We find it interesting the Palestinians and Israelis can sit at the table and talk, having shed each others blood for decades, while the ADL and other reactionary Jewish advocacy groups bristle at the thought of a possible meeting with Farrakhan.
What are they afraid of? What is the real reason why they oppose meaningful dialogue where obvious misunderstandings and disagreements exist?
Here is how Islamic leader Minister Louis Farrakhan responded to questions regarding the Jewish rift and possible meeting with Senator Lieberman when questions were posed to him by Tim Russert, moderator of the NBC weekly program “Meet the Press.”
MR. RUSSERT: In this campaign, something historic happened. The Democratic Party nominated Joe Lieberman to be vice president, the first observant Jew to ever be awarded such a high position. When that was announced, you had a news conference and said some things, and I want to talk to about those a little bit and put them on the screen for you and our viewers. And this is Mr. Farrakhan. “Mr. Lieberman, as an Orthodox Jew, is also a citizen, dual citizenship, with Israel, and the state of Israel is not synonymous with the United States. And the test that he would probably have to pass is would he be more faithful to the Constitution of the Unites States than to the ties that any Jewish person would have to the state of Israel. That’s very real. Other people, fearing that they will be called anti-Semitic, may not raise such a point.”
Joe Lieberman is an American citizen, not a citizen of Israel, and why wouldn’t someone who heard that say: That is anti-Semitic to suggest dual loyalty?
MIN. FARRAKHAN: John Fitzgerald Kennedy was an American citizen, but he was also a Catholic. And so the question was raised during his candidacy: Would he be more loyal to the Vatican than he would be to the Constitution of the United States of America? He answered that question and thus was elected the president of the United States. I don’t think it is unfair to raise such a question, because Larry King raised it even before I did, and Mr. Lieberman answered it and spoke very forthrightly to it. And I think that’s what the American people would have wanted to hear, if we are courageous enough to ask the right questions and get the right answers.
MR. RUSSERT: But if I said Louis Farrakhan, who has a dual citizenship with Africa and would be more loyal to Africa, or equally loyal to Africa as he is to America, would it be fair to say that’s a racist statement?
MIN. FARRAKHAN: No. It would be an intelligent question to ask if I were running for a high office. If my allegiance is stronger to Africa than it would be to America, then that’s some — a question that the voters would have to look at in order to give me their nod. So I think putting anti-Semitism in it as a label for raising good questions to find good answers is an improper thing to do.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Lieberman suggested that he would like to meet with you. His office now says that it would not be prudent to do it before the election. In response to that, the Anti-Defamation League put out a statement, and I want to read that and give you a chance to respond. It says, “The Anti-Defamation League has told Senator Lieberman that if he were to meet Louis Farrakhan, he would be legitimatizing a bigot, an anti-Semite and a racist who continues to spout his message of hate. …In their September 27 letter, Howard P. Berkowitz, ADL National Chairman, and Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director… reminded the Senator that ‘Minister Farrakhan and his Nation of Islam have spread the message of Black separatism and anti-gay, anti-Catholic, racist and anti-Semitic bigotry throughout the United States and the world.’”
MIN. FARRAKHAN: Mr. Foxman, I think, likes to use Farrakhan to raise money for the Anti-Defamation League, and I believe that’s why he opposes any sitting down with Louis Farrakhan and the leadership of the Jewish community. For nearly 16 years, I have asked for a dialogue with the leadership of the ADL and the leadership of the Jewish community. Many rabbis have met with me, and I with them. But when it comes to serious dialogue, the ADL always steps in to sabotage that effort, because they want to keep me as a pariah so they can use me to raise money. But I think Mr. Lieberman’s courageous statement that he would like to meet with me forced them to say what they have said, but Mr. Lieberman cannot legitimize me. I’m already legitimate, as you will see tomorrow, when hundreds of thousands of people gather. They wouldn’t gather to my call if I were an illegitimate spokesperson for the hurt of my people.
MR. RUSSERT: It’s not just the ADL. Clarence Page, one of the pre-eminent black journalists in the country, wrote a column this week. And he has covered you, and he said he’s known you a long time, and this is what Clarence Page said. “Both Lieberman and Farrakhan say they would like to try. But history tells me the meeting is not going to happen. For one thing, the hurt left over from Farrakhan’s earlier anti-Semitic assaults runs deep… For another thing, Farrakhan has a problem with keeping his word.”
And he refers to a meeting that you had with Edgar Bronfman in New York City and then two days later went to Brooklyn, and in the minds of Mr. Bronfman, uttered anti-Semitic remarks again.
MIN. FARRAKHAN: Totally false. And Mr. Page, as a respected journalist would have done better if he asked me a question before writing his article. He is quoting from Mr. Bronfman. I met with Mr. Bronfman. It was a quiet meeting arranged by Mr. Mike Wallace. And after that meeting, I went to Brooklyn and spoke. There was nothing anti-Semitic in my remarks, but they regretted or were angry at my saying that the suffering of the Iraqi people under the sanctions was similar to the Holocaust, and they took umbrage to that statement.
And then later, when it came out in Playboy magazine that Mr. Bronfman and I had a quiet meeting, some of the other presidents of the Jewish organizations jumped on Mr. Bronfman. And then Mr. Bronfman went into the public and called me the personification of evil, and that our meeting was for money. And that was a bold, wicked lie and a total mischaracterization of our meeting.
So if Mr. Page were really a sincere journalist, he would have called me on the phone to have asked me what was my take, and then called Mike Wallace and then called those who were present in the meeting that know exactly what happened.
MR. RUSSERT: People of good faith and good will will say to Louis Farrakhan: If you want to lead this march and you want to reach out and reconcile and atone, then you must truly atone. And they constantly report the things you’ve said all through your career. The most recent — and I’ll put it on the screen — one of the most recent ones — and you repeated it two years ago on MEET THE PRESS. And I’ll put it here
“Who controls black arts? Who controls black sports figures? Who controls black intellectuals, black politicians, that they can’t come and sit with me because somebody told them that if they sit with Farrakhan, we will hurt you? When I talk to the Jews, I’m talking of the segment of that quorum that holds my people in their grip.”
And they’ll say that’s anti-Semitic. And why…
MIN. FARRAKHAN: But the question…
MR. RUSSERT: Why can’t you bring yourself to say: I apologize for being anti-Semitic. It’s part of my past. I want to move on.
MIN. FARRAKHAN: You know, Mr. Russert, this is really comical. The question should be: Is what I have said the truth? And if it is the truth, I don’t need to apologize for telling the truth. The problem with white America is, you want me to apologize for being a man. You want me to apologize for speaking the truth. You want me to apologize for being bold and fearless. But you have never asked those who have lynched us, those who have discriminated against us, those who continue to deceive us to atone for their evils.
If I have done evil, Mr. Russert—I’ve said it here; I’ll say it one more time — how then can I atone if you don’t sit with me in a dialogue and show me where I am in error? If you show me where I am in error, I will come before the world and apologize. But you don’t want to sit down with me in a dialogue. But I’ll tell you this, Mr. Russert, the only thing I really can apologize for is not for telling the truth, but maybe for the manner in which I speak the truth. Sometimes my manner may be caustic and harsh. And it is this that God, I believe, is purifying my heart that I might represent the truth of God in a perfect manner, void of anger, void of bitterness, void of pain because all of these things are distractions and color the word of God, and make them less successful in reaching the hearts and minds of those who would listen.
MR. RUSSERT: But could you not help unify the country if you stood up tomorrow at the Million Family March and say, “I regret suggesting that Jews control blacks and control black athletes and control black sports figures and black politicians”?
MIN. FARRAKHAN: I cannot, Mr. Russert.
MR. RUSSERT: “I regret saying that Joe Lieberman had dual citizenship”?
MIN. FARRAKHAN: He has the right to dual citizenship. I can’t regret saying that which is the truth. If I stood up tomorrow and said, “I regret saying that there is Jewish control over black artists and black athletes and black professionals,” I would be lying. The Jewish people have that kind of control. That is maybe to their credit, but it is to our pain, and I want to relieve our people of that pain. I think we can restructure a relationship that is more equitable, that is more reciprocal rather than a master-slave relationship or that paternalistic relationship of the one who has the money to fund black organizations, to fund black newspapers, to fund black magazines so that it quiets our voice. Even if we know we want to speak the truth, we’re afraid to speak it, because we might lose some economic advantage. And I want to free our black brothers and sisters from that kind of constraint.
MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Farrakhan, we thank you for sharing your views.
MIN. FARRAKHAN: Thank you, sir, for inviting me.