JERUSALEM (Dec. 15)
Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan left Israel as abruptly as he had arrived.
Farrakhan had caught Israeli officials off guard on Sunday, when he crossed the border from Jordan into the West Bank, to meet with Palestinian leaders. He originally was not expected to arrive before mid-January.
But he departed only a day later, citing concerns for his security despite Israeli assurances that he was safe.
The American black Muslim leader suddenly dropped his plans to visit the Al- Aksa Mosque in Jerusalem when he learned of plans by Jews to protest.
“If anything should happen to me in this land it could not bring good results in black-Jewish relations in the United States, so in the interest of peace I think it is best that I leave,” Farrakhan said in the West Bank town of Ramallah before leaving for Jordan.
An Israeli Foreign Ministry official said that despite Farrakhan’s statements, Israel had cooperated with his plans and had been involved in arrangements to make the Jerusalem visit possible.
Farrakhan has drawn criticism in Israel for remarks viewed as anti-Semitic and anti-Jewish.
After meeting Sunday with Palestinian officials in the West Bank town of Ramallah, he reiterated to reporters that he is not an anti-Semite.
“I think I have been critical of some aspects of Jewish behavior toward black people. I have never been, I am not now anti-Semitic,” he said.
Farrakhan later met with Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat in the Gaza Strip.
Before Farrakhan left the United States, his aides told Israeli officials that he would arrive in Israel on Jan. 18.
While Farrakhan’s arrival had taken Israeli officials entirely by surprise, they said he was allowed to cross into Israel because he is an American citizen and there was nothing barring his entry.
Farrakhan, who in the past has referred to Judaism as a “gutter religion,” had said before leaving the United States that he hoped to meet Israeli leaders to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Israeli officials responded that they would not officially receive Farrakhan until he issued a public apology for his anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist declarations.
“As an American citizen, with an American passport, he can come” to Israel, David Bar-Illan, the prime minister’s director of communications, told Israel Radio. “He has asked for official status, and that has not been granted.”
In New York, Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said that if Farrakhan were to attempt to return to Israel, “the Israeli government would be justified in barring him because he broke a trust” by showing up without notice.
Foxman, who has refused to meet with Farrakhan, had voiced support for the Nation of Islam leader making a private visit to the Jewish state.