Dr.Gerstenfeld’s article was published by the Begin-Sadat Institute (BESA), and republished here with the author’s consent…
America’s leading antisemite, Louis Farrakhan.
Antisemitic incidents in the United States increased 57% in 2017, according to the ADL. This is the largest increase since 1979.1 The October 2018 murders of 11 Jews in a synagogue in Pittsburgh have placed the spotlight on white supremacists who are an important component of the anti-Jewish hate promotion problem in the country.
The idea that Jews are absolute evil has its origins in Christianity. For centuries, the Jew was often portrayed as the killer of God, the anti-Christ, and also as Satan. Joshua Trachtenberg summarized how medieval Christendom saw the Jew as “sorcerer, murderer, cannibal, poisoner, blasphemer.”2
Yet, focusing exclusively on the extreme right leads to major distortions in the analysis of the expanding antisemitism problem. This can easily be demonstrated if one tries to assess the person who most fervently personifies antisemitism in the U.S.
The prime candidate for this is Louis Farrakhan, minister and leader of the Nation of Islam, (NOI), an African American political and religious movement. NOI was formed in 1930. Membership is estimated at between 20,000 to 50,000 people. Farrakhan qualifies for the title of leading full-time American antisemite because of his use of a great variety of antisemitic motifs.
Farrakhan has called Judaism a “gutter religion” and “a religion of Satan.” He continues also to spew hate against the Jews as a people and the state of Israel. His incitement has persevered over the decades. In March of 1984, Farrakhan praised Adolf Hitler, calling him a “very great man.”3 Farrakhan is also a homophobe and anti-white racist.
The Jewish Virtual Library has divided a limited selection of Farrakhan’s antisemitic statements into several categories.4
A prominent one is conspiracy theories. Farrakhan asserts that Israeli and Zionist Jews held key roles in the attacks of 9/11. He claims that Jews received text messages warning them not to come to work on September 11.5
In line with the “Jews are absolute evil” motif, Farrakhan speaks about “satanic Jews.” In a 2018 sermon, he said that “satanic Jews” had infected the modern world with poison and deceit.6 The Jew as a “poisoner” is another classic antisemitic motif. In the 14th century, during the plague of Black Death, Jews were accused of poisoning streams and wells. Many Jews were murdered because of these false accusations.7
The German Nazis biologized language. Within this framework Jews became ‘bacteria’, ‘vermin’, ‘parasites’ and other types of low sub-humans. With that they laid the groundwork for genocide. Farrakhan’s choice of the word ‘termites’ for Jews belongs in this subhuman category.8
In addition to the antisemitic motifs of absolute evil, poisoning and biologizing Farrakhan also frequently states that “Jewish power is gigantic.” In the 1990‘s, he said that Jews are “a very small number of people, but they are the most powerful in the world.”9 He also said: “When you want something in this world, the Jew holds the door.”10 Farrakhan claimed that Jews control the world, financial power and exert “a tremendous amount of influence on the affairs of government.”11 He asserts that Israel and the Jews control both the Senate and House of Representatives. He furthermore refers to white people in important positions in Mexico as “Mexican Jews.”12 Farrakhan even blames the Jews for helping the Third Reich onto the road to power.13
Farrakhan sometimes interweaves two antisemitic motifs. He stated: “You [the Jews] have wrapped your tentacles around the U.S. government.”14 This reflects his hate motifs of gigantic Jewish power and the subhuman nature of Jews.
Dual loyalty, the most frequent antisemitic motif in the world, is also part of Farrakhan’s antisemitic accusations. He lists a number of Jews who have worked closely with U.S. presidents adding, “Every Jewish person that is around the president is a dual citizen of Israel and the United States of America.”15
When Farrakhan visited Tehran in November 2018, he addressed law students at Tehran University. At the end of his talk Farrakhan and students chanted ‘Death to Israel’ and ‘Death to America.’16 17 Farrakhan also called the establishment of the State of Israel an “outlaw act”, and accused the Jewish state of “thievery, lying, and deceit”.18
There are various additional dimensions to Farrakhan’s antisemitism. One would have expected that in his movement, voices of protest would have been heard strongly over the years against their leader’s extreme antisemitism. As this has not been the case, the Nation of Islam is a tainted movement.
Alan Dershowitz has pointed out that unlike other well-known antisemites, mainstream American figures are willing to meet him. Dershowitz notes that a photo recently emerged of a smiling Barack Obama with Farrakhan in 2005.19 This meeting was arranged by the Black Caucus. Dershowitz has pointed out that no prominent person would sit down with white supremacist and full-time antisemite David Duke, a former Grand Wizard of the Klu Klux Klan.20
At the funeral of singer Aretha Franklin in August 2018, Farrakhan enjoyed celebrity-like status sitting only two seats away from former President Bill Clinton.21
Linda Sarsour, National co-Chair of the Women’s March and the Palestinian American former executive director of the Arab American Association of New York who supports a boycott of Israel has also been a strong supporter of Farrakhan for years.22
In February 2018, another National co-Chair of the Women’s March, Tamika D. Mallory, attended the Nation of Islam’s annual Saviours’ Day event in Chicago. There, Farrakhan delivered an inflammatory keynote speech that included statements about “powerful Jews” who he considers his enemies. While Mallory and Sarsour have condemned anti-Semitism, homophobia and other forms of hatred, they have not renounced Farrakhan. There have been calls for the co-chairs to resign.23
The Republican Jewish Coalition has called on seven democratic law makers who sat down with Farrakhan for personal meetings while in office to resign – Andre Carson (D-Ind.), Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), Danny Davis (D-Ill.), Al Green (D-Tx), Barbara Lee (D-Calif) and Gregory Meeks (D-NY) along with Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee.” 24 Ellison has since been elected Attorney General of Minnesota. After the criticism some of these politicians condemned Farrakhan explicitly. There have also been condemnations of these meetings by some other Democratic representatives.25 By meeting with Farrakhan these seven Democrat politicians and other high profile figures legitimize America’s leading antisemite.
The above poses a fundamental problem. In a democratic country, a man who is such a regular source of major hate speech should be brought before a court and condemned to jail. However, this is not possible in the United States due to the First Amendment of the Constitution which guarantees free speech even to extreme inciters.
2 Joshua Trachtenberg, The Devil and the Jews (Cleveland: Meridian, 1961), 159.