Memo To: Mortimer Zuckerman, publisher, New York Daily
News, US News&World Report, former publisher, The
Atlantic Monthly, Chairman of the Conference of
Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: The Rev. Billy Graham's 1972 comment
Now don't get me wrong, Mort. I'm not saying just because you own a significant slice of the American news media and that you are a prominent Jewish leader means that Rev. Billy Graham was right in 1972, when he complained to President Richard Nixon that Jews control the media. I actually do think Jews dominate the news media when it comes to issues related to Israel, and I think that fact was what Nixon had in mind when he concurred. He mentioned the dominance of Jews in the Democratic Party, those who would never vote for him, but by 1972 Jewish cohesion was already most pronounced on the Arab/Israeli front. On Billy Graham's mind was the entertainment media, where he worried that the dominance of secular Jewish owners going back to the earliest days of Hollywood led the culture toward Sodom and Gomorrah. If you read the tape transcript, you will find both men agreeing that "the best Jews" were in Israel, because the locals were "irreligious." After I presented my commentary yesterday on why Jews have been politically inept, quoting Irving Kristol who preferred the word "stupid," I got some angry e-mails from Christians who insisted Billy Graham was not anti-Semitic, as I had written. They calmed down when I answered that I had written "anti-Semitic" in quotation marks, as I certainly do not believe either Nixon or Graham had complaints about Jewish people beyond the "political" realm. In my mind, anti-Semitism requires one to want to do harm to Jews in some way – at a low level barring Jews from country club membership, for example, a practice that still exists in some clubs at least "unofficially."
When it comes to Israel, though, the Jewish political establishment that you officially represent will not tolerate a breaking of the ranks. There may be fierce debate inside Israel on government policies toward the Arab/Palestinian world, but once decisions are made, there is no further debate permitted here. In order to ensure this support of Israel, the Jewish Establishment has bought both political parties with campaign funds and with its Enforcer, the Anti-Defamation League. There is not a single member of the government, either executive or legislative branches, who has the nerve to speak out for the Palestinian point of view when it conflicts with the point of view of the presidents of your organization. It just does not happen. Why do you think I spend so much time and energy trying to get you to sit down with Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam? He is the closest thing the Muslim world has to an American leader who is capable of representing their point of view. If they do not have such a person, they can yap all they want from afar, but eventually they wind up committing suicide while taking the lives of others to get our attention.
Think of it, Mort. If you had agreed to meet with Min. Farrakhan when I begged you to, three years ago I think, perhaps you would have been able to persuade your colleagues to shift gears enough to give the Arab/Islamic world some hope on Middle East matters. And 9-11 might not have happened. Remember I told you that Farrakhan had informed me that he would meet with any journalists I recommended, and said he would come to New York City to meet with the editorial board of the Jewish weekly Forward, but that its then-editor Seth Lipsky said he could not have that happen. When I told you that Seth was too small, but you were big, you replied "I'm not that big," and you reminded me that your name began with a "Z" and I should come back when I went through the rest of the alphabet of Jewish political leaders.
How sad it is. Can't you see that if one of the most powerful and influential media figures in both the news media and the Jewish political establishment is afraid to meet with Min. Farrakhan -- because the word is to avoid doing so at all costs – how do lesser men and women in the press corps break ranks, whether Jewish or not? My old boss at The Wall Street Journal told me at the time I discussed Min. Farrakhan with you that he cleared all issues involving Jewish matters with Seth Lipsky of the Forward. I offered to have Min. Farrakhan meet with the editorial board of The New York Times, or to have him pen an op-ed, but there was no interest. Twice in 1998 I wrote warnings in this space that unless we tried to find the source of the hatred against the United States in the Muslim world, terrorists would return and bring down the Twin Towers. There was no interest because no one in the political universe could stand the wrath of Foxman and the ADL, the Enforcer of the organization over which you now preside.
Do Jews control the media? You bet they do on this issue. Min. Farrakhan tells of a dinner meeting with a group of influential rabbis in Chicago a few years back, a dinner arranged by Irv Kupcinet, the columnist. He says the dinner went beautifully and the rabbis suggested they adjourn to another room for coffee, to come down to business. He said one rabbi took out a sheet of paper with a list of demands, telling him that if he complied with them, they would assure him his problems with the news media would go away. One of the demands was that he apologize for everything he had said in the past that distressed them, another that he say nothing in the future that would distress them. Farrakhan told me he said he would apologize for anything he said that was not true, if they would wish to discuss it with him man-to-man, but that he could not grant blanket apologies as if he were a child and thus could not comply. He said he told the rabbis that he could also take a list of demands from his pocket, if they were willing to sit and listen. He said he acknowledged the Jewish community had done more for the black man over the past century than any other ethnic or religious group. It was always in a parent/child relationship, and it was time for equal footing at an adult level. No deal.
No deal, Mort, because I believe the fear of losing Israel to the Arabs is so great that your group will not take any risks of the only kind that might actually produce peace in the Holy Land. And you are not big enough, you say. Your name starts with the end of the alphabet. Too bad.
* * * * *
Three or four years ago, Time invited all the men and women who had made the "Man of the Year" covers over the previous 70 years and were still around. Min. Farrakhan told me how nervous he was in accepting the invitation, worried nobody would talk to him. He said he looked around in the reception area and was awed by the famous people assembled, and saw one man cutting through the crowd to come to greet him. It was Rev. Billy Graham, he said, opening his arms to another man of the cloth. How thrilled Farrakhan was at the gesture, which broke the ice for the rest of the assemblage. The two men exchanged telephone numbers and said they would stay in contact. Farrakhan thought he might hear from the other preacher, but after some months went by, I decided to call Billy Graham's office to facilitate a meeting. I was told politely by a secretary that it would not be possible at that time.