The line between mainstream African American leaders and Louis Farrakhan grew sharper than ever this past week, as leaders of the black community denounced an anti-Semitic speech by an aide to the outspoken Nation of Islam leader.
The chorus of condemnation, including a strong statement by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, pleased Jewish groups. And it seems likely to heal wounds opened last September, when the head of the Congressional Black Caucus spoke of forming a new “Covenant” with Farrakhan’s group.
Members of the caucus had assured Jewish organizational leaders at the time that what was being discussed was only limited cooperation with the Black Muslim group. Now the head of the caucus, Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D-Md.), has joined in condemning Farrakhan’s aide and challenged the Nation of Islam leader to disavow him.
Farrakhan has refused to do so.
The move by the black leadership to distance itself from Farrakhan represents a tactical victory for the Anti-Defamation League, which sponsored a full-page advertisement in The New York Times on Jan. 16 to draw attention to the speech by Khalid Abdul Muhammad, a spokesman for Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam group.
In the speech, delivered at New Jersey’s Kean College on Nov. 29 of last year, Muhammad called Jews “the bloodsuckers of the black nation,” said they controlled the White House, the media and the Federal Reserve, and said they brought the Holocaust on themselves.
Once placed in the public arena on the eve of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, the published remarks drew swift criticism from African American leaders, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
“I am appalled that any human being would stoop so low to make such violence- prone anti-Semitic statements,” Benjamin Chavis Jr., executive director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said at a lecture delivered in Washington on the King holiday.
Speaking to the Philadelphia Baptist Ministers Conference, William Gray III, president of the United Negro College Fund, deplored the “tragic and anti- Semitic comments at Kean College” and said that anti-Semitism cannot be “justified as a response to repression.”
Others condemning the speech included Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) and the Rev. Al Sharpton, the black minister who is accused of helping fuel the August 1991 Crown
As for Jackson, who has been working to shore up his ties with the Jewish community, he called The New York Times last Friday to express his own condemnation
As for Jackson, who has been working to shore up his ties with the Jewish community he called The New York Times last Friday to express his own condemnation of the speech as “racist, anti-Semitic, divisive, untrue and chilling.”
“The madness of the speech is not in the tradition of our civil rights movement,” Jackson was quoted as saying.
He described the reported applause given to the speech as “sick and misguided.”
Jackson asked Farrakhan to distance himself from the speech.
“We urge that the minister address that forthrightly,” Jackson said Monday, on the eve of a Farrakhan rally in New York that drew. 10,000 people.
But Farrakhan, who repeatedly has positioned himself as making amends with Jews without coming close to satisfying them as to his sincerity, added his own remarks to the stew Monday night.
“We know that the Jews are the most organized, rich and powerful people, not only in America, but the world,” he reportedly said. “They’re plotting against us even as we speak.”
And in a clear rebuff of the calls to distance himself from the Kean College speech, Farrakhan reportedly said people were using Muhammad’s words against him to “divide the house,” and that Farrakhan’s enemies “want to use some of our brothers, and some of our brothers are willing to be used” to curry favor.
ADL National Director Abraham Foxman, who had expressed hope on the eve of Farrakhan’s speech that the minister would take the opportunity to renounce anti-Semitism, said afterward in a statement that Farrakhan’s “bigotry and conspiratorial charges continue the grim and shameful pattern he has maintained for years.”
Foxman added that ADL “is dismayed, but hardly shocked, at this ongoing display of hatred by a demagogue whose message deserves the strongest repudiation by all decent Americans.”