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Jesse Jackson Again Angers Jews, This Time with Remark on Hostages

August 8, 1989
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Jesse Jackson is coming under fire from Jewish groups for calling Israel’s capture of Sheikh Abdul Karim Obeid “an act of terror.”

The black leader and former Democratic presidential candidate made the remark in an appearance on a Chicago television news program broadcast Sunday.

Jackson was discussing the need to end the cycle of violence in the Middle East when he referred to the seizure of the Shiite extremist leader as a “kidnapping.”

Asked why he chose to use that terminology, Jackson replied, “Of course it was a kidnapping. It was an act of terror and it was a mistake. It was a provocative act.”

Seymour Reich, president of B’nai B’rith International, strongly criticized Jackson for equating terrorist hostage-taking with the “seizure by a democratic government of a terrorist leader.”

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, called Jackson’s statement “outrageous” and said it “could not have come at a worse time, when delicate negotiations are taking place for the release of the hostages.”

He said the black leader’s “serious distortion” is “part of a mindset which is quick to first criticize and blame Israel, and then, sometime later, explain it away.”


Jackson also was chided by Sylvia Neil, executive director of the Chicago office of the American Jewish Congress.

“It is incredible and unfortunate that people such as Mr. Jackson misconceive the apprehension of a terrorist to be terrorism,” Neil said.

Jackson is no stranger to controversy on issues of concern to the Jewish community. American Jews have regarded Jackson’s growing influence within the Democratic Party with wariness.

The community has not forgotten his past references to Jews as “Hymies,” his former association with anti-Semitic Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and his sympathetic stance regarding the Palestine Liberation Organization.

“Mr. Jackson has shown that he continually chooses to fault the State of Israel,” said Reich, who also chairs the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

“Unless he retracts his most recent illadvised remarks, he will once again burn his bridges with the Jewish community,” Reich said.

Jackson has remained in the public eye since he lost his bid for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination to Michael Dukakis. He is now contemplating running for mayor of Washington.

Hyman Bookbinder, who was longtime Washington representative for the American Jewish Committee before he joined the Dukakis presidential campaign, said he finds Jackson’s remarks particularly disappointing, because during the past two years, Jackson had appeared to be making a community and atone for past offenses.

“This statement is going to set him back a good bit,” Bookbinder said. “He’s going to find that he’s lost a lot of ground that he was beginning to make up in recent years.”

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