To the great dismay of many Jews, Louis Farrakhan’s influence within the black community continues to grow.
At a recent black leadership conference here, the Nation of Islam leader shared the stage with black leaders who have long been critical of his anti-Semitic and racist rhetoric and had chosen to distance themselves from October’s Million Man March, the gathering of blacks here organized by the Nation of Islam on Oct. 16.
In a clear move toward reconciliation with Farrakhan, Hugh Price, president of the Urban League, praised organizers of the march for putting on the biggest “family values” rally in U.S. history.
Price also applauded Farrakhan’s offer to hold a dialogue with Jews.
“I commend Minister Farrakhan for his overture to the Jewish community before a worldwide audience,” Price told blacks gathered at the National African American Leadership Summit. “I hope it will be reciprocated and that the serious work of interracial healing and collaboration will begin.”
The praise for Farrakhan – coming from a black leader who earned the respect and admiration of the Jewish community for speaking out against anti-Semitism and racism at a time when others remained silent – has caused a stir in Jewish quarters.
Jewish leaders have categorically rejected Farrakhan’s call for dialogue, saying that the Nation of Islam leader must first renounce anti-Semitism, racism and bigotry and apologize for past statements.
Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, criticized Price’s remarks about a dialogue as “simplistic” and “misguided.”
“I am surprised that Hugh Price would commend Farrakhan for his overture to the Jewish community because that overture is a sham,” Foxman said.
While accepting praise at the conference from Price, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Harvard professor Cornel West, among others, Farrakhan lashed out at black church leaders who boycotted the Million Man March and continue to shun his position in the community.
Black ministers, Farrakhan was quoted as saying, have misunderstood him and his commitment to God and Jesus. Likening himself to Jesus, he said, “I speak and transform human life.
“When I speak, blind people see, deaf people hear, dumb people speak, the sick get healed and the mentally dead people come to life. Dope addicts get cleaned up, alcoholics get saved, homosexuals get turned around. So don’t tell me I don’t know Jesus.”
Speaking at a news conference capping the summit, Farrakhan charged that he, like Jesus, faces persecution from Jews.
“I don’t talk Jesus, I live Jesus, and that’s why I’m in trouble like he was. Do you understand what I’m saying? The same scribes that were enemies of Jesus, how do you write about me?” he said. “You can’t defeat me because he who is in me is the master of it all.”
The Jesus theme is nothing new for Farrakhan, who has repeatedly accused Jews of crucifying Jesus, according to Foxman.
“It’s all part of the same theme: `Why are they rejecting me as they rejected Jesus?’ He’s got a fixation on Jews and the Jewish community,” Foxman said. “He has some need to be accepted, which is the whole drawing to meet with Jews and have their approval.”