Some prominent blacks have been the targets of death threats and financial pressures in the black-Jewish dispute that has developed over the last few months, a group of black leaders said last night.
The threats have come mostly from extremists in the American Jewish community, notably the Jewish Defense League, the members of the Black Leadership Forum said.
The charges almost overshadowed the overall purpose of the forum's meeting, which was to call for black-Jewish reconciliation and to express black unity on matters of civil rights and social policy.
The meeting here was attended by 11 civil rights leaders -- including Benjamin Hooks, NAACP president, and National Urban League President Vernon Jordan.
"We strongly resent and will collectively oppose punitive attacks upon any of our members who express honestly held convictions," Jordan said, reading from a forum statement.
Asked what he meant, Jordan said: "Some selected members of this group have had aggressive attacks" directed at them.
He said the alleged attacks were in response to some black leaders' expression of support for opening talks with the Palestine Liberation Organization, and to their Middle East visit with PLO leader Yasser Arafat.
The black missions to Arafat were largely the byproduct of black anger over the resignation last summer of U.S. Ambassador Andrew Young, who stepped down amid controversy over his unauthorized meeting in August with a PLO representative.
Jesse Jackson, who embraced Arafat during his Middle East trip, said he has been the target of assassination threats, harassment to his family, and "people placing the heads of dead animals at our door."
He attributed many of the alleged actions to the Jewish Defense League, which has been criticized as an extremist fringe group by major Jewish organizations such as the American Jewish Congress.
JDL spokesman could not be reached for comment last night.
Joseph E. Lowery, the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference who also met with Arafat and voiced support for opening talks with the PLO, said he and his organization have been the targets of economic intimidation from some members of the Jewish community.
The "intimidation" has come mainly in the form of trying to foreclose on bank loans. Lowery said.
Jackson, Jordan and Lowery -- who have been at odds with each other over the black-Jewish-Palestinian issue -- also charged that they have been vilified in the media because of their various stands.