The Elephant in the Room
When Aretha Franklin died, one can only assume that she handpicked the people who would sit on the dais and honor her. I was horrified, but not surprised, that Louis Farrakhan had a seat of honor on that stage. I’m here today to address the elephant in the room. I’m here today to discuss what many people are afraid to discuss for fear of being called a racist. I don’t have that fear because I’ve already been called a racist. When I highlighted people who were pretending to be Jews to spew antisemitism in the Jewface post I wrote for Times of Israel’s blogs, I was called a racist because some of the people named happened to be black or Latino, which was completely irrelevant to my article. I don’t care if you call me a racist because I know that I’m not, as does anyone who knows me.
Today we are going to talk about antisemitism within the black community. It is an epidemic and it has to be addressed. A major source of this antisemitism epidemic in this particular community lies mainly at the feet of one man, Louis Farrakhan. Also on the dais at the Queen of Soul’s memorial service were Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Bill Clinton. None of these people can be called Trump supporters, so when people attempt to paint Farrakhan as a right-winger, they are simply being dishonest. As an aside, but as another sign of this very serious problem, Jesse and Al have had their own antisemitism controversies.
I write this the day after yet another attack on Jews in New York. Last night, Grafton Thomas of Greenwood Lake, New York drove to Ramapo and attempted to murder Jews with a machete. He was successful in injuring five of the attendees at a Rabbi’s home for a Hanukkah celebration. I have been following the attacks on Jews in New York for over two years. There have been hundreds of attacks on Jews in the streets of New York and they have one common denominator; the perpetrators have all been people of color, and mostly African American. As these attacks have occurred, antisemitic epithets have been spewed by the perpetrators. There is no confusion as to the motives of these attacks – they are fueled by the same hate that fueled the attacks in Charlottesville, Pittsburgh, and Poway. This hate has no political home. It is present on both the left and the right ends of the political spectrum, and it exists among white people and people of color. However, unlike the right-wing “white” version, those on the left seem to have a very difficult time admitting that there are murderous Jew-haters within their ranks and they will deflect and make excuses and twist themselves into pretzels to avoid the stark reality that antisemites live on the left as much as they do on the right. When antisemites ran for office under the Republican ticket, the Republican Party denounced them and refused to back them. When neo-Nazi Arthur Jones ran for Congress, Tim Schneider, Chair of the Illinois Republican Party responded by stating, “We’ll use every means available to us, social media, and our press releases, everything, to ensure that Republican voters do not vote for Arthur Jones in the primary.” To their credit, the Republican Party responded appropriately to the antisemites running under their banner.
In contrast, when antisemitic Democratic candidate Maria Estrada ran for State Assembly in California, the California Democratic Party was silent on her antisemitism. Privately they acknowledged that she was a problem in my conversations with them, but publicly, I couldn’t find any denouncements of this candidate and they certainly didn’t actively work against her campaign as the Republicans did with their antisemitic candidates. In fact, the Democratic Socialists of America ENDORSED Maria Estrada and ultimately she came in second. Estrada was another leftist who touted the “wisdom” of Louis Farrakhan.
Then we had the Women’s March antisemitism fiasco and their affiliation with and endorsement of Louis Farrakhan. Linda Sarsour spoke at one of his events and Tamika Mallory referred to him as the “Greatest of All Time.” Despite the leadership being called to task by most Jewish liberals, the liberal community at-large was not only silent, but they continued to endorse this Women’s March in spite of the antisemitic views of the leaders.
When Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib made outrageous antisemitic remarks on social media, there was the quiet slapping of Omar’s hand and total silence with regard to Tlaib by the Democratic National Committee and Speaker Pelosi. In fact, because the despised Donald Trump rightly called Omar and Tlaib out for their antisemitism, the kneejerk liberal stance was to defend them. I am a liberal who despises Trump and recognizes him for what he is, but he was right about Omar and Tlaib and the only sane and reasonable position was to condemn Omar, Tlaib, and Trump for their hateful statements.
In fact, so far, the only person of color who has had consequences for his antisemitism is Marc Lamont Hill, who was fired from CNN for reciting the genocidal mantra, “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” Yet, there was push-back for holding him accountable. Mark Ruffalo, a progressive non-Jewish activist and actor, shared a petition to protest his firing and declare that Marc Lamont Hill is not an antisemite. Since when does Mark Ruffalo, a non-Jew, have the right to determine who is or isn’t an antisemite?
We have seen politicians of color spew Farrakhanisms like Trayon White of DC and Thomas Lopez-Pierre of New York whose campaign slogan was stopping “Greedy Jewish Landlords.” There are scores of examples of this, including a black Trenton, New Jersey City Council Chair using the phrase “Jew me down,” and a black Jersey City School board member who, in the wake of the kosher market massacre, blamed Jews for their own murders because they had the gall to live in that neighborhood.
I have been monitoring attacks on Jews in New York since 2017 and all except one was committed by a person of color. Here is an article from April of 2018 that references these attacks and their frequency. Anyone acting like this is a sudden and new phenomenon has not been paying attention. I have seen these attacks escalate in the wake of left’s reticence in calling out their antisemites. Their silence is tacit endorsement of antisemitism and has served as a green light for antisemites to commit violence against Jews.
I recently saw a post on a friend’s Facebook page. This Facebook friend, Michael Boulware Moore, happens to be the Executive Director of the International African American Museum that broke ground in Charleston, South Carolina, a respected leader in the black community. This project, a project I staunchly support, will tell the stories of those who were enslaved and brought to America in chains. This is an important step for Charleston, which has a reputation for romanticizing the antebellum South without sharing the horrors that occurred during that time.
On this post, Michael was waxing nostalgic about the Million Man March, a Farrakhan sponsored event. I expressed my concern for supporting an event that was created and led by Louis Farrakhan. I was told that the event was supported in spite of Farrakhan and that he was a minimal part of this, which of course is completely not true. Farrakhan was the keynote speaker at this event and he led the organizing committee and handpicked those who would work with him on it. Instead of considering what I was saying , excuse after excuse was made. Ultimately, there was no resolution despite my position that Farrakhan should be wholly rejected by the black community.
When the attack by the Black Hebrew Israelites occurred at the kosher market in New Jersey, I again appealed to Michael as a respected leader in the black community to speak up about this. In fact, I used the words, “I’m begging you.” He was silent. Then today, the day after yet another attempted massacre upon Jews by a black antisemite, Michael decided that he would post something about the massacre at Wounded Knee. I was livid. The day after a black antisemite attempted to machete Jews to death and this respected leader of the black community had absolutely nothing to say about it? He’s in a position to influence people and address this scourge of antisemitism that exists in his community and he has nothing to say? I lost my cool, I’ll admit, and cursed him up and down. I don’t care, though. I’m justified in my outrage and I have no regrets. Michael, you have had an opportunity to address this hate that is coming from people in your community and you have been a total failure as a leader in that community. Shame on you.
Normalization of Farrakhan in the black community is also demonstrated by the Black Congressional Caucus. Maxine Waters greets Farrakhan with hugs, as do other members of the Caucus who routinely meet with Farrakhan. These are not right-wing politicians. Every one of them is a Democrat. As previously mentioned, I’ve seen some attempt to paint Farrakhan as a right-wing phenomenon but that’s just not the case. His views of hate are universal and not strictly belonging to those on the right.
However, blatant antisemitism courtesy of Farrakhan, his supporters, and the silence of the left on this is not the only ingredient in this upsurge of violence against Jews. Demonization of Israel on the left has also contributed to whipping up the people who would ultimately commit these attacks. BDS, a movement calling for Israel’s destruction, is essentially letting people know that Jews have no right to self-determination and as a result, no right to live. BDS is standard policy among the far left and organizations like If Not Now and Jewish Voice for Peace give Jewish cover to antisemitism.
Linda Sarsour, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), and Justice Democrats have encouraged anger at Jews in the black community by co-opting their causes and melding it with Palestinians even though they are completely different. Under these “causes,” Palestinians are actually the aggressors when black people are not. The Movement for Black Lives has been manipulated into using their cause for Palestinians a la “From Ferguson to Palestine.” Meanwhile, their cause becomes diluted. Sarsour doesn’t care. She uses them and they let her. Misrepresenting what US police forces are learning from Israel (anti-terrorism training, not policing) was another incitement used by Sarsour, JVP, and SJP to create fury against Jews among people of color by claiming Israel was teaching police how to abuse black people. This campaign, named Operation Deadly Exchange, went so far as to convince the Durham, North Carolina City Council to pass legislation barring Israel from providing training to their police department. The Dyke March Chicago and the Slutwalk were also co-opted by these antisemites and Jews showing solidarity with these causes were barred from participating.
Farrakhan has been a vicious antisemite for decades and Jews weren’t being attacked by his supporters. It’s the addition of these other ingredients that has created the perfect storm and violent talk became violent action. All of these ingredients have to stop. Now.
We are told that as non-black people that we don’t have a right to police black people or the leaders they choose. We are told as non-black people that Farrakhan has done amazing things for the black community and because of that, it’s perfectly okay that he is considered a leader in the black community, despite his violent, antisemitic rhetoric. As a non-black person and as a Jew, I’m here to tell you unequivocally that it is NOT okay that Louis Farrakhan is an accepted leader in the black community and I will tell you why. If you want to have the right to claim that racists against black people should be shunned, taken to task, and rejected by society (a stance that I agree with 100%), then you have to be prepared to do the same for the bigots among you. Otherwise, your appeals to anyone else to reject racist leaders are hypocritical, you will have lost all credibility, and you are no longer justified in making that demand of others.
Right now, white supremacists are laughing at both of us. They hate us both and black people are doing their dirty work. They are celebrating these attacks on Jews by people of color. The black people committing violence against Jews have put themselves in a subservient role to white supremacists by attacking their enemy for them and going to prison for them. While we should be uniting and fighting white supremacists together, you are in fact, making them stronger and in the end, they’ll be coming after you once the Jews are out of the way.
Debbie Hall is a freelance journalist and liberal Zionist living in the United States