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Arabs Criticize Jackson for Remark About Arafat

April 14, 1988
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The Rev. Jesse Jackson, in trying to win Jewish support for next Tuesday’s New York Democratic presidential primary, may be losing some of his backing among Arab Americans.

Jackson has come under fire from the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee for his statement that if elected president, he would not “sit down” at a negotiating table with Yasir Arafat, head of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

“We must not equate Arafat and the PLO with a sovereign people, the Palestinian people,” Jackson said Sunday on the CBS-TV program “Face the Nation.”

“In the final analysis, it’s not Arafat versus Israel; it’s the Israelis versus the Palestinians,” he said.

Abdeen Jabara, president of the Arab group, said in a letter to Jackson on Monday that “your attempt to distinguish the PLO from the Palestinian people will not improve your position with Jewish voters in New York but will, sadly, raise questions among your traditional supporters as to your willingness to stand firm on principle.”

Jabara expressed “disbelief” at Jackson’s chilled position toward Arafat, saying “virtually every Arab American looked to (Jackson) as the one symbol of strength in a field of political candidates who are notorious for their unwillingness to stand up to the pro-Israel lobby.”

Frank Watkins, Jackson’s political director, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

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