May 1, 2008
Rev. Wright’s outreach to Jews still unsettling for many
(Page 2 - Previous Page)However, at the press club, Wright said he did not equate Zionism with apartheid.
"Where did I liken it to that?" he said when asked why he compared Israeli policies to South Africa's formerly racist system. "Jimmy Carter called it apartheid. Jeremiah Wright doesn't 'liken' anything to anything. My position on Israel is that Israel has a right to exist; that Israelis have a right to exist, as I said, reconciled one to another."
He continued: "Palestinians and Israelis need to sit down and talk to each other and work out a solution where their children can grow in a world together and not be talking about killing each other, that that is not God's will. So my position is that Israel and the people of Israel be the people of God who are worrying about reconciliation and who are trying to do what God wants for God's people, which is reconciliation."
Such expectations reflect the reductive brand of liberation theology espoused by Wright, said Rabbi Steve Gutow, the executive director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the umbrella body for Jewish policy groups.
"If you're the perceived more powerful, you're always wrong, and if you're perceived more weak, you're always right," Gutow said, "and that's not the way to deal with the Middle East, and Israel and the Palestinians."
Gutow, a Reconstructionist rabbi originally from Texas, also took issue with Wright's claims that his controversial style is a function of the African American church.
"I have been in a lot of black churches over the years, certainly in the South, and these are not the kinds of messages I heard," he said.
Rabbi Marc Schneier, a co-founder of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, said Wright's radical views were typical of the generation that fell between the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. era with its black-Jewish cooperation and the current resurgence of cooperation among young blacks and Jews.
"I have encountered a new leadership in black America committed to bringing black-Jewish relations back to where it was," he said, referring to Obama's own pledge to do so. "What many see as an obstacle, I see as an opportunity of righting the Wrights of the world."
Wright's recognition of Maron suggested an attempt at outreach to Jews and others.
Maron's duties at the Chicago American Jewish Committee (AJC) chapter included organizing AJC tours of the United States for up-and-coming European civic and political leaders aimed at explaining American pluralism. Maron coordinated visits to Wright's Trinity United Church.
Speaking to the online Washington Independent last week, Maron remembered Wright addressing a German delegation in German.
"It was a powerful and warm, welcoming experience," she told the Independent. "My experience with Trinity and Rev. Wright personally was always very positive."
Maron did not return requests for comment, but AJC spokesmen emphasized that there was otherwise no relationship between the AJC and Wright.
PBS interview with Bill Moyers
Wright answers critics at the National Press Club in Washington
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