- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 25, 2002

Today's Democratic congressional runoff in Alabama is pitting black leaders against Jewish politicians in an unlikely location for airing out differences over the war in the Middle East.
"This election is being watched all over the world," said the Rev. Walter Fauntroy, a longtime civil rights leader.
Mr. Fauntroy and other black leaders have raised a furious, last-minute defense for Rep. Earl F. Hilliard, a black who has drawn the ire of Jewish groups by voting against pro-Israel resolutions.
The Rev. Al Sharpton was among those campaigning for Mr. Hilliard in the final days, telling an audience at a church in Birmingham that the challenger, black lawyer Artur Davis, is a "Yankee-financed outsider."
"Everyone who is our color is not our kind," said Mr. Sharpton, himself a New Yorker.
Mr. Davis has received more than $300,000 from pro-Israel lobbies in his effort to defeat Mr. Hilliard. The five-term incumbent voted against a House resolution condemning Palestinian suicide bombers and visited Libya in 1997 despite its designation as a terrorist state.
Mr. Fauntroy organized campaign appearances for incumbent Hilliard over the weekend with about 10 members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), actor Danny Glover and Martin Luther King III.
Mr. Fauntroy said of the Jewish groups' opposition to Mr. Hilliard: "He's been targeted."
"What they've done is disrepectful of young men like [James] Chaney and [Michael] Schwerner, who gave their lives for the right of self-determination of black people of the South," he said, referring to civil rights workers, a black and a Jew, who were slain together in Mississippi in 1964. "Some people want to steal our birthright."
He added that blacks "feel betrayed by people who have been our allies."
"They are turning the clock back to a time when people outside of the African-American community chose our leaders," Mr. Fauntroy said.
Mr. Hilliard is running for re-election in Alabama's 7th Congressional District, one of the nation's most Democratic. Al Gore beat George W. Bush in the majority-black district by a 3-to-1 margin in 2000.
But the district's boundaries were redrawn this year to include more of Mr. Davis' home base. In the June 4 Democratic primary, Mr. Hilliard failed to capture the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff, leading Mr. Davis 47 percent to 43 percent.
Mr. Davis, who lost to Mr. Hilliard two years ago, has solicited support from Jewish Democrats, traveling to New York for two fund-raisers. Black caucus members held a meeting in early June with House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri and Minority Whip Nancy Pelosi of California, seeking help in fending off Mr. Davis' challenge.
The leaders urged House Democrats in a letter to each to donate $1,000 to Mr. Hilliard's campaign. Mrs. Pelosi has contributed $17,000 from her political action committees.
"She has done everything she can to help him," Pelosi spokeswoman Cindy Jimenez said.
But tensions were still evident between black and Jewish politicians last week when they held a three-hour closed meeting, called by black caucus chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas, to smooth over their differences.
Among the participants were two of the most powerful House Democrats: Reps. Henry A. Waxman of California, who is Jewish, and black caucus member Charles B. Rangel of New York, ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee.
Mr. Rangel said in an interview that the meeting was "just a discussion about how Jews and blacks could work more closely with each other on substantive issues."
"The black caucus members are very sensitive to outsiders' attempting to influence election of its members, and Jews were sensitive to the fact that they wanted to make certain that the [black] caucus members were sensitive to the survival of Israel," Mr. Rangel said. "Sometimes we don't take the time to find out how sensitive issues are to each other."
Mr. Rangel said the black and Jewish members discussed how they could cooperate more on policy issues such as aid to Africa and to Israel.
The Middle East has become an issue in the re-election of another black lawmaker, Rep. Cynthia A. McKinney, Georgia Democrat.
Mrs. McKinney suggested that President Bush knew in advance about the September 11 terrorist attacks and did not stop them in order to profit monetarily. She also criticized then-Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani of New York for rejecting $10 million from an anti-Israel Saudi sheik. She, too, has voted against a pro-Israel resolution, though she describes herself as a supporter of Israel.
Her opponent in the Democratic primary, Denise Majette, also has received contributions from Jewish Democrats.
Mr. Rangel said of his black caucus colleagues, "Certainly nobody expected that the Jewish members could do anything to stop people from making contributions."
James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute in Washington, said he donated $1,000 to incumbent Hilliard and that Arab Americans have volunteered to work on his campaign.
"We don't pick fights," Mr. Zogby said. But he said this is a race in which "Arab Americans feel strongly about the fact that somebody shouldn't be targeted this way."

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