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Jackson Urges Blacks, Jews to Find ‘Common Ground’

Times Staff Writer

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, whose presidential campaign has been the source of friction between blacks and Jews, made an emotional appeal Monday to the two groups to find “common ground” in their histories of suffering.

His comments were made after a Memorial Day ceremony here in which he laid a wreath of red, white and blue carnations at the base of a statue depicting a U.S. soldier carrying a survivor from a Nazi concentration camp during World War II. Adding a dramatic backdrop to the commemoration at Liberty State Park was the Statue of Liberty.

The Chicago clergyman recalled that black American soldiers were the first to reach and liberate Jews from the camps. “One of the great challenges of that fact of life is the sons and daughters of the Holocaust and the grandsons and granddaughters of slavery must find common ground to end racism and anti-Semitism forever,” he said.

Jackson himself has been the source of deep division between blacks and Jews. Many Jews cannot forgive Jackson’s embrace of black Muslim leader Louis Farrakhan, an avowed anti-Semite who has called Judaism a “gutter religion” and Hitler a “great man.” Jews recall also that Jackson, in a private remark made during his 1984 campaign, characterized New York with the slur “Hymietown.”

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Jackson has since sought to strengthen his relations with Jews, repudiating Farrakhan and apologizing for the Hymietown remark. On Monday, he talked of a historic bond between blacks and Jews, saying that the two groups “met each other, in a very real sense, at the door of the concentration camps.”

The first to reach the Dachau camp, Jackson noted, was Paul Parks--who later served a term as secretary of education under Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis and now is a major force in the Democratic front-runner’s efforts to reach out to blacks. Jackson made his appeal on the same day that Dukakis was meeting with a group of blacks in an effort to win their support.

The Dachau prisoners “observed that Dr. Parks and others were black, and therefore, they knew they were not Nazis. They ran to embrace each other. In that moment of human existence is the challenge for all of us today,” Jackson said.

“At our best, we crawl on our bellies to risk our lives to save each other,” he added. “At our worst, we destroy each other.”

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Earlier, as he continued his campaign through New Jersey, Jackson expressed skepticism about President Reagan’s dedication to human rights, which the President has said is his top priority at the Moscow summit meeting.

In a rally on the steps of City Hall in Elizabeth, Jackson suggested that Reagan’s main purpose is “a calculated headline back home.”

“Human rights policy must be a policy and not a diversion,” he said.

At the Jersey City park, Jackson urged Reagan to extend his human rights effort to parts of the world where Jackson has accused the Administration of siding with oppressors.

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“Use the same speech in the Middle East. Use the same speech in Central America,” Jackson said. “Use the same speech in Mozambique and Angola.”


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