Organizers of the 20th anniversary civil rights march on Washington have drafted new language restating their peace goals in the Middle East in words they hope will reassure major Jewish groups that the Aug. 27 gathering here will not be a platform for anti-Israeli pronouncements.
But there was confusion yesterday about what the new language, expected to be announced today, would be.
Jewish groups said the new version would tone down or eliminate previous criticisms of U.S. Middle East policy, especially an earlier statement attacking arms shipments to Israel. An Arab-American group said the final march statement would retain a sentence opposing U.S. policies in the Middle East.
"We're arriving at a consensus," D.C. Del. Walter E. Fauntroy, a key march organizer, said yesterday. He declined to reveal the final wording of language concerning the Middle East problem pending today's news conference. But he said the revised language would be in keeping with the expanded march theme of "Jobs, Peace and Freedom" and reflect the belief that nonviolent solutions should be sought to foreign policy questions.
In contrast to the march of 1963, this month's commemorative march has expanded the traditonal civil rights focus and tried to appeal as well to the concerns of antinuclear, labor, peace, women's, gay rights, environmentalists and other groups.
But this attempt to build broad-based support out of such a diverse coalition has created headaches for march organizers and may have hampered their fund-raising efforts for the event, according to some who have expressed concern about the march preparations.
"They had trouble holding all the multi-interests in tow," said one source close to march organizers who asked not to be quoted by name. In addition to friction between Jewish and Arab groups, he said, some labor unions have been critical of the march's peace plank because they represent employes in the defense industry and favor more spending for weapons.
Organizers originally began with a budget of between $1 million and $1.5 million but scaled it back when they encountered difficulty attracting financial support.
"Certain organizations have contributed fully and others have not met that responsibility," acknowledged Clifton Smith, Mayor Marion Barry's staff director and a former Fauntroy aide.
Fauntroy said yesterday the march will probably cost between $600,000 to $700,000. He said contributions, a third of them from labor unions, are coming in daily and that march organizers have already paid half the cost of the sound system needed at the march's assembly area on the Mall and at the Lincoln Memorial.
Fauntroy said he hoped the revised Middle East language would bring a "better response" financially from Jewish groups, some of whom have declined to support the march. The fact that the event is being held on the Jewish Sabbath is most often cited as the reason for their failure to participate, but several Jewish groups have been critical of the Middle East statements put out by march organizers.
"We want to get out any reference to a reduction of aid to Israel," said Moe Rodenstein, a spokesman for the New Jewish Agenda, which is continuing to mobilize national support for the march despite the language disagreements. "There are enough other forums to talk about the Middle East."
But James Zogby, executive director of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said his group hopes march statements will oppose U.S. policy in the Middle East but will participate in the march no matter what the final language. "But the people who want the language to go away really want the problem to go away--and that's not going to happen," Zogby said.