New York City Mayor Edward Koch told reporters last Friday that Jews would be “crazy” to vote for Jesse Jackson, because of the Democratic presidential hopeful’s support of Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasir Arafat.
Koch’s remarks, coming less than three weeks before the April 19 New York primary, immediately raised concern about their possible impact on black-Jewish and black-white relations in New York City.
Speaking at an impromptu news conference, Koch, who is Jewish and a strong supporter of Israel, complained that Jackson “equates the PLO with the Israeli government, as though they were equal in justice and goals.”
“Would he support any candidate who praised (Prime Minister P.W.) Botha in South Africa?” Koch asked. “I wouldn’t. But on the other hand, he’s praising Arafat, and he thinks maybe Jews and other supporters of Israel should vote for him.”
Koch said Jewish supporters of Jackson have “got to be crazy, in the same way that they’d be crazy if they were black and voted for someone who was praising Botha and the racist supporters of the South African administration.”
In addition to criticizing Jackson’s foreign policy, Koch said Jackson’s proposed domestic programs, which call for increased social spending and cuts in military spending, would put the country “in bankruptcy in three weeks, and then he wants to disarm us.”
When informed of Koch’s remarks while campaigning in Wisconsin for the state’s primary Tuesday, Jackson said, “That’s unfortunate, but I should not dignify that statement.”
Gerald Austin, Jackson’s campaign manager, was quoted by the Associated Press as saying that Koch “had solidified his position in the national exaggeration hall of fame.”
HAS PRAISED GORE
Koch is not expected to endorse a candidate, although he has praised Sen. Albert Gore Jr. of Tennessee in recent weeks. Koch has said that he would welcome a movement to draft Gov. Mario Cuomo of New York for the Democratic nomination.
William Rapfogel, executive director of the Metropolitan Region of the American Jewish Congress, acknowledged that Koch’s statements do influence New York Democrats, but added, “I don’t think he will influence anyone voting for Jesse Jackson.”
“Those who demonstrate support for Jesse Jackson are not people who would consider supporting Ed Koch’s remarks,” said Rapfogel.
David Pollock, assistant executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater New York, said, ” As long as any leader sticks to issues and not personalities, it will further the political process in this country.”
But while Koch’s remarks were aimed at specific policies of Jackson, Pollock said, “we are also concerned about the community relations impact, and hope there’s not a fallout.”
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.