Blacks and Terrorism
To the Editor:
I should like to make some additional observations on the situation described by Carl Gershman in his article, “The Andrew Young Affair” [November 1979]. What is most disheartening and disturbing about the views of those who have recently become leading advocates of the PLO in this country is their rejection of history, their failure to recognize that terrorism is evil, no matter in what guise it appears, and their studied indifference to gross violations of human rights and human life perpetrated against blacks and Asians.
The entry of American black leaders and their organizations into the realm of international human rights is to be welcomed. Their involvement could enrich the public dialogue on so many of these issues. But the fact is that, with some notable exceptions, they have been conspicuously absent in word and deed as several hundred thousand black Christians have been slaughtered in the southern Sudan; as 15 per cent of the black population of Equatorial Guinea has been liquidated; as Uganda’s Idi Amin killed an estimated 500,000 of his own citizens, of whom 300,000 were Christians; as 200 schoolchildren in the Central African Empire were murdered; and as 2 to 3 million Cambodians have been slaughtered. When an attempt was made through American religious and lay organizations to organize massive relief for tens of thousands of starving Biafran children, again with some notable exceptions, American black leaders were conspicuously absent from the effort. Why this apathy, this disregard for human lives, for black lives? Was the absence of outrage due to the fact that the perpetrators and the victims were of the same color?
It it this selective response to the grossest violations of human decency which is so disturbing. The life of a black African Christian or tribesman, a Cambodian refugee, a Vietnamese boat person, a Lebanese Christian must become as precious to the human family as the Israeli schoolchild who is murdered by a PLO terrorist. Those who embrace the PLO, turning their backs on the inhumanity of that group, have rejected the fundamental roots of our Judeo-Christian civilization and unleashed the forces of bigotry in this country and abroad. The politicization and internationalization of anti-Semitism which they have begun must be checked, must be fought by every American who honors decency, honesty, and life itself.
President, American Jewish Committee
New York City
To the Editor:
Carl Gershman’s analysis of the Andrew Young affair is cogent and frighteningly accurate. It outlines the tragic sequence of events that many of us know began on college campuses well over a decade ago as too many permissive educators on campuses across the nation stepped aside in the face of anti-Semitic assaults by colleagues and students. Guilty about a racist past in which they played no role, they could not understand that they were helping to build a present in which, once again, Jews would become victimized. Much of this took place in departments of Black Studies that were hastily established to appease those who were blinded by hatred and those who were overcome with guilt.
I know that most COMMENTARY readers must, by now, be familiar with the courageous statement published by Julius Lester in the Village Voice and, later, in the New York Times. . . . [But] on his own campus, Julius Lester is a man alone. Few of his colleagues in the department of Afro-American studies speak to him and students, in an insidious attempt to politicize the student body by using McCarthy-like tactics, are being encouraged to boycott Mr. Lester’s course, “Blacks and Jews: A Comparative Study of Oppression.” After the failure to prevent Mr. Lester from offering the course, which deals with slavery and the Holocaust, another course was designed to be taught by someone with the “right” political perspective. Aside from the tragic fact that black students will miss a chance to study the material with a first-rate writer and a first-rate mind, they will be given a polemic by the forces who oppose Mr. Lester simply because he has the tenacity to resist the anti-Semitism which is burgeoning among the black student body at the Uriiversity of Massachusetts. . . .
Martin S. Goldman
Newton Highlands, Massachusetts