March 12, 1997
Mr. Abraham Foxman
Executive Director Anti-Defamation League
823 United Nations Plaza
New York, N.Y. 10017
Dear Mr. Foxman:
As our paths are bound to cross again, at least in various editorial pages, I thought it might make sense to make direct contact with you. My intent is simply to advise you that my interest in Louis Farrakhan rests solely on the evidence that he has been chosen by the black community as its most important leader. The 1995 Million Man March persuaded me of that, although the rest of the white political community seemed determined to ignore the fact of his leadership.
It has been my belief for the last several years, long before I came to know Min. Farrakhan, that the widening gulf between black and white America could only be bridged through a political realignment. I'd discussed this with both Democratic and Republican friends in leadership positions, in Washington and in state capitals, black and white, Gentile and Jew. It rests on my observation that black Americans are the only distinct classification of American that has never experienced a simultaneous competition for their political support by the two major parties. They have either been "owned" by the party of Lincoln, with Democrats happy to be lily white. Or, after the Crash of '29 and the Great Depression, the black vote swung to the Democratic Party, and the GOP wrote it off.
It has never been likely that any of the leaders in the Democratic Party would break ranks and lead an exodus to the GOP. The break would have to come from outside of Democratic regulars. There are no black political leaders even remotely close to Farrakhan capable of leading masses of black votes back to the party of Lincoln. My aim, remember, is not black votes for GOP candidates, but the political integration of black Americans into the national social fabric.
Louis Farrakhan is not anti-Semitic, or anti-Catholic or anti-white. He has been anti-ADL because you have been anti-Nation of Islam, and vice versa. His fundamental complaint is that the black population of the nation has been and continues to be treated like junior partners in the political establishment. On that point, I heartily agree. The gulf between us can only be bridged by the same political mechanisms that have worked to assimilate all other classes — racial, ethnic and religious.
Farrakhan essentially told our conference at Boca Raton that he knows he must come to terms with the Jewish community. Christian and secular white America will not be satisfied that the Nation of Islam is no threat to the national family until there is a truce with the Jewish community. I've assumed that the ADL will be the very last to come aboard, as your organization is the most uncompromising watchdog on the lookout for threats to the Jewish community. Still, I think you should know that it is my belief that over time this will be accomplished. This is because I've not only studied Farrakhan from your point of view, but have also studied him from his point of view toward white America.
He freely acknowledges that over the past century, American Jews have been in the front rank of those who have befriended black America. It was appropriate in this period for blacks to assume a junior role in the relationship, he says, because blacks were in fact political children. Now, at the end of the 20th century, it is no longer appropriate for the leadership of the Jewish community to look down upon black leaders in a patronizing father/son relationship. It is time for a man-to-man relationship, he says, which means that he cannot agree to pre-conditions that would appear to his constituency as the bending of his knee. You must surely know by now that the dinner he had in Chicago with senior rabbis involved demands by them that before they could publicly use their influence on behalf of refurbishing his public image, he would have to agree to a list of 10 of their demands. If they had put themselves in his shoes, they would have seen that he would have been viewed as a sell-out by his followers.
When I say man-to-man, you can appreciate that he does represent the black man's point of view in the political realm. That viewpoint sees a patronizing white America taking care of blacks by giving free food, free clothes, free shelter, free health care, instead of jobs that will enable black husbands and fathers to make a wage that can purchase food, clothes, shelter and health care. A whole generation of black men have been wiped out by the good intentions of white folks, with the Jewish community in the forefront of those good intentions.
What does he want out of reconciliation with the Jewish community? He wants a new kind of relationship, knowing only that it must lead to the rehabilitation of the black family. Your father and mine, Mr. Foxman, brought home the daily bread, and I would guess that your mother, like mine, stayed home and tended to it and the children. I had a mother who provided a role model of love and compassion, and a father who provided a role model of work and discipline. This was the central message of the Million Man March, a message only Louis Farrakhan could deliver.
On Larry King Live a week or so ago, Yasir Arafat was asked about his true feelings about Jews. He said that to be a good Muslim, you first have to be a good Christian and a good Jew, because Moses, Abraham and Jesus are the primary prophets of the Islamic faith. Farrakhan after the MMM told Larry King that he was a Jew and that if Arafat and Rabin could sit down man-to-man across a river of blood, surely he and Abe Foxman could sit down man-to-man, when there is no river of blood between you and him.
In the many months since, he has been discouraged from time to time, but since I came to know him a bit, and find his intentions honorable, I've urged him to hang in there and not take no for an answer. It will take some time and a lot of effort, but eventually Abe Foxman will not be able to resist a hand held out to begin a process of reconciliation. It would be nice to have it accomplished by the end of this second millennium.
Sincerely, as ever,
Min. Louis Farrakhan
Seth Lipsky, Forward
Sen. John Ashcroft
* * * * *
March 17, 1997
Mr. Jude T. Wanniski
86 Maple Avenue
Morristown, NJ 07960
Dear Mr. Wanniski:
I have received your March 12 letter regarding Louis Farrakhan. We share your desire to bridge Black and White America, but do not agree with your method in doing so. Furthermore, I am aware of your recent comments attacking our intentions and actions which, quite frankly, we find offensive.
You seem to be quite convinced that Minister Farrakhan is not anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic, or anti-White. We fail to understand how you can persistently state this while Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam's record of hateful rhetoric remains clear and well-documented. His statements on Jews allegedly controlling the slave trade, his "bloodsuckers" name-calling, his anti-White and anti-Jewish conspiracy theories, his vile statements on the Holocaust, to name a few, are obvious reflections of his deplorable ideology, his attitudes, and his tactics. Classic anti-Semitic materials, such as The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, as well as other conspiracy theory literature, continue to be sold at Nation of Islam events. For you to repeatedly deny his anti-Semitism is to naively play into Minister Farrakhan's hands, as well as to ignore reality.
You claim that your interest in Farrakhan "rests solely on the evidence that he has been chosen by the black community as its most important leader." Exactly what evidence are you referring to? The fact that many in the Black community turned out for the Million Man March does not indicate a high level of support for Farrakhan. In fact, many went with intentions of supporting Black unity and responsibility, while separating themselves from Farrakhan's ideology and vitriolic hatred. There is much to address and accomplish in cooperation with the Black community, yet following the likes of Farrakhan is not the answer.
There are numerous leaders in the Black community that do not share in the Minister's hateful rhetoric and extreme views; leaders such as Kweisi Mfume of the NAACP and Hugh Price of the National Urban League, to name a few. They have provided the vision and the means for the Black community to accomplish their goals and address their needs. On numerous occasions, ADL has worked with these organizations to promote Black-Jewish relations, and we continue to do so. We will not cooperate with a hateful and unrepentant demagogue such as Louis Farrakhan.
You seem to forget that the same Louis Farrakhan whom you fervently defend often meets with the despotic leaders of anti-democratic regimes such as Libya, Iran, Iraq, and Sudan. As you know, these countries are viciously anti-American. During his 1996 "World Friendship Tour," Farrakhan, along with those countries' leaders, repeatedly denounced the American government. Is this what a responsible "politician" does? In this, too, we find his behavior unacceptable.
As for alleged call of reconciliation with the Jewish community, these are nothing more than a public relations push to deflect attention from his offensive statements. Why should we sit down with a man who claims to know the "truth" about Jews, who refuses to recant any of his hateful rhetoric, who disparages the Holocaust, all while continuing to disseminate anti-Semitic materials through his organization and The Final Call. Even following his wasted opportunity of dialogue with Edgar Bronfman, he could not resist spewing the very statements that were explained to him as offensive. Until he exhibits a real effort to renounce his actions and statements and actually change, his requests for meetings and his denials of being anti-Semitic will continue to remain meaningless.
Regarding your recent statements on ADL, they are both groundless and outrageous. We are not simply "anti-Nation of Islam;" we have responsibly, and with just cause, exposed the bigotry of the Nation of Islam and its leaders, as we have exposed and countered other sources of hate over the years. As for our "decade-long effort to destroy the Nation of Islam financially" and your suggestion that we are acting in a "fascist manner" (statements contained recently on your website), such an interpretation of our exposing Minister Farrakhan's disgusting behavior is both ludicrous and irresponsible.
Yes, we are "watchdogs." We are also people who try to act on a sense of principle and decency. We will continue to oppose your willful blindness to Farrakhan's unsavory record.
Abraham H. Foxman
National Director, ADL (Anti-Defamation League)
March 21, 1997
Mr. Abraham Foxman
Executive Director Anti-Defamation League
823 United Nations Plaza
New York, N.Y. 10017
Dear Mr. Foxman,
I can't tell you how pleased I was to see you had taken the trouble to reply to my letter of March 12. 1 hope this means we can begin a dialogue at long distance that might eventually lead to face-to-face discussions. I have always known that the effort to bridge Black and White America is a long journey, especially as its initial stages require a reconciliation between the Nation of Islam and the Jewish community. I believe in our exchange of views, you and I have at least taken that crucial first step necessary for any journey. I am sorry you found offensive any of my remarks regarding the ADL's opposition to dialogue with the Nation of Islam, although I believe they accurately describe the relationship. I never meant to be offensive, and have from the beginning advised Min. Farrakhan that the ADL was bound to be the most skeptical of the Jewish groups we must eventually win over. In the interest of maintaining dialogue, I will ask you to accept that no malice was intended and that I was sincere in my criticism.
It would serve no purpose here to respond point-by-point to statements you made in your letter that there is incontrovertible evidence that Minister Louis Farrakhan is an anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic, anti-White, anti-American, hate-spewing extremist, etc., etc. I certainly will acknowledge that there very well have been some statements — or reports of versions of statements — that are offensive to Jews, to whites, to Catholics, et al. For example, a most uncharitable reference to Pope John Paul II was made by a spokesman of the Nation of Islam a year or so ago that was extremely offensive to me as a practicing Catholic. (It is noteworthy, however, that the individual who made those remarks no longer is speaking on behalf of the Nation of Islam.)
Nonetheless, I have read, listened to, and seen Minister Farrakhan speak before diverse audiences — on tape and in person — and I have yet to see in his remarks anything that could be characterized as hateful or anti-Semitic, anti-White, anti-Christian when taken in context and as a whole. Yes indeed he has very forceful rhetoric, and may at times utter what others will consider insensitive, but I simply have not encountered in any of my encounters with him the hate you allege. As a matter of fact, I have found in him many times a man who proceeds from a very deep faith in the God of all of us, the God of Abraham, the God acknowledged as the Creator of us all, by Jews, Christians, and Muslims.
How could our perceptions be so different, Mr. Foxman? Is this a "new" Farrakhan? Or am I being given a snow job? Certainly since the Million Man March I have seen a Farrakhan and Nation of Islam that increasingly are reaching out. What you see in him as hatred, I interpret as anger. It is an anger that is understandable if you can view him as the most effective leader of 35 million black Americans who can't believe so many of their number have been wasted over the past 30 years, let alone the last 440. One of my Jewish friends told me recently, after I arranged for him to spend some hours with Min. Farrakhan in private conversation, that if he were black, he would be at least as angry as Farrakhan.
Putting myself in your shoes, I can see how the organization you represent can harbor its own anger against Min. Farrakhan in the years his followers and yours have been hurling insults at each other. When I hear the side he represents, I can appreciate that too. I ask you to suspend judgment about me, even if you remain firm in your beliefs about him. If I am blind to his flaws, shortcomings and unsavory behavior, it is not willful as you assert, but innocent. It will be willful and worthy of condemnation if in the time ahead of us I find him acting or speaking in a reprehensible way that I have not seen thus far.
If you would really like to get the other point of view, about his relationships with the heads of state of sub-Sahara Africa and virtually all of the Islamic states, I think he would be happy to sit down with you and others of your organization, man-to-man, to discuss his viewpoint and hear yours. If you would like to find out what he meant by various remarks attributed to him in the tabloids, which you have taken as proof of his anti-Semitism, he has several times indicated a willingness to meet with you to sort out your complaints regarding his organization, and his of yours, man-to-man. It does make a difference to me that he is willing to meet with you to defend himself against your assertions that he is a hateful, anti-Semitic bigot. It is extremely rare, I think, to find someone who hates Jews who says again and again that he loves them. It should count for something, however small, don't you think? I look forward to continuing the dialogue we have begun.
Sincerely, as ever,