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To the Editors of The Crimson:
There are a lot of people who do not agree with your April 15 editorial's dismissal of the notion that Black-Jewish tensions are serious problem right now, on campus and elsewhere. The Crimson, by so vehemently denying that there is a deeper problem, seems determined, as in the earlier Leonard Jeffries affair, to present only one side of the situation: righteous Jews crusading against anti-Semitic Blacks.
I hope that by acknowledging that there is another side to Black-Jewish tensions, and making clear that there is a diversity of views even among Jews here, we can lift our discussion of this very emotional subject to a higher level.
A key reason for Jerry Brown's poor showing in the New York primary was his declared wish to nominate Jesse Jackson as his running mate. This was apparently a crucial factor in the choice of an enormous majority of Jewish voters--90 percent--to vote against him.
Although I am supporting Bill Clinton, I was hardly elated by Brown's "blunder." It is hard to feel anything but sorrow and anger at this spectacle.
As a New Yorker, I cannot imagine anyone who would be a better president or vice president for New York City than Jesse Jackson. No one has spoken more clearly than Jackson about the unmitigated catastrophe that the Reagan/Bush years have been for New York and other American cities. No one speaks more passionately then Jackson about the need for groups like Blacks and Jews to heal their differences and join together in pursuit of common goals.
Jackson is a former associate of Martin Luther King, a leader in the Democratic Party, a man who has worked for years toward the goal of empowering and reintegrating poor people into our political and social systems. But he was so hated that even the suggestion by Brown that he would choose Jackson as his running mate was enough to rule out any consideration of the rest of Brown's message.
We all know the supposed reasons for what happened, First, Jackson, in 1984, referred to New York as "hymietown." Second, although he clearly repudiates the anti-Semitic remarks of Louis Farrakhan, Jackson refuses to condemn Farrakhan outright. Third, Jackson has met with Yassir Arafat and other Arab leaders, and urged the U.S. government to follow a Middle East policy that recognizes both Israel's right to peace and security and the rights of Palestinians to dignity and justice.
These explanations are at best incomplete, and more likely downright disingenuous. The hymietown remark is a handy soundbits for Jewish antagonism toward Jackson, but the problem runs much deeper than that.
It is ironic can hypocritical that Jews, who have such a hard time accepting the public airing of disagreements among Jews, should demand that Jackson go beyond a disavowal of the objectionable aspects of Farrakhan's message to a complete denunciation of the man. The demands that have been made of Jackson, with regard to Farrakhan, seem more like an attempt to humiliate Jackson in front the Black America than an expression of serious doubt about where he stands personally about Jews and anti-Semitism.
As for his views on the Middle East, Jackson does discomfit some pro-Israel groups, because he understands that much of the world sees the Israeli-Arab conflict not as a battle between Jews and anti-Semites but as one between white European colonialists and colored natives. Jackson would never support a return to the blank check American patronage of Israel that some groups demand. I know that this is reason enough for some American Jews to refuse to support him for president, as is their right. It is wrong, however, to proclaim that Jackson's stance demonstrates anti-Semitism and makes him an enemy of the Jewish people. Jackson's views are not all that different from those of a substantial number of Jews.
The New York Jewish community has shown itself to be a voting group with a very disturbing racial agenda. As they attempt cloak their intolerance in self-righteous outrage at persecution against Jews, they display their own bigotry in its full ugly colors.
Last month I went home to New York to join my family in a service marking the 50th anniversary of the murder of my father's parents at Belzec, a Nazi death camp in Poland. As I stood there and mourned the death of the grandparents I never knew, I renewed my determination that the memory of their deaths will always make me more open to other peoples' suffering and anguish.
To the 10 percent of New York's Jewish voters who cast their ballots for Brown in the face of intense pressure, my heart goes out to you in joy. I join you in rejecting the message that Jews, as Jews, see men like Jesse Jackson as our enemy. That message, not Jerry Brown's, was the true insult to the Jewish people in New York earlier this month. William G. Bikales
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