Throughout the first half of 1988, at every level of the political process in the United States, the longstanding consensus governing policy towards Israel, the Palestinians and the Arab-Israeli conflict was in flux. The explosion of Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation and Israeli repression generated sharp questions about American and Israeli policy in the major media, in polls of public opinion, even in the supposedly monolithic Jewish community.

At the same time, progressive politics in the United States underwent its own kind of awakening. For the first time in many years, a candidate of the left — and one explicitly supporting Palestinian self-determination — was able to make a serious run for the presidency. While Jesse Jackson did not win the Democratic nomination, his campaign energized and at least temporarily united a cross-section of progressive groups and individuals and wrested a share of power from the more moderate and conservative wings of the Democratic party. During the primaries, on a whole range of issues — economic displacement, corporate power, the minimum wage, drugs, military spending, South Africa — Jackson significantly shifted the terms of debate. Most importantly, he articulated a vision that appealed beyond race, embracing workers, farmers, women, youth, gays and others in a black-led movement for popular empowerment.

Jackson was able to come as far as he did because of a number of factors: his solid base enabled him to survive a fluid field of contenders, his superior organization achieved more with less resources, his skills at communicating were head and shoulders above the other candidates. The fact that no other contender had a significant civil rights record (unlike Walter Mondale in 1984) helped solidify his black base; the fact that the AFL-CIO avoided an early endorsement of any candidate allowed Jackson to cultivate significant support from many national and local unions. (One-quarter of his 1200 delegates to the Atlanta convention were from labor.) His efforts to reach out to distressed farmers were rewarded with a respectable nine percent showing in the Iowa caucuses and thus signaled early on the multiracial appeal of his populist message.

Although Jackson was able to more than triple his share of white votes from 650,000 in 1984 to 2.2 million in 1988, his support among Jews — traditionally the most liberal of white ethnic groups — lagged far behind. Jackson’s populist appeal, which peaked with his resounding success in the Michigan caucuses on March 26, was blunted a month later in New York by his problems with Jews. While his share of the overall white vote in the New York primary doubled to 15 percent, his share of the Jewish vote there only rose from 3 percent in 1984 to 7 percent in 1988. [1] Despite a growing sensitivity to Palestinian rights among American Jews, and the efforts of Jackson and some progressive Jewish leaders to mend relations, a wide gap remained.

It is doubtful that the gap could have been bridged. Shaped by persecution and discrimination, the American Jewish and black communities both lean toward liberal and left politics and share an abiding insecurity about their position in the American body politic. But the potential for Jewish-black political partnership is hindered by historic tensions. On one side, the trauma of the Holocaust and what is perceived as Israel’s precarious position has engendered a Jewish hypersensitivity to any criticism of Israel and to any slurs against Jews. Hence Jackson’s 1984 reference to New York City as “Hymietown,” and his one-time relationship with Louis Farrakhan — without mention of his support for Palestinian rights — make him anathema to many Jews. On the other side, blacks’ relations with Jews (as well as with other liberal whites) since the mid-1960s have been affected by perceptions of paternalism and then betrayal in the civil rights struggle, exploitation in the inner city and resentment of the Jews’ climb in social and economic status. The biased, hypocritical and ultimately racist treatment of Jackson by the media and the political establishment has offended blacks and made them resentful of predominantly Jewish calls for him to apologize again and again for Hymietown, renounce Farrakhan, and so on.

Jackson, of course, has made all sorts of efforts to heal his relationship with Jews. He expressed remorse and asked forgiveness for the “Hymietown” comment in his speech at the 1984 convention; he publicly declared that Farrakhan had no role in his campaign (a fact corroborated by the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith [2]); he began speaking of “secure borders” for Israel (as opposed to internationally recognized borders); he confronted Mikhail Gorbachev on the issue of Soviet Jewry; he avoided singling out Israel’s relationship with South Africa; he denounced Reagan’s trip to Bitburg. To some marginal degree, this neutralized Jewish misgivings. According to a Los Angeles Times poll of American Jews, at the end of March, 35 percent expressed a favorable impression of Jackson. [3] But, as David Saperstein, the head of the Religious Action Center of Reform Jewry and an important liberal/progressive activist, correctly noted, “liberal Jews and their leaders have been indifferent to Jackson’s growth and to his many efforts to reach out.” [4]

Twice in this past year the crunch came between Jackson and the Jews and both times liberal Jewish leaders were stampeded to the right. In the New York primary, Mayor Edward Koch’s attacks on Jackson, aided and abetted by the media’s fixation on “Hymietown” and Farrakhan and Jackson’s “embrace” of Yasir Arafat, quickly fixed the political debate, as in 1984, around a single issue: is Jesse Jackson anti-Israel and anti-Semitic? Prominent Jewish liberals were mostly silent. In Atlanta, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council (NJCRAC) branded Jackson’s minority plank calling for mutual recognition, territorial compromise and Israeli and Palestinian self-determination as “anti-Israel.” Many Jewish liberals — including Saperstein — had only a year earlier signed a statement supporting those principles. But now they refused to back the plank.

Though Jackson’s campaign contains within it a principled movement for Palestinian-Israeli peace led by Arab-Americans and progressive Jews, given the historic gap between blacks and Jews, his Middle East position also became a symbol of a deeper conflict. As Michael Lerner, the editor of the liberal Jewish bimonthly Tikkun, commented, by opposing the minority plank “they [liberal Jews] seem to be saying ‘If a black person repeats what we say, the same words somehow become anti-semitic.’” [5] And black Jackson organizers like Mtangulizi Sanyika of Oakland viewed the Jewish preoccupation with the Palestinian issue, Hymietown and Farrakhan as a way to say “if it’s going to be somebody black, we'd prefer someone more amenable to us.”

Underlying the real conflict over Middle East policy, distorted by Jewish hypersensitivity to criticism of Israel and Jackson’s unfortunate baggage, is a struggle for political dominance between Jews and blacks, and more broadly liberals and progressives, for the power to set the terms of the liberal agenda. A main arena for this struggle is the Democratic Party. Both sides recognize the need for compromises in order to fight larger battles. In Atlanta, in the overall contest between the Jackson and Dukakis campaigns, black elected officials were the earliest to move for resolution. Many Jewish delegates to the convention cited this as evidence that good relations between blacks and Jews were possible. But the question remains: on whose terms will those compromises be set?

The traditional liberal Democratic conglomeration of Jews, blacks, labor, women, environmentalists and civil rights activists has to a large degree been a Jewish-led formation. Its components are now being challenged to realign themselves around the black-led populist/progressive movement known as the Rainbow Coalition. Jackson candidly described the situation in New York City: “There is a power transition going on. For example, as blacks begin to become bigger partners in the school system, blacks want a bigger say in the teachers’ union…And you have a strong infrastructure of Jewish leadership, for example, who have to be part of the transition of sharing power.” [6] The reaction of Jews to Jackson’s candidacy prompted one black physician to comment that “the Jewish community in New York is afraid of losing something they cherish, being the number one minority group in New York.” [7] As D.D. Guttenplan asked in The Village Voice, “is the idea of a black man in a position of power over their lives simply too much for many liberals — Jews and Christians alike — to accept?”

No one knows how much longer American Jews will continue to, in the oft-repeated phrase, “earn like Episcopalians but vote like Puerto Ricans.” It may well be that a historic shift of Jewish sympathies to the Republican Party, long awaited by the neoconservatives, is on the horizon, although most Jews are probably more put off by Republican fundamentalists like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. Revelations in September about anti-Semitism among various officials in the Bush campaign apparatus undoubtedly reinforced Jewish doubts about Bush. Progressive attitudes learned by earlier generations that grew up surrounded by Jewish socialists, New Dealers and civil rights fighters are surely in retreat. But rather than abandon the Democrats, Jews have so far been more inclined to push and support efforts to move the party rightward.

Shifting Ground

The struggle over which political and social forces will shape the liberal/progressive agenda comes at a time when the ground is shifting under the American Jewish establishment. At home, a generation after the Voting Rights Act and much black political organizing, a progressive movement committed to the redistribution of power, angered by the regressive policies of the Reagan years and openly sympathetic to Third World causes has emerged. In the foreign policy arena, the rise of Mikhail Gorbachev has signaled the end of the Cold War, making Soviet Jewry a less salient cause and making retrenchment of the overextended US position abroad, including a revaluation of foreign aid programs, more plausible.

Most importantly, in response to the Palestinian uprising, public opinion, media coverage and (to a lesser degree) the rhetoric of US policy toward Israel have begun to shift. One survey done for the American Jewish Congress in April 1988 found that 43 percent of the US public favored an “independent Palestinian state on the West Bank” and 62 percent endorsed US negotiations with the PLO. According to pollster John Marttila, support for a Palestinian homeland has increased by 10 percent among the general public in the last three years. [8] The Los Angeles Times poll done this spring found that 34 percent of non-Jews favored a reduction of military aid to Israel and 65 percent thought there was “an element of racism involved in the attitude of Israelis toward Arabs.” The change in the press’ approach was highlighted by ABC Nightline’s week-long series from Israel and the occupied territories in the spring. The Jerusalem “town meeting” between three Palestinians and four Israelis, in front of a live audience made up of members of both communities, emphasized what became an important theme of media coverage this year: that at its core this was a conflict of two nations. [9]

In the American Jewish community, leaders of the large, mainstream organizations, like Morris Abram of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and Burton Levinson of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, opposed public expression of criticism of Israeli policies. Levinson worried that “people in Congress or people in the administration who read the public criticism may feel it is easier to cut back on foreign aid to Israel.” At an early stage in the uprising, Abram even rushed to the White House to protest the Reagan Administration’s claim that “both sides share a responsibility for this violence.” [10]

Yet when word spread in late January of Israel Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s policy of “force, might and beatings,” the dams of communal solidarity that have long contained and silenced open criticism of Israel cracked wide open. Progressive groups like New Jewish Agenda and the Jewish Peace Fellowship began weekly demonstrations outside Israeli consulates around the country. Alexander Schindler, the head of the 1.5 million strong American Reform Movement (Union of American Hebrew Congregations) called Rabin’s policy “an offence to the Jewish spirit.” In a letter to the New York Times, prominent Jewish intellectuals Irving Howe, Arthur Hertzberg, Henry Rosovsky and Michael Walzer assailed the “iron fist.” And though they made the ritual reference to the need for “Palestinian representatives [to] eschew terror and explicitly recognize the legitimacy of Israel,” they insisted that Israel declare that it was “ready to end the occupation in such a way that, with necessary territorial adjustments, Israeli security and Palestinian national aspirations can be satisfied.” [11]

The taboo has been broken. Though the Los Angeles Times poll found that Orthodox and Conservative Jews opposed public criticism of Israel, a majority of Reform and non-affiliated Jews supported it. Fully one-third of those polled rejected the Israeli government’s contention that the Palestinian protests were acts of war against Israel, and nearly that many favored American talks with the PLO and the establishment of a Palestinian homeland in the West Bank. [12]

The most important aspect of the debate in the American Jewish community was the strengthening of voices calling for Palestinian self-determination. In March, Tikkun magazine called for the establishment of a demilitarized Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza, in an editorial that was mailed to 350,000 American Jews in addition to the magazine’s 40,000 subscribers. Several thousand Jews demonstrated in New York City on April 24 at a rally called by more than 20 liberal and progressive Jewish organizations on a platform based on mutual recognition and self-determination. New Jewish Agenda gathered thousands of signatures on a petition calling for an international peace conference to be “attended by all parties involved, including the PLO.” And after PLO spokesperson Bassam Abu Sharif published his statement calling for a two-state solution, a group of 15 prominent American Jews, under the auspices of the American Committee for Israel Peace Center, responded by calling it a “significant step toward political dialogue” and affirming the Palestinians’ right to self-determination. [13]

Unprecedented Distress

But official state harmony between the US and Israel has yet to break down. Israeli public relations may have suffered from Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s intransigence and Rabin’s brutish policy; there is good reason to believe that it was the distress of the American Jewish leadership that pushed Secretary of State George Shultz to launch his “peace initiative” in the first place. In effect, though, Shultz’s efforts were more a holding action designed to displace the international consensus for direct talks between Israel and the PLO than a serious effort at resolving the conflict.

As the New York Times dutifully headlined it, Shultz’s “Fresh Approach to Mideast Peace” envisioned quick elections for a local (non-PLO) Palestinian leadership in the occupied territories linked to talks that would transfer political power over the territories from Israel to Jordan and bypass the Palestinians. Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres welcomed these proposals but Shamir opposed them. By the time Shultz visited Israel in late February, the idea of local elections had been quietly dropped, and Shamir declared that “this expression of territory for peace is not accepted by me.” [14]

In an unprecedented step, 30 US Senators — many of them noted supporters of Israel — publicly expressed their “dismay” at Shamir’s statement. This move was endorsed by the White House, and a delegation of liberal Jewish leaders organized by Arthur Hertzberg met with several Jewish congressmen to urge that the House of Representatives send a similar public rebuke to Shamir. But Shultz himself intervened to urge members of the House of Representatives “not to pressure Israel publicly to accept the new US plan.” During his visit to the US, Shamir lashed out publicly at critics like Hertzberg and Lerner, renewing the chill over public expressions of Jewish dissent. [15]

At a symbolic level Shultz did begin to convey disagreement with the Israeli government’s position. In March, he met with two Palestinian-American members of the Palestine National Council, Edward Said and Ibrahim Abu-Lughod. Arriving in Cairo in June, he declared that “the fate of Zionism and Palestinian nationalism are interdependent” and said the Arab-Israeli conflict was a “competition between two national movements for sovereignty on one land.” [16]

But so far the substance of the US-Israeli alliance remains undisturbed. In April, on one of his many shuttles through the region, Shultz stopped in Israel to sign a memorandum of understanding between the two countries formalizing their cooperation on a range of military, economic, political and intelligence matters. For the first time, the US officially designated Israel as “a major non-NATO ally of the United States.” [17] And in May leaks of the Reagan Administration’s plans for 1989 foreign military aid disclosed that Israel was slated for a $1.8 billion increase in arms sales (and presumably the aid to finance them).

This business-as-usual approach in US-Israel relations also prevailed in the primary campaigns. Except for Jackson, all the Democratic candidates took an exceedingly cautious approach to discussion of the Arab-Israeli conflict. And for good reason: American Jews have a disproportionately large presence during the Democratic primary process as voters, activists and fundraisers. Earl Raab and Seymour Martin Lipset point out that “there are nine states…in which the Jews comprise 3 percent or more of the population, from 10.6 percent in New York to 3.2 percent in California. These states have 182 of the 270 electoral votes needed to elect a president.” The influence of these voters is at its height during the primaries, since Jews traditionally have high rates of voting participation. Raab and Lipset write that “the rule of thumb is to apply a factor of at least three to the Jewish voting population to find the proportion of Jewish voters in the Democratic primaries.” [18] Even more significantly,

the disproportion of Jewish financial contributions to national political campaigns must be multiplied by a factor of 15 to 20. While there have been few reliable statistics on the subject — and some reluctance to gather any — the journalistic and anecdotal evidence is overwhelming that more than a majority of Democratic funds on a national level and as much as a quarter of Republican funds have come from Jewish sources. [19]

This conclusion is borne out by the available evidence for the 1988 presidential campaigns. About half of the “trustees” of the Democratic Party’s “Victory Fund” — pledged to raise a minimum of $500,000 each — are Jewish. [20] The 45 wealthy Democratic fundraisers who formed Impac ’88, pledging to raise $250,000 each for whichever candidate they united around, never even invited Jesse Jackson to make his pitch for support. For the most part, Jewish political money is more conservative than the Jewish electorate and does not reflect the debate within the Jewish community. [21] For all the Democratic candidates except Jackson, this simple political arithmetic meant that when it came to Middle East policies, their position was to be “more Catholic than the Pope.” [22]

Michael Dukakis’ position on Israel went through an interesting series of twists and turns during the course of the primaries. In May 1987, in Des Moines, Iowa, he called for a Middle East peace conference between Israel, Jordan, Egypt and “responsible elements of the Palestinian community.” At a Democratic National Committee forum in Miami in October 1987, he emphasized rejuvenating the United Nations’ role in resolving international conflicts. (Richard Gephardt immediately attacked Dukakis for elevating an organization that recognizes the “terrorist” PLO. [23]) And in the spring, Dukakis sided with the 30 Senators who had criticized Shamir over the land for peace issue. But with the New York primary in sight, Dukakis began to temper these “deviations” from the pro-Israel norm. In an early April speech in Wisconsin, he said, “the first thing that anyone must understand about the Middle East is that we will never let Israel down,” and sidestepped any criticism of Israel’s handling of Palestinian protesters. At a forum held by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Dukakis blamed the intransigence of Arab leaders for the absence of peace in the region. But he failed to explicitly rule out US support for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, and even opined that the final status of Jerusalem should be “subject to negotiation.” These indiscretions, as well as his previous support for the “Letter of 30,” led Morris J. Amitay, a former head of AIPAC, to ponder publicly whether Dukakis lacked “sensitivity to the visceral concern of American Jews for Israel's well-being.” [24] Dukakis subsequently volunteered that “if Israel wants its capital in Jerusalem, then, as far as I’m concerned its capital is in Jerusalem.” [25] Unlike the 1984 primary in New York, the embassy question had not been an issue until Dukakis raised it.

Jackson Factor

Jesse Jackson is different. Unlike the other candidates, money was never as crucial a factor for him. He spent only $100,000 on television advertising for the “Super Tuesday” southern primary, compared to $3 million by Albert Gore and $2 million by Dukakis, and yet he got a plurality of votes. By one account, Jackson ran “one of the most cost-effective campaigns of modern politics…gathering delegates at a cost of about $10,000 each, as against about $25,000 a delegate for Governor Dukakis.” Though a direct mail list of about 150,000 donors eventually brought in over $10 million in contributions, not until March was the campaign able to invest much in that expensive form of fundraising. [26] Early fundraising by black businessmen and Arab-Americans — who made up perhaps 15 percent of Jackson’s total receipts — was important, according to people close to the campaign.

As The Nation in its endorsement of his campaign noted, “his distance from the funders, the managers, the mediators and the consultants who manipulate the Democratic Party and legitimize its candidates has allowed Jackson to do unimaginable things and say unspeakable words — about race, about class, about equality and, indeed, about democracy.” [27] And, one might add, about the Middle East. Here is Jackson’s position, from a major address on foreign policy he gave in May in Los Angeles:

Many pay lip service to self-determination but refuse to apply it consistently. Some support self-determination for all but the Palestinians, because they confront our closest ally in the Middle East. But to ignore self-determination is only to exacerbate the problem. In the Middle East, Israeli security/Palestinian self-determination are two sides of the same coin. We must do for them what they cannot do for each other: break the cycle of violence, provide guarantees for mutual security in exchange for mutual recognition, land in exchange for peace. [28]

Only at one point during the race, eight days before the New York primary, did Jackson waver from his forthright stand in favor of opening talks with the PLO. Asked on Face the Nation if he would “sit down with Arafat,” he replied, “it is not necessary to do that. We must not equate Arafat and the PLO with the sovereign people, the Palestinian people.” These remarks brought a swift outcry from the Arab-American community, but James Zogby, head of the Arab-American Institute and a senior adviser to Jackson, pointed out that “one can't erase a nine-year commitment to Palestinian rights…in just one day.” [29] Jackson’s later behavior confirmed Zogby’s confidence.

In New York, Jews there make up about 25 percent of the primary voters. Likewise, blacks numbered another 25 percent of the vote. One of the more striking aspects of the primary was how quickly the tensions of 1984 bubbled to the surface. Mayor Koch got the fires burning with his early April comment that “[Jackson] thinks maybe Jews and other supporters of Israel should vote for him — they have got to be crazy! In the same way 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.” [30] Media attention focused immediately on whether Jackson was anti-Semitic. The NBC Nightly News offered a typical reference on April 11 to “that lingering image” of Jackson “embracing” Yasir Arafat. Extra!, the newsletter of FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting), observed that “images have a way of lingering when TV producers decide to show them every day, as happened with the Jackson footage. If shown daily, the image of George Bush in Manila toasting Ferdinand Marcos as a committed democrat would also linger.“ [31]

Aside from an ad-hoc committee of “Jews for Jackson,” most liberal Jews were silent or equivocal. To my knowledge, only Rabbi Balfour Brickner of the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue spoke directly in Jackson’s favor. Others, like financier Felix Rohatyn and Henry Siegman of the American Jewish Congress publicly disputed the “anti-Semite” tag on Jackson. The head of the American Jewish Congress, Robert K. Lifton, insisted that “Koch does not speak for Jews.” After the primary, a survey discovered that, by a margin of two-to-one, New York voters disapproved of Koch’s criticism of Jackson. [32]

New York blunted Jackson’s populist thrust, ended Gore’s campaign and sent Dukakis coasting to the top. But in the wake of Jackson’s success in primaries and caucuses across the country, progressive activists succeeded in passing resolutions in 10 state Democratic party conventions calling for Palestinian statehood and self-determination. [33] In most cases this was the result of concerted organizing by Arab-American activists; in Vermont, where six out of the state's 10 Jackson delegates were Jewish, the resolution was largely the work of Liz Blum, head of the Jackson delegation. At the national level, Jackson organizers led by Jim Zogby pushed for the adoption of a minority plank on the Middle East which would have stated that this country, maintaining the special relationship with Israel founded upon mutually shared values and strategic interests, must provide new leadership to deliver the promise of peace and security through negotiations that has been held out to Israel and its neighbors by the Camp David process. We should end the impasse in the Middle East by adopting a policy which establishes peace based on mutual recognition, territorial compromise, and self-determination for Israelis and Palestinians. Only such a peace will guarantee the security of Israel, the realization of Palestinian aspirations and regional stability. [34]
This cautious language drew on the existing plank, with its conservative emphasis on “strategic interests.” The path-breaking final two sentences mirrored a 1987 statement coordinated by the International Center for Peace in the Middle East and signed by Jewish liberals like David Saperstein, Henry Siegman and Arthur Hertzberg. In Atlanta, it provoked a fierce behind-the-scenes struggle. Since 1952, representatives of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee have controlled the Middle East planks of both the Democratic and Republican parties. [35] For the first time, there was an open debate on how to deal with the Arab-Israeli conflict. As Zogby said when he spoke from the podium, “by ending the silence on this issue we have won a battle.”

When asked if they could vote their consciences, polls of the delegates found anywhere from 55 to 70 percent willing to support the minority plank. [36] And though Hyman Bookbinder, a former top Washington representative of the American Jewish Committee now advising the Dukakis campaign, claimed that he was “not seriously concerned” about the extent of support for the plank, many among the “pro-Israel” forces admit they were caught off-guard. Dukakis had the votes to defeat any minority motion but, as one senior AIPAC official at the convention conceded, “the political equation is changing.”

Zogby credits four factors for the success of the minority effort: Arab-American activism, the intifada, the success of the Jackson campaign, and the support of progressive Jews. Arab-American organizing clearly has come a long way since 1984. Then, in San Francisco, there were four Arab-American delegates. This year in Atlanta there were 55. But what gave the minority plank its force was its mutuality. Leaflets titled “Palestinian Rights/Israeli Rights: Statehood, Security and Peace” cannot be easily dismissed as anti-Israel. Still, in the debate on the resolution Rep. Daniel Inouye insisted that the proposed plank would “sow the seeds of destruction of America’s only reliable ally” and called it a “vicious kick in the teeth of America’s interests in that part of the world.“ [37] Rep. Charles Schumer argued that since the word “self-determination” also appeared in the PLO Covenant, the minority plank called for Israel’s annihilation and “reward[ed] intransigence and terrorism.”

Zogby criticized the Dukakis camp’s unwillingness to modify the majority plank on certain key points. Dukakis's negotiators offered to add the following italicized words to the sentence referring to Camp David: “…deliver on the promise of peace, security and legitimate rights held out to Israel, its Arab neighbors and the Palestinian people by the Camp David accords.” Zogby insisted that the word “legitimate” (used in the Camp David accords) implied that some rights were not legitimate, and suggested the words “fundamental” or “equal” be substituted. The reference to the “Palestinian people,” which he said the Dukakis negotiators claimed was a major concession, was acceptable, but Zogby also insisted that some reference to “expanding, opening up or building on” the Camp David accords was needed. These differences could not be resolved. As Dukakis foreign policy adviser Madeleine Albright said, “self-determination was non-negotiable.” [38]

The subterranean battle over the minority plank was a charged one. AIPAC and NJCRAC put heavy pressure on the Dukakis camp not to budge, and they were joined in this effort by the more moderate American Jewish Committee, American Jewish Congress and Union of American Hebrew Congregations and liberals like Saperstein and Siegman. Jackson’s inner circle was divided as to how far to push the plank, given the explosive response a floor fight would provoke. Had Dukakis and Jackson not worked out their accommodation at the beginning of the convention, the party might have split wide open, perhaps around the minority plank on the Middle East. Instead, the plank was raised for debate and then withdrawn “in the interest of party unity.”

After Atlanta, there were many signs that Dukakis would honor as little as possible of his agreement with the Jackson forces. At the August 27 civil rights march in Washington, Dukakis said nothing about statehood for the District of Columbia or same-day, on-site voter registration — two key concessions he had made to Jackson in Atlanta. One of Jackson’s nominees for inclusion on the campaign’s senior staff, former New Mexico Governor Tony Anaya, was rejected because of his supposed interest in the Palestinian cause. Jewish pressure on the Dukakis campaign, along with a whole host of other electoral considerations, undoubtedly played a role in promoting these and other snubs of the Rainbow’s agenda and constituencies.

But Jackson’s long march continues. Whether Dukakis wins or loses, the Rainbow will move forward in mayoral contests, Senate races and party conventions. By meeting with Israeli Ambassador Moshe Arad and later in August with Ed Koch, Jackson showed that he is still trying to build bridges to and neutralize opponents within the Jewish community. Some liberal Jewish leaders like Stuart Eizenstat, Jimmy Carter’s chief domestic advisor, have urged that the Jewish community reassess its reflective demonization of Jackson. [39] Most important, thanks to the persistence of the intifada, the hard work of Arab-Americans and progressive Jews, a measure of better reporting and more open dissent, and Jackson’s insurgency, Palestinian rights have finally made it onto the US political agenda.


[1] The 1984 figures are from ABC News The 1984 Vote; the 1988 figures are from an NBC exit poll. For another comparison, in California, Jackson polled 8 percent of the Jewish vote and 13 percent of whites overall in 1984, according to ABC; in 1988, he received 14 percent of the Jewish vote and 25 percent of the white vote, according to a New York Times/CBS News exit poll.
[2] D.D. Guttenplan, “If Not Now, When? Jackson’s Jewish Problem — And Ours,” The Village Voice, April 19, 1988.
[3] Los Angeles Times, April 12,1988.
[4] David Saperstein, “Reflections on the Dialogue with Jackson,” Tikkun, Nov-Dec 1987, p. 47.
[5] Walter Ruby, “Hot Planks: Will Floor Fights Burn Atlanta?” Long Island Jewish World, July 15, 1988.
[6] Jackson interview on policy issues, New York Times, April 16, 1988.
[7] New York Times, April 18, 1988.
[8] Press Release, American Jewish Congress, June 2, 1988; Los Angeles Times, April 12, 1988.
[9] Wolf Blitzer, “Koppel on Mideast: No Sign of Hope,” Baltimore Jewish Times, May 13, 1988. Blitzer notes the complaint of “some Israeli officials and others…that the five Nightline programs almost exclusively focused attention on the Israeli-Palestinian dimension of the problem, rather than the broader Israeli-Arab element.”
[10] A. Silow Carroll, “US Jewish Groups at Odds Over Shamir’s Hardline Message,” The Jewish Week, April 15, 1988; “US Jews Argue Israeli Case in a Meeting at State Dept.,”New York Times, December 25, 1987.
[11] Schindler letter to Israeli President Chaim Herzog, January 24,1988; “American Jews Must Let Israel Know,” Letter to the Editor, New York Times, January 25, 1988 (emphasis added).
[12] Robert Seheer, “The Times Poll: US Jews for Peace Talks on Mideast,” Los Angeles Times, April 12,1988.
[13] Michael Lerner, “The Occupation: Immoral and Stupid,” Tikkun, March 1988; Press Release, American Committee for Israel Peace Center, June 30, 1988.
[14]New York Times, February 2; February 11; February 26, 1988.
[15] New York Times, March 6, 1988; Washington Post, March 10, 198-8; New York Times, March 21, 1988.
[16] New York Times, June 4, 1988.
[17] New York Times, April 22, 1988.
[18] Earl Raab and Seymour Martin Lipset, “The Political Future of American Jews,” (American Jewish Congress, March 1985), pp. 2, 3.
[19] Ibid., p. 4 (emphasis added).
[20] Thomas Edsall, Washington Post, July 18, 1988.
[21] Washington Post, January 11, 1987. The members of Impac ’88 never came to a consensus. Two candidates, Mario Cuomo and Gary Hart, were most popular among the group. Eventually 17 of the 45 announced their support for Albert Gore, ostensibly enticing him to run. But later Gore was said to complain that the checks never materialized. There were exceptions: two important backers of the Jackson campaign were Stanley Sheinbaum and R. Peter Straus.
[22] Gary Hart is the other exception. At a January forum on foreign policy held in Boston, Hart said that “I am willing to say that Israel is wrong….Friends tell friends when they are wrong.” He said that the United States should pressure Israel to stop expelling Palestinian protest leaders and instead involve them in the peace process. By failing to do so, he said, “We’ve got some blood on our hands.“ Newsday, January 26, 1988.
[23] Boston Herald, May 16, 1987; Michael Barone, “The Democrats: Foreign Policy Differences,” Washington Post, October 9,1987.
[24] Baltimore Sun, April 3, 1988; New York Post, April 14, 1988; Morris J. Amitay, “Report from Washington,” The Jewish Press, April 15, 1988.
[25] Interview with Robert Scheer before the California primary, Los Angeles Times, May 26, 1988.
[26] New York Times, March 27, 1988; Bruce Stokes, “In 1988, Jackson Money Trees Paid Off,” National Journal Convention Daily, July 18, 1988.
[27] The Editors, “For Jesse Jackson and His Campaign,” The Nation, April 16, 1988.
[28] New York Times, May 25, 1988.
[29] New York Times, April 11, 1988; Washington Post, April 12, 1988.
[30] Edward I. Koch, “The Mayor Explains Himself: ‘Crazy’ Eddie?” The New Republic, May 16, 1988.
[31] March-April 1988, p. 3.
[32] Balfour Brickner, “Koch is Crazy, Not Jackson,” Newsday, April 13, 1988; Guttenplan, op. cit; New York Times, April 9, 1988; Newsday, April 20, 1988.
[33] The states were California, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Vermont and Washington.
[34] Democratic National Convention, “The Minority Report to the 1988 Democratic Platform.”
[35] Edward Tivnan, The Lobby, p. 35.
[36] The lower figure came from a CBS poll; the higher one from a CNN/Los Angeles Times survey.
[37] Los Angeles Times, July 20, 1988.
[38] Interviews with the author and with David Corn of The Nation. [39] Washington Jewish Week, July 28, 1988.

How to cite this article:

Micah Sifry "Jesse and the Jews," Middle East Report 155 (November/December 1988).

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