Memo To: Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Your Meeting With Farrakhan
I was extremely pleased to see you and Min. Farrakhan were able to meet last week. Since I first met him in his Chicago home early last December -- at a five-hour, non-stop talk at his dinner table about religion, politics and race -- I’ve urged him to make contact with you. If you saw him on Evans&Novak’s CNN interview last weekend, you can appreciate that his response has always been that he does not like to intrude where he is not welcome. We talked before and after his meeting with you in your office ten days ago, and he was cheered that after all these years he might be able to work with the Mayor of Chicago for the city’s betterment. I don’t know what caused you to open your door to him, but I suspect that Mayor Ed Rendell of Philadelphia helped break the ice when he invited Min. Farrakhan to his city earlier this year to calm the racial tensions arising out of an incident there. I’m sorry that the Jewish community of Chicago continues to fight the very idea of reconciliation with Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam. Jewish opposition is based on the fear that as a Muslim he would throw his weight behind the Islamic position in the Middle East, threatening U.S. support of Israel. Quite the contrary, I believe Min. Farrakhan is a true religious leader, who has no “agenda” for international Islam that threatens the state of Israel. Except that his views on the Middle East come from an Islamic perspective, they are practically indistinguishable from the views of Pope John Paul II. His three-month “friendship tour” of the Middle East, Africa, China and Russia, which begins today, is aimed at inspiring religious leaders of all faiths to find a path to global peace and reconciliation.
Earlier this year, Mr. Mayor, I had an exchange of correspondence on the subject of Farrakhan with former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, a man I admired during his long tenure. It was Koch who first called Farrakhan a “Black Hitler,” in 1984 during the Jesse Jackson presidential race. In the exchange, Min. Farrakhan responded with a letter to me about his views on these matters, which I broadly circulated to newspaper and magazine editors and electronic media. If you would like, I will send you the exchange, along with other material I have gathered during the past year. The process began, by the way, when my longtime friend in politics, Jack Kemp, had kind words to say about the Farrakhan “message,” and was immediately condemned by the Jewish community for having done so. It remains my belief that his reconciliation with the Jewish community is desirable and possible, that he has had his hand extended to that end, and that if you can get the other side to sit down to begin that process, the benefits that flow from it will be of global importance.
Here is a letter I wrote The New York Times on its account of your meeting with Mayor Daley:
The New York Times
New York, N.Y.
In a November 28 story about Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley meeting with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, the Midwest director of the American Jewish committee is quoted as saying “Farrakhan has accused Jews of everything from slavery to the economic conditions of African Americans to you-name-it.” If the Times does not know this to be true, it should not publish the assertion without asking for a response.
As a friend of both Minister Farrakhan and the Jewish community, I have taken the trouble to run down these assertions, as Min. Farrakhan has insisted he will apologize for anything he has said that is shown to be untrue. Alas, there have been mouthfights between the Nation of Islam and the principal Jewish political organizations since 1984, when New York City Mayor Ed Koch first labeled Min. Farrakhan a “black Hitler.”
The handful of “anti-Semitic” statements attributed to Min. Farrakhan over the past 17 years can be read that way only if taken out of context. As a longtime friend and advisor to Jack Kemp, who last year expressed admiration for Min. Farrakhan’s message of self-help and family values, I’ve spent at least 60 hours in conversation with Min. Farrakhan and reviewed a hundred hours of audio and video tapes of speeches he has made. He has consistently expressed his high regard for the Jewish people and regards his own Islamic faith as having been built on the twin pillars of Judaism and Christianity. I find no trace of religious bigotry or racism as these terms are commonly understood.
His fire has only been directed at the secular, political component of the Jewish community, which regards him as a threat to Israel because of his Islamic faith and his contacts with Islamic political leaders. He has not “accused Jews of slavery,” but in response to the pieties of the Anti-Defamation League, he has raked over historic coals to remind the modern-day Jewish community that Jews were in fact part of the slave trade, along with Christians and Muslims, and should not pretend to be holier-than-thou.
Once the Jewish community realizes that Min. Farrakhan is not and does not want to be a political leader, but is driven by a genuine desire to reconcile differences between religious, racial and ethnic groups around the world, it will see him as a positive force. Mayor Ed Rendell of Philadelphia, a Jew and a Democrat, has made this assessment, and so has Mayor Daley of Chicago. Eventually, he will be understood by these lights in New York City too.