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!”

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.

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  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…

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. 

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: