Louis Farrakhan at 80: A Needless Legacy of Hate

Louis Farrakhan at Million Man March (1996)There are those—like the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.—taken from us too soon. Then there are those who live on into historical obsolescence. And so it is that Nation of Islam Leader Louis Farrakhan who turns 80 this month.

Had Farrakhan’s battle with prostate cancer ended soon after 1996’s Million Man March on Washington, his legacy would have been quite different than now. Then, he staged a political triumph by attracting some 700,000 African Americans around such goals as reducing drug abuse and gang crime. Despite his bizarre three-hour speech at the event—free of anti-Semitism but replete with conspiracy theories right out of the UFO and anti-Masonic playbooks—he would have been lauded for the climax of his controversial career in a remarkable feat of African American cultural renewal.

Wiesenthal Center Associate Dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper and I have continued to track Farrakhan in hopes of a change of mind and heart that would open the door to a productive dialogue with the Jewish community. No such luck. What we’ve got instead are calculated teases when Farrakhan promises to meet with rabbis, combined with self-justifying declarations that he’s “only told the truth” about Jews—whom hearing “the truth hurts”—followed by renewed outbursts of anti-Semitism. In 1978, after Elijah Muhammad’s son, Warith Deen Muhammed, moved in the direction of authentic Islam, Farrakhan broke with him and reconstituted the NOI. He became notorious in the 1980s for calling Judaism a “gutter” or “dirty” religion and Hitler “a great man”—statements his apologists continue to try to explain away.
Born Louis Eugene Wolcott in the Bronx in 1933, he first tried a career as a pop singer, billed “Calypso Gene” or “The Charmer,” before emerging into prominence under the name Minister Louis X (later changed to Farrakhan), as a disciple of Malcolm X in Elijah Muhammad’s Nation of Islam. Farrakhan’s NOI career had elements of a Shakespearean tragedy with him self-cast as the betrayer of his mentor, Malcolm X, whom Ossie Davis eulogized as “our own black shining prince!”


UC Berkeley Faces New Campus Anti-Semitism Charges

Attorneys Neal Sher and Joel Siegel have filed new campus anti-Semitism charges against the University of California at Berkeley as part of their continuing case against Berkeley before the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR).  The new claims are based on the hostile environment which they allege Jewish students faced in the…


Jews and Genocide

An archetypal joke of the second half of the twentieth century is that Germans (or Europeans) will never forgive the Jews—for the Holocaust.

When I think about the historiography of modern anti-Semitism, I think of two odd bookends: the historian Martin Jay—whose claim to fame is a book on the Horkheimer-Adorno Frankfurt School, but whose more recent jag is the claim that Jews themselves (because of Zionism, etc.) are the primary cause of post-Holocaust anti-Semitism and Albert Lindemann whose “Esau’s Tears” (1997) argues that Jews (because of their “pushy” entry into the professions, etc.) were the primary cause of pre-Holocaust anti-Semitism.

It was probably inevitable that the empty space between these bookmarks would be filled—or the capstone of the intellectual arch completed—and now this has been done by a formidable intellectual and cultural historian: Jan Assmann. In “The Price of Monotheism” (2010) (followed by his “Cultural Memory and Early Civilization” [2011])—Assmann, an Egyptologist who’s branched out into European history, argues in broad strokes that “the gift of the Jews”—monotheism—is the root cause of modern intolerance including the Nazi genocide. (See Richard Wolin’s “Biblical Blame Shift” in the “Chronicle of Higher Education.”)


“Wake Up to the Anti-Semitism, You Complacent British Middle Classes”

In today’s Ha’aretz, Britain’s’s former Minister for Europe, Denis MacShane, pens a trenchant critique of English anti-Semitism, bitingly entitled: “Wake up to the anti-Semitism, you complacent British middle classes.”  MacShane has seen hard times recently, but today’s intervention demonstrates that he is still a vital voice on the global scene.  In this new piece, MacShane castigates the English middle classes, as well as the U.K. Employment Tribunal, and calls for a thorough review of strategies to combat anti-Semitism.


Sign-up for the Brandeis Brief

  Sign up now for the May issue of the Brandeis Brief to stay current on the campaign against campus anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism. The Louis D. Brandeis Center’s electronic newsletter provides original analysis on campus anti-Semitism, the campaign to restore higher education civility, and the Brandeis Center’s latest activities.  While you are at it, subscribe to…


AAAS Urges Israel Boycott, Faces Condemnation from SPME

In a general membership vote that has been condemned as “abhorrent,” the Association for Asian-American Studies has unanimously approved a resolution to boycott Israeli universities, becoming the first American scholarly association to do so.  Inside Higher Ed describes the AAAS vote, which was startling in its unanimity:

About 10 percent of the association’s membership was present for last week’s secret ballot vote, which was open to all members and took place on the final day of the AAAS annual conference in Seattle. The resolution raises a number of concerns about the impact of Israeli policies on Palestinian students and scholars – including restrictions on travel and the forced closure or destruction of schools as a result of Israeli military actions – and describes Israeli academic institutions as “deeply complicit in Israel’s violations of international law and human rights and in its denial of the right to education and academic freedom to Palestinians, in addition to their basic rights as guaranteed by international law.”

Scholars for Peace in the Middle East quickly censured the AAAS’ boycott resolution as “antithetical to principles of academic and scientific freedom.”  SPME President Richard Cravatts, an LDB Board member, further castigated the AAS resolution as “morally incoherent.”  The SPME statement appears in full below:


The Re-emergence of Anti-Semitism in Post-Communist Europe

I should like to draw attention to the Journal for the Study of Antisemitism’s special issue, “Eastern European Antisemitism” (Vol. 4, Issue # 2, 2012), which is now available on line at http://www.jsanitsemitism.org/pdf/jsa_4-2.pdf

Guest edited by Andras Kovacs, Professor of Sociology at the Central European University, Budapest, and specialist in the subject of anti-Semitism in post-war Europe, this special issue discusses and analyses the findings of important sociological research by eminent European academics on the re-emergence of anti-Semitism in Romania, Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia since the fall of communism.

Noting that more than 4 million victims of the Holocaust came from Romania, Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia owing to both passive observance and active support of the ghettoization and deportation of Jews to the death camps, a series of articles show how the anti-Semitism of the pre-war period never left these countries but remained throughout the communist era in both the private and political spheres, so that the apparent “re-emergence” of post-communist anti-Semitism is not only a relic of communism itself but is also a continuation of the old anti-Jewish prejudices that haunted Europe before the war.

What is particularly interesting about the research presented in this series of articles is the description of the forms that the anti-Semitism took during the pre-war period and during the communist era, and how that anti-Semitism has been reconstituted since the fall of communism. Specifically, the research provides empirical data on the size of anti-Semitic groups within the current societies of Romania, Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia, their typical social features and attitudes, and draws a comparable picture of the changes in anti-Jewish prejudice since the pre-war period to the present day.


Blaming the Victim for Anti-Semitism


LDB Board Member Richard Cravatts (Simmons/SPME)  has co-authored this important op ed about the abuse which has lately been heaped upon two of the most outspoken critics of campus anti-Semitism. The piece features LDB Academic Advisor Tammi Rossman Benjamin  and British mathematics lecturer Ronnie Fraser, the subject of Brandeis Blog postings here and here  and here.  Cravatts’ co-author is Acting SPME Executive Director Asaf Romirowsky.

Blaming the victim for anti-Semitism


Jerusalem Post

04/20/2013 22:56

Whether or not the union feels it is being anti-Semitic is not relevant; anti-Semites rarely admit to their behavior.

Of late we have witnessed a new methodology used to suppress those who speak out against anti- Semitism in academia. Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, a Hebrew lecturer at UC Santa Cruz, and Ronnie Fraser, a lecturer in mathematics in London, have respectively taken on their schools and unions with regard to how anti-Semitism has infected their organizations and caused an uncomfortable, even hostile, environment based on the politics of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. 


Berkeley Chancellor Repudiates Student Senate’s Anti-Israel Divestment Resolution

Outgoing University of California at Berkeley Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau  has rejected the anti-Israel divestment resolution  that the Berkeley student senate passed just yesterday.  The Daily Californian has published Birgenau’s statement, which emphasizes that the student senate has no influence on the university’s investment policies.  In a pointed repudiation of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and…


UC Berkeley Student Senate Passes Anti-Israel Boycott Motion

The Daily Californian and J Weekly are reporting that the University of California at Berkeley student senate passed a resolution this morning calling for divestment from Israel.  The debate had reportedly been “heated” and lasted over ten hours, with the final vote taken just before 5:30 a.m. this morning.  Supporters reportedly reacted to the news with “cheering, stomping and cries of joy”:

The nonbinding resolution, authored by ASUC senator George Kadifa, calls for the divestment of reportedly more than $14 million in ASUC and U.C. funds from three companies that provide support to Israel’s military in the Palestinian territories or contribute to the building, maintenance or economic development of Israeli settlements in the territories. The language of the resolution, according to the Daily Cal, calls the U.C. system a “complicit third party” in Israel’s “illegal occupation and ensuing human rights abuses.” The newspaper reported the resolution names the three companies: Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Cement Roadstone Holdings.

Berkeley’s student senate had previously passed a similar measure which was later vetoed by the senate president.

In 2010, a BDS measure very similar to this year’s resolution sparked heated debates, drawing hundreds of people to senate meetings, and garnering international attention. The senate passed that resolution 16-4, but it was later vetoed by then-president Will Smelko, and a vote to overturn the veto fell one vote shy of the necessary two-thirds majority.

In response, Rabbi Adam Naftalin-Kelman of the Berkeley Hillel issued a statement entitled, “We Should all be Proud of the Jewish Student Leadership at Cal.”  Rabbi Naftalin-Kelman’s statement stresses that the student senate’s vote “has no practical effect whatsoever.”


LDB Legal Advisor to Speak on Religious Discrimination

Litigator Alyza Lewin of Lewin & Lewin, a member of the Brandeis Center’s Legal Advisory Board, will participate tomorrow at 4:00 p.m. in an American Bar Association panel on “Advocating for Equality in the Next Generation: Religious Discrimination.”  Lewin has appeared as a guest of this blog, posting the popular article, “Where Was the President When He…


North Carolina Professor Uses Holocaust Image to Falsify Blog on Deir Yassin

A University of North Carolina professor, Omid Safi, has reportedly falsified a blog posting on Israel’s 1948 treatment of Palestinians at Deir Yassin by illustrating it with a photograph that was in fact taken of Jewish victims of the Nazi Holocaust.  The Elder of Zioyon blog, among others, reports that Safi has used this Holocaust concentration camp photograph in posting on the Religion News Service (RNS) blog. The photograph was removed before we visited the site, but it is shown in this image captured from Safi’s posting:

Fake Deir Yassin Photo

This misuse of this Holocaust image illustrates the concept of “Holocaust inversion,” which is used to describe the practice of Jews, Zionists or Israelis of behaving like Nazis or having culpability for Holocaust-like crimes.  Holocaust inversion is often described as an indicator of anti-Semitic expression.  The U.S. Department of State, for example, has explained this phenomenon as a kind of “Holocaust denial or trivialization” in its report on Contemporary Global Anti-Semitism.”


Manitoba Bars Anti-Israel Group for Human Rights Violations

In a major decision of international signfiicance, the University of Manitoba’s student union has stripped the Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) of official recognition.  The Manitoba student’s union is the first such group to bar this anti-Israel campus group based on the anti-Semitic harassment and discrimination that take place each year during Israel Apartheid Week.…


Albany Superintendent Apologizes for Nazi Writing Assignment

Last week, the Brandeis Center was in touch with the Albany, New York, Superintendent of Schools, after an Albany High School teacher had assigned her class to write persuasively that Jews are evil.  The Superintendent has now apologized to Albany families for the teacher’s misconduct.  The Albany Times Union describes the assignment:

Think like a Nazi, the assignment required students. Argue why Jews are evil.  Students in some Albany High School English classes were asked this week as part of a persuasive writing assignment to make an abhorrent argument: “You must argue that Jews are evil, and use solid rationale from government propaganda to convince me of your loyalty to the Third Reich!”

Students were asked to watch and read Nazi propaganda, then pretend their teacher was a Nazi government official who needed to be convinced of their loyalty. In five paragraphs, they were required to prove that Jews were the source of Germany’s problems.

The Times Union reports that Albany’s superintendent has now issued a formal apology: 


Contact Brandeis Center Lawyers About Campus Anti-Semitism

Students and professors: If you are aware of anti-Semitic or anti-Israeli incidents on your college or university campus, please contact lawyers at the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law.   The Brandeis Center is an independent, nonprofit civil rights organization that combats campus anti-Semitism through legal advocacy, research and education.  Through our legal initiative,…


BDS Fail at University of California at Santa Barbara

After an epic battle, pro-Israel students have just scored an upset victory against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, defeating a hard-fought anti-Israel divestment resolution at the University of California at Santa Barbara.  These battles are now much closer than they were just a few years ago, as the BDS movement had recently scored victories…


Petition Against Anti-Israel Bullying and Bigotry on Campus

A group called “Students Against Bigotry” is circulating this petition against “anti-Israel bullying and bigotry on campus.”  The campaign for a boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel often degenerates into hatred and smears.  We oppose harassment, bigotry and bullying against any group. The petition may be found here, and its text is shown below.




We represent the silent majority of students who are fed up with the anti-Israel activity on increasing numbers of North American campuses.

We are tired of being subjected to anti-Israel slogans, events, and street theater.

We are tired of boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaigns against Israel (BDS), especially the divestment resolutions that are stealthily introduced to our student governments.

We are tired of the bullying of those who dare challenge these hostile tactics and messages.

We are tired of the bitter divisiveness the anti-Israel campaign foments on campuses.


Nora Gold Addresses Anti-Semitism for ISGAP at McGill University

Author Nora Gold will speak tomorrow at McGill University on “‘I Don’t Know Why They Hate Us – I Don’t Think We Did Anything Bad To Hurt Them’: Jewish Girls (Aged 10-12) Reflect on Their Experiences of Antisemitism.”  The talk is part of the the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy’s lecture series, which is conducted at several universities, including Harvard, Stanford, McGill and Fordham.  Nora Gold is the creator of the online literary journal JewishFiction.net and the author of novels and an award-winning collection of short fiction.


Presidents, Prejudice, and Public Policy

Roosevelt and TrumanLike much else about the 1960s, the mantra that “all politics is personal” was rather naïve compared to earlier, more pointed formulations. According to Harold D. Lasswell, who authored Psychopathology and Politics (1930) during the first wave of Freudian debunking, all politics is the displacement of private motives unto public issues, rationalized in terms of the greater good. Herman Melville—a first-hand student of the rise of “Jacksonian democracy”—put it succinctly in Moby Dick: “all mortal greatness is but disease.”

Not surprisingly, it was soon after the making and unmaking of Richard Nixon, that James D. Barber’s The Presidential Character (1977) launched a new wave of psychoanalyzing presidents. The problem with many of these studies is that they may be strong on psychology, but are weak on politics—specifically, the nexus between “presidential character” and public policy decisions. Another problem: historians have proved as prone to projecting their own agendas as politicians. It is true that liberal historians, disillusioned with LBJ, have not been reluctant to dissect his character, and that—given that they really had no other choice—they relatively soon fessed up about JFK’s peccadillos.

However, the iconic FDR and—to a lesser degree, Woodrow Wilson and Harry Truman—have long received kid gloves treatment.


Global Anti-Semitism Surged 30 Percent in 2012

Anti-Semitism researchers at Tel Aviv University have announced that anti-Semitic incidents surged by 30 percent last year.  Tel Aviv’s Kantor Center, headed by LDB Advisor Dina Porat, issues the authoritative annual report on global anti-Semitism.  This year’s report highlights a significant global surge, including last year’s Toulouse school massacre, and expresses concern about anti-Semitism in extreme right-wing political parties…