By Charles Jacobs and Sasha Giller
(This article first appeard in The Jewish Advocate)
July 30, 2010
Jews around the world are in a hot wrangle over a conversion bill in Israel’s Knesset that raises the exquisitely contentious question of “who’s a Jew?” According to the most-worried, if passed, the bill could give Orthodox rabbis power to nullify conversions performed by non-Orthodox rabbis outside Israel. I read today that the bill is being put off until October. Whew!
But there may be no respite from another challenge to Jewish identity, coming eerily in these same moments. In a June 26 speech delivered to a large gathering of his flock, entitled “Who are the real children of Israel?” Minister Louis Farrakhan, of the Nation of Islam compared himself to Moses and then declared that the prophetic children of Israel are not the Jews living in Israel, but the Black men and women of America. “Allah,” said Farrakhan, revealed to “the Honorable Elijah Muhammad that the Black people of America are the real children of Israel.” “…somebody has taken the promise of God to the children of Israel and claimed it for themselves.”
Farrakhan’s “we’re the true Jews” speech came two days after he sent a letter – along with two books – to 16 Jewish American leaders. The publications, issued by NOI’s Historical Research Department – “The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews Volume Two” and “Jews Selling Blacks,” are said by Farrakhan to be “an undeniable record of Jewish anti-Black behavior, starting with the horror of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, plantation slavery…”
“The Secret Relationship, Vol 1” caused a stir when it was published in the early 90’s and claimed to document the prominent if not primary role of Jews as slavers of blacks. The technique of defamation employed by the authors should be familiar to Jews who know, for example how the New York Times “reports’ on Israel: you pick a grain of sand and make it the beach. Yes, there were Jews who, sadly, did own and trade black slaves… it was common practice, engaged in by all peoples. What Farrakhan did was to put a magnifying glass to the Jews who committed this crime, brilliantly, with documents. So here was some man named Cohen and bought a black woman and her daughter – who were also named, for these few dollars. And then Cohen traded them to a Swartz fellow, etc. As many incidents as they could find, the NOI put before readers who would be – as I was – disgusted with the slavers. The lie, the hateful lie, is that this was a prominent part of the slave trade. If you read the New York Times, you can conclude that the Jewish state must be particularly bad compared to other nations. If you read “The Secret Relationship,” you can easily single out the Jews to hate.
But it’s been almost two decades since Farrakhan’s abrupt and intriguing near-silence on the Jews-as-slavers matter. The silence was forced upon him because he was caught out covering up, excusing, or denying that Arab/Muslims were (and still are) enslaving blacks in Sudan and Mauritania. Farrakhan’s job is to convince Blacks that Jews are their enemies and that Islam is the path to freedom. But when Jewish and Black writers in or allied with, the American Anti-Slavery Group (AASG) documented the Arab/Islamic slave trade — not only in the New York Times, but also widely in the Black press and on Black TV news shows, Farrakhan’s agenda was jeopardized. A fight ensured. The Times reported that Farrakhan exploded at a press conference when asked about his silence regarding Blacks serving Islamic masters. Farrakhan challenged the press: “Where is the proof? If slavery exists, why don’t you go as a member of the press and you look inside Sudan, and if you find it, then you come back and tell the American people what you found?” When two Baltimore Sun reporters, one black and one white, did just that, Louis Farrakhan took his “Jewish slavers” story and dove under the bed. Why is he now resurfacing?
My guess is that he smells Jewish weakness, sees our vulnerability, or sees an opportunity for new funding. In the oily letter to the Jewish leaders, he suggests between the lines that he can be appeased for funds.
In response, ADL’s Foxman called Farrakhan’s anti-Semitism “obsessive, diabolical and unrestrained.” AJC called NOI’s latest publications “functional re-writes of … “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” But it was Morton Klein of the ZOA who shifted to offense: Mort called on President Barak Obama to condemn Farrakhan’s “anti-Semitic” letter (good!), and reminded Farrakhan that “the slave trade that brought Africans to America in chain was largely a Muslim trade” and that “slavery of black Africans continues in some Muslim states to this day.”
We’re doing some historical research of our own. Stay tuned.
Charles Jacobs is the founder of the American Anti-Slavery Group, Sasha Giller is its current Director.