- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 10, 2000

A firestorm erupted yesterday over an NAACP leader's comments about Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, underscoring the divide between blacks and Jews in America.
Lee Alcorn, the president of the Dallas NAACP chapter, was suspended and later resigned from his post for criticizing the vice-presidential candidate's voting record in the Senate and saying blacks should be concerned about "Jews at that kind of level because we know that their interest primarily has to do with money."
Mr. Alcorn defended his comments yesterday, saying they weren't intended to be anti-Semitic but rather to convey his political disagreement with Mr. Lieberman's positions.
In an interview with The Washington Times, he said: "The larger question … is this: If you have a Jewish candidate, can you then be critical of his political positions and not be accused of anti-Semitism?
"Some in the African-American community feel uneasy with this relationship. They feel the Jewish community has benefited from the black community, which hasn't shown reciprocity," he said.
Mr. Alcorn said he works closely with Jewish organizations and that "there is a history of friendship between the two communities." Still, he said, "It's generally known the Jewish community has the money."
NAACP national Chairman Kweisi Mfume yesterday called Mr. Alcorn's comments "repulsive, anti-Semitic, anti-NAACP and anti-American."
Mr. Alcorn said he has received many telephone calls from blacks and whites who said they agree with him and who ask whether one purpose of having Mr. Lieberman on the Gore ticket is to elicit guilt among voters for considering opposition to the Gore-Lieberman team.
Hours later, though, Mr. Alcorn resigned and said he had anticipated breaking with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
He continued to defend his remarks as legitimate political criticism and blamed "certain elements" for the furor.
"Mr. Lieberman's record in favor of school vouchers is a threat to public education and the public has the right to question his suitability," he said at a press conference last night. "He's a politician."
"As is evident by the transcript, my comments were mostly focused on the Democratic Party… . It is unfortunate that certain elements of the community have attempted to cause division within the African-American community by characterizing these statements as anti-Semitic."
Blacks and Jews have a long history, sometimes antagonistic, sometimes friendly. A generation ago, Jews were the strongest black allies on civil rights.
However, a survey last year of 900 blacks and 850 whites found 37 percent of blacks saying Jews had "too much influence," while 19 percent of whites held that view, according to David Bositis, pollster for the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a black research organization.
Current black leaders have stoked the flames of animosity between the two groups.
Former NAACP national Chairman Benjamin Chavis invited Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan to a summit of black leaders. Mr. Farrakhan has described Judaism as a "gutter religion," praised Adolf Hitler and condemned Jewish power brokers in Hollywood for being the "greatest controllers of black minds, black intelligence."
A poll two years ago found 49 percent of blacks gave a "favorable" rating to Mr. Farrakhan, while 61 percent of Jews had an "unfavorable" opinion of him.
The Rev. Al Sharpton, a black political leader courted by top Democrats including Hillary Rodham Clinton and Mr. Gore, once led a violent campaign against a Jewish store owner that resulted in fire bombings and deaths. He has derided Jews as "interlopers" and "diamond merchants."
The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in a White House ceremony yesterday, referred to Jews as "Hymies" and to New York as "Hymietown" during his 1984 presidential campaign.
Yesterday, Mr. Jackson said he strongly supported Mr. Lieberman's addition to the Democratic ticket.
"When we live our faith, we live under the law, and he is a fire wall of exemplary behavior," he said.
Roy Innis, national chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality, said that animosity is expressed mainly by black radical leaders on the left and not by "rank-and-file African-Americans."
"Some black lefties in the civil rights movement drifted into more radical directions, tended to be more supportive of Palestinians," Mr. Innis said. "White Jewish leftists, some of them, shifted to being pro-Israel. The big Jewish-black rift centered around affirmative action, which blacks adopted as a birth right and Jewish leftists did not."
Shannon Reeves, the Oakland NAACP president who created a stir of his own when he endorsed Gov. George W. Bush for president, said the bad feelings extend to ordinary black citizens.
"It's died down over the last several years, at least where I live, but not in New York and some other parts of the country," he said. "If there is nothing to antagonize the two communities, they tend to get along. Up here, we work very closely."
Jewish leaders, meanwhile, yesterday condemned Mr. Alcorn and praised Mr. Mfume.
Typical were the comments by Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, who said he was "outraged, offended, and deeply disappointed by the comments made by" Mr. Alcorn. At the same time, Mr. Saperstein commended Mr. Mfume "for his prompt and forceful repudiation of Mr. Alcorn's comments."
The American Jewish Congress said: "Kweisi Mfume's remarks, rather than those of Lee Alcorn, recognize that the new America results in great part from the continuing partnership of blacks and Jews.
"It will take more than one bigot like Alcorn to shake the sense of fellowship of American Jews and especially the American Jewish Congress with the NAACP and black America. Our common concerns are too urgent, our history too long, our connection too sturdy, to let anything like this disturb our relationship."
The Bush campaign also weighed into the fray. "When it comes to fighting anti-Semitism, Governor Bush and Secretary Cheney stand shoulder to shoulder with all Americans in condemning such foolish utterances," said spokesman Ari Fleischer. He said Mr. Mfume "deserves praise and credit for immediately leading the condemnation of Mr. Alcorn."
Mr. Bositis, the pollster for the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, said it is too early to tell what an impact Mr. Lieberman's candidacy will have on the black vote. "As of now, I'd say it could mean a somewhat lower turnout by African-Americans. They won't vote for the Republican ticket they still don't trust Republicans but they may just stay home."
President Clinton won 83 percent of the black vote in 1992, and 84 percent in 1996. Republicans are making a strong push for the black vote this year. The Republican National Convention last week in Philadelphia included many prominent blacks, including a well-received speech by retired Gen. Colin Powell. Democrats dismissed the event as a "minstrel show."
Mr. Bush has done relatively well with Texas blacks. In his last gubernatorial election, he garnered 27 percent of the black vote.

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