can Blacks, who have themselves suffered, back the PLO, which seeks to destroy Israel?” he asked.
The Black delegation also took up the social and economic status of the Black Israelite community in the Negev town of Dimona. Begin promised to study their problems immediately.
SHOCKED BY YAD VASHEM
The delegation visited the Yad Vashem Memorial yesterday. Some of them, shocked by the display at the memorial, cut short their visit there. One of the members, Bayard Rustin, executive director of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, was the first to leave, saying he could not take it any more. Other members of the delegation soon joined him. “It was too depressing,” Pollard said. “I can’t stand to look at those pictures that present man’s inhumanity to man. I just had to come out. It was too much.”
Rustin explained: “I am a member of President Carter’s Commission on the Holocaust. I just had a month ago two full weeks of going through most of the concentration camps in Poland and in Russia. I had been so deeply moved by what I saw there that for several nights I could not sleep. That inability to sleep means that I shall always remember, and that is what we ought all to do. When I went out yesterday to Yad Vashem I was just emotionally incapable of going through another one.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.