Jewish Overreaction

June 15, 1994|By CARL T. ROWAN

WASHINGTON — It is painful to watch. Some 80 black leaders gather in Baltimore to develop new ways to deal with black joblessness, black poverty, black divorce and desertion, black children having babies (many out of wedlock), and a host of other problems faced by black families. But the media focus on the presence of a few Jewish pickets who protest the presence of Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam.

This is an overreaction by some Jews and it serves to increase rather than diminish anti-Semitism in black America. It sends a signal that some Jews will cripple or destroy anything that is black in their zeal to punish anyone black who expresses anti-Semitic and racist views.

Those protesting the NAACP's invitation to Mr. Farrakhan to attend this black leadership summit make the absurd argument that it shows NAACP endorsement and approval of his anti-Semitism. The blacks at that meeting hold such diverse and often contradictory views that the NAACP could not possibly be endorsing them all.

Note that some Jewish leaders understand why Mr. Farrakhan was invited. USA Today quotes Irv Rubin, a member of the Jewish Defense League, as saying, Mr. Farrakhan ''has a lot to say about the crisis facing blacks today. I think the black community has to listen to him. To ignore him would be foolish.'' Mark Rosing of the Alliance for Judaism told The Baltimore Sun, ''We feel that the only way to reach Farrakhan and his followers is through discussion.''

The already-deep rift between blacks and Jews has widened recently because of some outrageously bigoted remarks by a former Farrakhan aide, Khallid Abdul Mohammed, and because many Jews were further angered by the words Mr. Farrakhan used in half-distancing himself from the aide.

But blacks who think Khallid Mohammed is a hatemongering clown note that Jewish protests, especially in the media, have made him a national figure. They have made Mr. Farrakhan tower over the other important, thoughtful people at the Baltimore summit, which is a disservice to both blacks and Jews.

Many blacks, I among them, resent the repeated suggestions that to avoid being considered anti-Semitic they have to give a speech or write a column disavowing every anti-Jewish tirade by every black demagogue. I have never asked a Jew to apologize for anything said by Howard Stern, or to disassociate himself from Israel in the days when it was giving aid and comfort to the apartheid regime in South Africa.

It is racism itself to blame every black person for every stupid speech made by someone who is black.

Khallid Mohammed made hateful remarks not just about Jews but also about Roman Catholics, the Pope, black leaders such as Jesse Jackson, Koreans and more when he spoke at Howard University. But it was only a few Jews, such as Rabbi Avi Weiss, national president of the Coalition for Jewish Concerns, who raised the threat of punishing Howard by cutting off its federal appropriation.

Some Jews went so far as to suggest cutting off gifts to the United Negro College Fund -- this clearly to intimidate any black college officials who might give a platform to anyone likely to say anything anti-Jewish. Now we hear talk of cutting off Jewish financial support for the NAACP because Mr. Farrakhan was invited to this NAACP-sponsored meeting of black leaders.

A black-Jewish coalition for justice was formed generations ago (and has endured) because both groups were and are the targets of the haters of America. That coalition is being poisoned, tragically undermined, by the gross overreactions of a few Jews who want to decree who can speak on a black college campus, or who can attend a meeting of black leaders, or how much affirmative action black job-seekers can enjoy.

It is time for black and Jewish leaders to have some frank discussions about what diminishes black anti-Semitism and what feeds and increases this odious form of bigotry.

Carl T. Rowan is a syndicated columnist.

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