The much-discussed "rift" between blacks and Jews over the Palestinian issue is causing a rift among leaders of black organizations in the United States.
That became clear over the weekend as moderate black leaders announced plans to break publicly with their more militant brethren, such as the Rev. Jesse Jackson, over recent black initiatives in the Middle East.
Spokesmen for Vernon Jordan, president of the National Urban League, said in interviews that Jordan is concerned about possible harm done to black-Jewish domestic relations by Jackson's and other black leaders' visits with Yasser Arafat, head of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
The meetings with Arafat were in part the byproducts of black anger over the resignation of former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young, who stepped down because of disclosures last August about his unauthorized meeting with a representative of the PLO.
The League spokemen said Jordan will express his concerns in a major speech today at a meeting of the National Conference of Catholic Charities in Kansas City.
Excerpts from the Jordan speech were circulated in news reports yesterday despite National Urban League spokesmen's protests that the speech was embargoed until delivery.
According to those reports, Jordan will criticize the Middle East actions of the more militant black leaders as "sideshows" detracting from the "vital survival issues" facing American blacks at home.
"Black-Jewish relations should not be endangered by ill-considered flirtations with terrorist groups devoted to the extermination of Israel," Jordan's speech reportedly says.
In several interviews with The Washington Post, Jackson has said he anticipated that his actions would draw fire from more moderate blacks in the civil rights movement.
"I see no reason to be surprised when whites disagree over issues. They shouldn't be surprised by disagreements amoung blacks. We are not a monolithic people."
Jackson repeated those comments, with some elaboration, in a Chicago radio program broadcast yesterday.
He said he recent Middle East "peacekeeping mission" has been criticized by Arabs, Jews and blacks alike. The trilateral attack, he shows that "we were not demagogic, that we said things in Israel that they did not like and things in the Arab nations that they did not like, either."
Responding to the criticisms from Jordan, who reportedly does not mention Jackson's name in his speech today. Jackson said: "We are resilient enough to disagree without being disagreeable."
However, that may not be the case. One ranking civil rights leader contacted by The Washington Post yesterday refused to comment on the black- on-black dispute because "it's too much of a problem, and I'm caught in the middle on this thing."
Other black leaders such as Bayard Rustin of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, are not holding their tongues on their pens.
In a lengthy article last week in The Post's Outlook section, Rustin excoriated Jackson, District of Columbia Del. Walter Fauntroy and Southern Christian Leadership Conference President Joseph Lowery for appearing to embrace the PLO at the expense of longterm domestic Jewish alliances.
"I have little doubt that the PLO leaders are chuckling as they're recall lectures on nonviolent protest and hands joined to sing "We Shall Overcome," Rustin wrote.
"While they can hardly take Jackson's mediation efforts seriously, they do understand the enormous political benefit to be reaped from their demonstration of PLO solidarity with some black leaders."
Rustin is in Israel on a black Middle East mission of his own to tell Israeli leaders that "there are great numbers of black people who want the United States to give Israel whatever support it needs."