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Jewish Leaders Criticize Carter

August 2, 1979
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

American Jewish leaders reacted sharply today to President Carter’s statement likening the Palestinian issue to the civil rights movement in the United States. They pointed out that the civil rights movement never resorted to violence while the Palestinian movement is characterized by acts of terrorism.

The sharp and angry response by the American Jewish leadership followed a wide ranging interview today in The New York Times, in which the President declared that he does not think that stable peace can come to the Mideast without a solution to the Palestinian problem and said that the Palestinian cause could be likened to the “civil rights movement here in the United States.”

Carter was reported to say that if the Israelis permitted the Palestinians to come back to the West Bank, they (the Palestinians) would be satisfied with “just the right to do it.” But, the President reportedly added, only a relatively small number of Palestinians, scattered throughout the Arab world, would want to return to the poverty of the area.

Carter expressed the hope that American Jewish leaders–he named two, according to the interview: Sol Linowitz, a Washington lawyer who helped negotiate the Panama Canol treaties, and Robert Strauss, the President’s special envoy to the Mideast–will support his efforts that will give autonomy to the Palestinians on such issues as schools, police, housing and immigration on the West Bank.

The President also said, according to the interview, he believed that the Palestinian Arabs would be willing to accept the physical presence of Israeli units as a safeguard of their national security. Based on polls he has seen, Carter said he believed the majority of the Israeli people favor a settlement with the Palestinians based on Security Council Resolution 242.


Responding to this report, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations said in a statement: “We are dismayed and disappointed that the President should even think of the civil rights movement, characterized by non-violent means and seeking the liberties that our Constitution promises to all Americans, in the same breath as the obscene acts of a terrorist gang which seeks through violent means to eliminate the Jewish State.

“Moreover, in terms of the rights of the Palestinian Arabs there can be no doubt that they enjoy a higher standard of living, longer life expectancy, greater opportunity for education and employment and more benefits affecting their daily lives under Israeli administration than they ever knew when they were living under the rule of Jordan, the British and the Turks before that. The President’s comparison is regrettable; we can only assume that it was a slip of the tongue and not a serious expression of this Administration’s viewpoint on such a crucial issue.”

Charlotte Jacobson, chairman of the World Zionist Organization-American Section, declared: “President Career will lose the confidence of the American Jewish community if he tries to equate the Palestinian cause with the U.S. civil rights movement. It makes a mockery of the civil rights cause and distorts the opportunities for the Palestinian people to solve their problems by negotiating with Israel. The Palestinians stood in their own way–not Israel.”

Bertram Gold, executive vice president of the American Jewish Committee, stated that “Carter does an injustice to the U.S. civil rights movement when he likens the Palestinian issue to it. The civil rights movement never resorted to the acts of terrorism against innocent people that so characterizes the activities of the PLO, which is the most visible part of the movement for Palestinian rights.”

The Jewish telegraphic Agency sought clarification on Carter’s statement from the White House, but by this afternoon there was still no response. (See late bulletin P. 3.)

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