NEW YORK (Oct. 8)
Black Muslim leader Louis Farrakhan brought his controversial nationwide tour to a thunderous conclusion here last night in a speech to some 25,000 persons in which he lashed out at his critics, especially Jews, whom he accused of having injected “the germ of murder … into the hearts of Jews” throughout the country.
“Some person is going to think they’re doing God a favor and seek my death, “Farrakhan declared to the overflow crowd at Madison Square Garden and the Felt Forum. “You can’t find a word in the text of my speeches that calls for the death of Jews, yet I am made to look like an anti-Semite.”
Saying the “Jewish lobby has a stranglehold on government,” he said, “I will not bend my knees to the power of the Jews.” At another point, he said “Jewish control of Black organizations has to be busted up and broken. We don’t want to relate to the Jews in a master-slave relationship,” a remark that, like many throughout the evening, triggered a wildly enthusiastic response from the audience.
ANGER AND CONTROVERSY
Farrakhan’s appearance here, in the city with the largest Jewish population in the United States, generated much anger and controversy, as did his other speeches during the 14-city nationwide tour. His speech to some 18,000 persons at the Forum in Los Angeles last month and the behind-the-scenes efforts between the Black and Jewish community on how to handle Farrakhan, has left bitter strains between the two communities there.
In New York, however, the Jewish community sought to maintain what was described by some Jewish leaders as a lower profile. Instead of coming out and staging a demonstration at the Garden last night, for example, they sought to stay away from the event, for fear of turning the rally into “a media event, which is exactly what he wants,” according to Mayor Edward Koch.
However, the Jewish Defense Organization staged a small protest outside the Garden last Sunday night. Some of the 18 persons at the demonstration carried placards calling for “death to Farrakhan.” Also on Sunday, a demonstration against Farrakhan was held at the Riverdale Monument by the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, protesting Farrakhan as an anti-Semite, racist and bigot.
ASSAILS HIS CRITICS
But Farrakhan is well aware of the controversy he generates, and made reference to his critics during the course of his more than 2 1/2 hour address. “Those who call me a bigot, a hater, an anti-Semite, I want you to listen to me real carefully,” he said.
“If anything like that comes out of my mouth I want you raise your hand and stop me,” Farrakhan said from the podium where he was surrounded by guards from his Fruit of Islam group. “That’s what they say I am. Tonight, I want you to judge for yourself.”
Later, Farrakhan said, “Who are the people who are against Farrakhan? Are the people who are angry with me the righteous? Would you say the Jews who are angry with me are the righteous people?” In response, the crowd thundered in unison, “No.”
The 51-year-old minister reached the podium after keeping the audience waiting for some three hours. The delay was caused in part by the intense security precautions through which the crowd had to pass in order to enter the Garden. Reporters, as other guests, were frisked and their bags were searched for weapons.
OTHER ATTACKS ON ZIONISM AND ISRAEL
There were some brief speeches prior to Farrakhan’s address by Nation of Islam officials, a representative of an American Indian group, and by a Palestinian identified as “Brother Said Arafat.” He declared that “Zionism is the cancer” in the Middle East and he reaffirmed the Palestinian people’s commitment to “the armed struggle” against Israel. Stokely Carmichael, one of the 1960′s civil rights leaders, also spoke briefly, assailing Zionism and Israel.
Last week, a coalition of Jews and non-Jews, Blacks and Hispanics, political and religious leaders held a news conference at which they denounced Farrakhan’s anti-Semitism and bigotry. Joining the coalition was Governor Mario Cuomo, Koch, and New York Senators Daniel Moynihan (D.) and Alfonse D’Amato (R.). Yesterday, the Catholic Archdiocese of New York issued a statement from John Cardinal O’Connor denouncing Farrakhan.
The statement from O’Connor said he was addressing statements attributed in the media to Farrakhan because “I cannot remain silent about such, lest it be assumed that such statements are acceptable to Catholic teaching which categorically abhors anti-Semitism and racism in any form under any pretext.”