The largest assembly of black leaders in nearly a decade, some say since the 1963 march on Washington, met here today to decry the resignation under fire of U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young and for the first time to declare that no one but black Americans could define their role in making foreign policy.
"This is our independence day," said Kenneth B. Clark, a noted psychologist and political theoretician. The group also included Del. Walter Fauntroy (D-D.C.), Georgia State Sen. Julian Bond, the Rev. Jesse Jackson of Operation PUSH, Benjamin Hooks, head of the NAACP, Vernon Jordan, director of the National Urban League, and Joseph Lwoery president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).
A separate, unanimously approved statement addressed the heightening of tensions between black and Jewish organizations since Young's resignation. It called for discussions between blacks and Jews to be "conducted in terms of specific issues and problems rather than in terms of emotions, supplication, subtle or flagrant threats or coercion or arrogance."
The group's foreign-policy statement reflected a national consensus of more than 200 black politicians and civic, fraternal and professional leaders.
Many of them said they were angered by a "paternalistic attitude" among Jews and some other whites who argue, discreetly or openly, that blacks are not qualified to participate as equals with whites in discusions of international affairs.
Richard Hatcher, mayor of Gary, Ind., read one of the group's statements pointedly critical of Israel: "We join with Ambassador Andrew Young in rejecting the notion that any foreign nation should dictate foreign policies of the United States."
Fauntroy read another of the group's statements, one challenging what the black leaders called the poor treatment accorded black Americans involved in foreign affairs.
"Neither Jews, Italians, Germans, Irish, Chinese, British, French or any other ethnically or nationally identifiable group has any more right to be involved in the the development and conduct of U.S. foreign policy than Americans of African descent," Fauntroy read to a crowd of reporters and partcipants in the black leadership meeting.
"In every war since the founding of this nation, black citizens have borne arms and died for their country. Their blood was spilled from Bunker Hill to Vietnam. It is to be expected that should the United States become drawn into a war in the Middle East black Americans once more will be called up to sacrifice their lives," the statement read.
"Nevertheless, the involvement of blacks and their concern in foreign policy questions is repeatedly questioned. Black American citizens deplore the arrogance that is implicit in this attitude," it continued.
"Without question, Young's resignation precipitated this meeting," Fauntroy told a reporter."Without his forced resignation, we would not have had this awakening and show of independence among all black leaders on the question of our right to be involved in shaping American policy."
Since the weekend, Jewish leaders and others have tried to discourage black leaders from supporting the SCLC in its efforts to enter directly into the Middle East peacemaking.
The SCLC has met with Palestine Liberation Organization observer at the United Nations, with Israel's ambassador to the United Nations and with American Jewish leaders.
The group met with skepticism and criticism as a result of its proclaimed "moral mission from God to seek peace," and outraged Jewish leaders by declaring its support for self-determination for Palestinians.
Israel's U.N. ambassador, Yehuda Blum, told reporters that the SCLC leaders "were not experts" on the Middle East question, and suggested they did not understand the issues of the region.
While the black leaders today did not endorse the SCLC'S call for Palensinian self-determination, they made it clear that they stood with the SCLC in its assertion of the rights of black Americans to express their views on international as well as domestic issues.
In their statement on black-Jewish relations, read by Julian Bond, they said that if blacks and Jews cannot resolve their differences "by rational discussion in an atmosphere of mutual respect, then realism demands that blacks will differ with Jews even as Jews will differ with blacks. Each group will then use whatever power and influence it has to pursue its own goals."
"There is no question that individual Jews and Jewish organizations and their leaders have worked as part of a liberal coalition with blacks and organized labor to form a powerful political force for social and economic reform in the United States," the statement said.
"It is also clear that Jewish organizations and leadership have done so when it is in their perceived interest to do so as do we," it said.
The statement criticized some Jewish organizations for "abruptly becoming apologists for the racial status quo." It cited Jewish opposition to black arguments in the De Funis, Bakke and Webber discrimination cases.
"The term "quota," which traditionally meant the exclusion of Jews, is now being used by many Jews to warn against attempts to include blacks in aspects of our society and economy from which they were previously excluded," the statement added.
It also criticized American Jewish organizations for failing to urge Israel to cut trade with the regimes of South Africa and Rhodesia.
In closed-door meetings all night Tuesday and during much of the day today, the black leaders and intellectuals debated the consequences of their newly proclaimed "independence." Privately, they admitted that it might result in a substantial loss of financial support from Jews. Publicly, they said that fair-minded Jews would understand their call for self-determination in foreign policy questions.
In a session closed to journalists, Hooks, the leader of the black summit meeting, and others reportedly stressed the need to present a unified front on the self-determination issue, while at the same time acknowleding that some black organizations' heavy reliance of Jewish philanthropy might temper their views.
Some of those in attendance criticized American leadership for, in their words, letting Jews determine the western world's position on the Middle East at great taxpayer expense and at the risk of war, the consequences of which would be more harmful to blacks than others in the United States, they said.
Each of the final position papers, presented to the entire assembly late today, won unanimous support.
"What was at stake here was the birth of a new era of respectability for black input into the foreign-policy determination of this country," Fauntroy told a reporter."The issue orientation of black Americans will tend to expand to include foreign-policy areas other than that say, of South Africa.
"Clearly it will reflect itself in the workshops that the Black Caucus holds this September and in the foreign-policy questions that black Americans will put to candidates for the presidency and other public offices in 1980," he said.
Clark, one of the principal architects of the position papers, said. "This independence is a statement of terms, for future relationships with out condesension, with our unanimous position being, "Look, let's face it, there might be difficulities and conflicts. We will try to resolve them. . . .We will go our own ways to achieve our goals." This is not to be confused with anti-Semitism. This is to be understood that this is our position."