Memo To: Website Fans, Browsers, Clients
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Who is the Hatemonger?
Ten years ago, Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam invited black American men from around the nation to Washington, D.C. in what became known as the Million Man March (MMM), October 16, 1995. By my lights, it was enormously successful, easily a million men showing up in a completely peaceful celebration of self-help, reconciliation and renewal. Black women were purposely not invited because Farrakhan wanted the event to inspire black men to be better than they had been toward their women, to assume the burden of leadership in black families that had been shunted off to women.
I'd long suspected Farrakhan was a much better man than he was represented by Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, who had labeled Farrakhan a "Black Hitler." The MMM persuaded me he was a truly good man. A year later, December 1996, I had dinner with him at his home in Chicago and became persuaded he was a holy man, with not an anti-Semitic bone in his body. We've been friends ever since, and never once has he uttered a word in public or in our many private meetings and telephone calls to cause me to believe otherwise. In addition, I've known of his many attempts to seek reconciliation with the Jewish community and seen how Foxman and the ADL (which I have come to call "The Defamation League") have spurned them.
Now this clash has surfaced again, with Min. Farrakhan preparing for the 10th anniversary of the MMM with a second call to Washington, a "Millions More Movement," this time with men and women invited on October 14-16. A decade ago, Foxman and the ADL used their influence to discourage many black leaders from attending the MMM, and last week wrote a letter to 30 prominent black leaders urging them to boycott the October event as long as Farrakhan was part of it, again referring to him as an anti-Semitic hatemonger. I'm following the story on BlackElectorate.com and Harlem's Amsterdam News, where I find former President Bill Clinton endorsing the MMM!!! In 1996, Foxman talked General Colin Powell out of attending the MMM. We're curious to see if Powell wimps out again. Here is the first in a series on the MMM by Jamal Watson in last week's Amsterdam News. We'll let you decide, of the two, which is the hatemonger.
ADL clashes with Farrakhan
By Jamal E. Watson
Amsterdam News Staff
Originally posted 5/25/2005
Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan said that African-American leaders remain fully united around the Millions More Movement, despite calls by the Anti-Defamation League for them to boycott the October gathering.
In an interview with the New York Amsterdam News earlier this week, Farrakhan dismissed recent comments by Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), who called for Black leaders to disassociate themselves from the gathering, saying that Farrakhan is a racist who promotes anti-Semitism.
Earlier this month, Foxman sent a letter to more than 30 prominent Black leaders listed as supporting the movement, urging them to reconsider participating, so as long as Farrakhan played a central role.
“This is very sad because the masses of our people are suffering,” said Farrakhan, when asked about Foxman’s comments. “It’s not about Mr. Foxman. It’s not about the ADL. It is about the mass suffering of the masses of our people, and we are coming together not against this one or that one, but we are coming together on one solid principle: that no individual can rise above the condition of his people,” he said.
The Millions More Movement, which is expected to draw millions to Washington D.C. from October 14-16, is supported by over a hundred Black leaders and organizations, including Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Jesse L. Jackson and hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons.
In an interview last month with the New York Amsterdam News, former President Bill Clinton said that he supported the efforts of the Movement as well.
Farrakhan said that the mission of the movement is “to pool our resources intellectually, to see if we can plan the spiritual, moral, educational, political, cultural and economic and health uplift of our people,” adding that instead of commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Million Man March with just another march, organizers decided to call this year’s gathering a movement in an effort to “mobilize our people that we may accept our responsibility to change the reality of our lives and to harness the intellectual power that is in the Black community to develop programs and plans that we can carry out to effectively lift the masses of our people.”
Farrakhan said that unlike the Million Man March a decade ago, organizers have focused energy on ensuring that long-term programs and initiatives are implemented in cities across the nation. He also said that he would be visiting the Caribbean and parts of Africa in July to promote the movement. He said that the Movement would also address the issues that Latinos and Native Americans face in an effort to “see how we can structure strategic alliances that will enable the poor, the weak, the disenfranchised to become powerful enough to change our reality.”
But the criticism of the event, led primarily by the ADL, has forced some in the Black community to question the organization’s motives.
In an interview with the New York Amsterdam News this week, Russell Simmons criticized Foxman’s decision to urge Black leaders to boycott the event, saying that his actions could ultimately strain Black and Jewish relations.
“I think it’s wrong for Abe Foxman to get involved at this level in this way,” said Simmons, who spoke with Foxman earlier this week by phone and asked for a meeting in person to talk about his latest attack on the Movement. “His energy has not been helpful in healing whatever rift Blacks and Jews have. He’s never met an African-American leader he has not called an anti-Semite,” he said.
“This attack on Black leadership could be very, very damaging,” said Simmons. “The best thing to do is to have meetings with members of the Jewish community who have concerns with the Minister. The Minister is always open to meet with members of the Jewish community.”
Earlier this month, Simmons fired off a letter to Foxman, which was posted in a blog on a website started by commentator Arianna Huffington. In the letter, Simmons urged Foxman to refrain from pressuring African-American leaders to denounce Minister Farrakhan and the Millions More Movement. “This commemoration is a real opportunity for establishing healing, reconciliation and fostering a more effective environment for constructive dialogue between Blacks and Jews,” he wrote. “We want a society and world were there is no hatred, anti-Semitism, violence, or poverty. For the record, we do not and would not support or endorse any person's viewpoint that is anti-Semitic, racist or hateful. You should, therefore, be working with us toward building more compassion and love among and between all people.”
Simmons said that the movement is about self-empowerment for African-Americans, and that none of the organizers would engage in anti-Semitic rhetoric.
“The message as it’s outlined, and everyone has agreed to stay on message, is about personal responsibility, and that’s something that African-Americans need to hear,” he said. “It’s about self-empowerment.”
Foxman could not be reached for comment because he was traveling, but ADL spokeswoman Myrna Shinbaum said that the ADL cannot support the planned event while Farrakhan and Malik Zulu Shabazz are actively involved.
“We don’t see Minister Farrakhan and Malik Zulu Shabazz any different than we see David Duke,” Shinbaum said. “We are urging African-American leaders to disassociate themselves with Mr. Farrakhan. He is a racist and an anti-Semite.”
Farrakhan said that he is not an anti-Semite and does not hate Jews.
“This [the accusation] has been going on now for 20 years. And the best thing I can do is to keep moving forward to try and help our people and leave him [Foxman] to his devices,” he said. “I don’t want to give those comments the light of day because my people who know me, my people who have heard me, my people who have read of what I say, they don’t believe that I am an anti-Semite, and I know that I am not, so I will not give that any of my time.”
Rev. Sharpton, who Foxman urged not to participate in the event, said that he is committed to the gathering, saying that Foxman’s comments urging Black leaders to denounce Farrakhan have served as a major “distraction.”
“We don’t all have to be in agreement on everything, but we should not allow other people to define and denounce what we’re about,” said Sharpton. “I think it’s interesting because at one time, they were telling people to stay away from me. Now they’re telling me not to sit down with Farrakhan.”
Farrakhan said that he has spoken with many of the Black leaders who have signed on to the event and the momentum remains strong.
“For all of us to be in the same room in spite of ideological, philosophical, methodological, organizational and religious and theological differences, we’ve recognized that we need to come together to save our people,” he said. “This has nothing to do with Mr. Foxman or the ADL. It has everything to do with our willingness to pool our resources intellectually and financially to save ourselves and our people and to prepare a future for ourselves and our people, and nobody of goodwill should want to stop us from helping ourselves.”
Jamal E. Watson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.