WASHINGTON (Oct. 8)
A rally marking the one-year anniversary of the Million Man March will unfold next week on the Anti-Defamation League’s doorstep.
United Nations Plaza will actually serve as the backdrop, but the ADL headquarters happens to be located across the street.
It may be pure coincidence, but after an editorial this week in The Final Call, the Nation of Islam’s newspaper, stepped up its vitriol against the ADL to a new level, officials with the Jewish defense organization say they will keep a wary eye on next week’s event.
“We would be irresponsible if we weren’t concerned,” said Abraham Foxman, the ADL’s national director.
Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan has designated Oct. 16 a World Day of Atonement, calling on nations to “put aside violence, murder and war” in order to “atone, repent and reconcile.”
Publicity for the event has not even begun to approach the hype that accompanied last year’s controversial march on Washington.
Moreover, the gathering comes shortly after turnout fell far short of expectations at a political summit late last month in St. Louis, which was billed as a follow-up to the Million Man March.
Still, no one is guessing how many people the Manhattan rally will draw.
Phil Baum, executive director of the American Jewish Congress, believes that this year’s event is receiving less mainstream attention because public perception has turned against Farrakhan.
“His positions have been so compromised and undermined by his blatant association with dictators around the world that it’s hard to believe that any balanced or reasonable observer could believe that this is a message intended to promote peace and better understanding,” Baum said.
Last year, as many mainstream black leaders scrambled to secure a spot on the podium alongside Farrakhan, Jewish leaders urged those opposed to bigotry to stay away from the Million Man March.
That kind of call does not appear to be necessary this time around, Foxman said.
“I don’t see a stampede of people wanting to participate. Even Jack Kemp hasn’t said that he wants an invitation,” Foxman said, referring to a recent interview in which Kemp, the Republican vice presidential candidate, praised Farrakhan’s self-help philosophy and said he wished he had been invited to speak at the Million Man March.
As for the day’s theme of atonement and reconciliation, Jewish leaders continue to see Farrakhan’s use of such language as cynical.
“He certainly hasn’t atoned,” Foxman said, noting the courtesy calls Farrakhan placed this year to various dictators who sponsor terrorism, including Libya’s Muammar Gadhafi.
Similarly, atonement and reconciliation are not exactly the themes that jump out of the Nation of Islam’s most recent editorial railing against the ADL.
Running under the headline: “ADL: Enemy to the people,” the editorial said the ADL, by pressuring the federal government to cancel contracts with security firms affiliated with the Nation of Islam, was responsible for “the loss of Black lives in cities throughout America.”
The editorial also accused the ADL and the CIA of conspiring to bring crack cocaine into black communities.
While hardly charting new editorial ground for a publication that has devoted considerable ink over the years to anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, Foxman said the editorial nonetheless constitutes a “high level of incitement which we find very disturbing.”
In addition, he said the timing of the attack piece, appearing one week before the U.N. rally, was puzzling.
“Rather than calling on the faithful to atone and reconcile, this is the lead editorial,” Foxman said.
The Nation of Islam and The Final Call did not return phone calls.
Meanwhile, the scene outside the United Nations on Oct. 16 might have had an entirely different complexion had New York City officials granted Jewish groups the permit they were seeking for their own rally at the same site.
Oct. 16 marks the 10-year anniversary of the capture of Ron Arad, an Israeli air force pilot shot down over Lebanon and rumored to be alive.
Jewish groups were hoping to hold their rally to call for the release of Israeli MIAs on the 16th, but rescheduled it for Oct. 14 after city officials denied their permit request.
The Nation of Islam had beat them to it.