NEW YORK (JTA) — Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons has called for a truce with Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League.
In a statement sent to The Daily Beast on Sunday, Simmons said that comments he made in a speech last week in Israel in which he defended his friendship with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan were misinterpreted. Simmons had said that just as Farrakhan had alienated Jews, Foxman had alienated African Americans. An outraged Foxman called the comments by Simmons “outrageous and ugly.”
“My statements at the Presidents Conference were not meant to compare Abe Foxman to Minister Farrakhan, as some in the press liked to note," Simmons wrote. "They were meant to point out the kind of results you get from the public attacks of many African-American leaders by Abe over the years, namely that these attacks have alienated millions of blacks. Many black people around the country believe that when Abe attacks their leaders, it is an attack by the Jewish community on them as well. This type of behavior stings for a long time.”
Simmons, a co-founder with Rabbi Marc Schneier of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, said that he was proud to have worked to strengthen the relationship between the African-American and Jewish communities. He said his comments at the conference were undermining the work he has done on behalf of the Jewish community to build synagogues and promote tolerance.
“Rabbi Marc Schneier and I had a remarkable week in Israel where we met and convened with some of the most important religious leaders in the country, including the Chief Rabbi of Israel and the Grand Mufti of the Palestinian people,” Simmons wrote. “We had difficult conversations that have not happened before, and we are determined to break through barriers that have been in existence for decades.”
Foxman has publicly praised Simmons for his outreach work between African Americans and Jews, but also has faulted him for his praise of Farrakhan, who has likened Judaism to a "gutter religion" and for years has peddled anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.
"What’s disappointing is that someone who has a history of having a blind spot to one of the most vociferous and ugly anti-Semites would be given a platform in Jerusalem," Foxman said last week in a statement. "And what’s outrageous is how divisive and ugly his attack on us was. And, finally, what’s shocking is that his colleague and partner, Rabbi Marc Schneier, stood by in silence."