After a two-and-a-half-hour meeting Thursday between leaders of the NAACP and the Anti-Defamation League, the two civil rights organizations refused to comment on whether their differences over Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan had been resolved.
However, Dr. William Gibson, chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said at a news conference following the meeting that a three-paragraph statement describing both groups’ desire to work together on issues of mutual concern was “all we could agree on.”
The statement said that the meeting “reaffirmed our commitment to working toward a common civil rights agenda” and that the two groups would jointly sponsor a series of meetings to deal with “issues that affect the quality of life of our respective communities.”
ADL National Director Abraham Foxman said one of those issues included racism and anti-Semitism, but he refused to elaborate on what this would mean in terms of the NAACP’s relations with Farrakhan.
In a widely publicized press conference on Feb. 3, Farrakhan said he would stand by the “truths” made in a speech by an aide, Khalid Abdul Muhammad, which included the claim that Jews were “bloodsuckers” as well as other anti-Semitic, anti-white, anti-Catholic and anti-gay remarks.
Following Farrakhan’s remarks, the NAACP issued a statement saying it was “prepared to believe” Farrakhan’s claim that he is “neither anti-Semitic nor racist,” and welcoming Farrakhan’s participation in a summit meeting of African American leaders.
NAACP representatives refused to comment Thursday on whether such a meeting would indeed take place.
The ADL released a statement saying it was “disappointed” by the NAACP’s response to Farrakhan’s failure to repudiate his aide’s remarks and repeated its assertion that Farrakhan has “profoundly repugnant racist and anti-Semitic beliefs.”
At Thursday’s news conference, ADL National Chairman Melvin Salberg refused to comment on the substance of the lunch meeting between the two groups, but repeatedly urged reporters to read the jointly prepared statement “very carefully.”
The statement said that the NAACP and ADL leaders have met “not to paper over differences, but to affirm what we hold in common.”
The failure of either group to discuss the Farrakhan issue led to speculation that the two groups were unable to reach an agreement but instead decided to move on with other issues.
In an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency last week, the ADL’s Foxman affirmed hiss organization’s desire to continue relations with the NAACP, citing the two groups’ historic relationship as well as ongoing common concerns.
“We’re going to need each other,” he said.
Foxman also said the ADL was not willing to participate in any joint projects that included Farrakhan, but he did not rule out the possibility of dialogue with groups that met with Farrakhan on their own.
The executive director of the American Jewish Committee, David Harris, said there needs to be a “clearing of the air” on the Farrakhan controversy so that the two groups can resume work on issues of mutual concern.
“It’s not something we can summarily dismiss or ignore,” said Harris, whose organization has sharply criticized the NAACP’s response to Farrakhan’s Feb. 3 remarks.
The decision by NAACP and ADL leaders not to discuss the Farrakhan controversy in Thursday’s news conference shocked reporters, who had been provided with copies of the ADL’s published refutation of a key Nation of Islam book as well as excerpts from Farrakhan’s speeches, immediately before the Conference.
In a speech before the National Press Club Thursday, the Rev. Jesse Jackson praised the meeting between Jewish and black civil rights leaders, calling for a conference to deal with civil rights issues.
Jackson did not say whether he would want Farrakhan to be included in such a conference.