October 16-17, 2000
Interview with Farrakhan Part III
Memo To: Sen. Joseph Lieberman
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Interview concluded
[This is the quite lengthy conclusion to the March 1998 interview of Min. Farrakhan by Jeffrey Goldberg, a free-lance journalist whose work has appeared regularly in the Jewish weekly Forward and the Sunday NYTimes Magazine. It is, I think, the best exchange/dialog between Min. Farrakhan and a Jewish intellectual that Iâ€™ve seen. As I came to believe in my discussions with Min. Farrakhan, he may be the key to peace in the Middle East, if he could ever persuade the American Jewish political community to dialog with him over their differences in perspective. I timed the transcription of that interview -- never before published -- to coincide with todayâ€™s "Million Family March" in Washington, D.C., on the fifth anniversary of the Million Man March of 1995. The other coincidence is the summit in Egypt, where political leaders attempt to work out at least a ceasefire in the outbreak of war between Israel and its neighbors.]
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Interview with Farrakhan Part I
Interview with Farrakhan Part II
Min. Louis Farrakhan: Let me go to another point, theologically now. Do I believe that Jews have been the recipient of divine revelation and as recipients of divine revelation have a special work to do for God? Yes. Yes. Do I believe that some Jews have faith in the duty? Yes. But, Mr. Goldberg, when I sit with or try to sit with the Jewish leaders, to start a meaningful dialog and we have tried to do this in many, many cities. And the moment it looks like there is going to be a breakthrough, a call will come, from [Anti-Defamation League executive director] Abraham Foxman: "Don't sit with Farrahkan or his people." Now, I don't know how much power Mr. Foxman has, but I will tell you this, when I sat with Edgar Bronfman in the first maybe 10 minutes of our discussion, he said would you like a drink. I said no sir, I don't drink. Do you drink orange juice? Yes sir. Well, weâ€™re involved in that. You go to the movies? Yes sir. Do you listen to music? Yes sir. He was letting me know that even if I didn't drink alcohol, [I was supporting products of his company, Seagramâ€™s]. Then I think it was Mike [Wallace] who asked If I would do an op-ed editorial in The New York Times on race. And I said, "Oh, I couldn't write something and it would be printed in The New York Times." And Mr. Wallace looked at Mr. Bronfman and nodded and there was a smile, a knowing kind of thing between them that if Mr. Bronfman asked that it be done, it would be done. Now that suggested to me that I was sitting in the midst of a very powerful member of the Jewish community. But he didn't get permission from the other Jewish presidents of the 12 organizations to sit with me. And when it became know that he had met with me, evidently some of the others kind of got on him, and in order to save face, now look at what he said of me. Did he not say I was wickedness, something like that, personified? Evil personified. And now when Jewish writers write, they say look at this: Edgar Bronfman TRIED to have dialog with Farrahkan and what did he get for that effort? Farrahkan betrayed!
Jeffrey Goldberg: Let me say this as someone who is inside. My theory is when you have 12 billion dollars, you can do whatever you want. And Abe Foxman, who earns $200,000 a year, is not going to be able to tell you what to do. I havenâ€™t talked to Edgar about this, but Iâ€™m curious to know... The point is that I donâ€™t think Edgar Bronfman is scared of anybody. And if he believed what he said or is purported to have said, he wouldnâ€™t have said it. But you are saying there is a mechanism in place, a self-correcting mechanism, where all of these guys don't veer too far from the farm. Because they don't want to be left out of the club.
Min. LF: Iâ€™m not saying that.
Leonard Muhammad: He should talk to Mike Wallace. Mike also knew that the meeting was great. Everybody thought it was a great meeting. Warm. Everybody thought it was the beginning of something. Mike was very pleased. Everyone in that house that night was very pleased. They had no question that after the pressure came on Mr. Bronfman he had to characterize the meeting differently.
JG: All Iâ€™m saying is that I find it surprising that Bronfman would not be immune to pressure.
Min. LF: Well thatâ€™s what surprised me. Do you know how that meeting came about? All of it was initiated by me. When Mike Wallace interviewed me, I started with the female... Barbara Walters. When Barbara Walters came here she did a one hour and a half interview with me. I answered every question that Ms. Walters asked. And at the end of the interview I said to her, Ms. Walters, do you know why I chose to allow this interview? I said, number one, you are a female. Number two, you have interviewed people of substance all over the world and you as well or more than anybody can tell when someone is a phony or when someone is sincere. Three, because you are Jewish. And four, because I had hoped that if you found me to be sincere that you would help to build a bridge for me to meet with members of the Jewish community -- to put this controversary behind us. This is a fact. She told me she would do it. Before she left this home, she called Sam Donaldson, whom I have a great deal of respect for. She said, "Sam there is no question that I asked him that he did answer." She said to me personally, "I will do what I can."
She went back to New York. She talked to the man who was at ABC Nightly News, Peter Jennings, and she wrote me a note saying she could not arrange it. So I did the interview with Mike Wallace. After our lengthy interview, I said to Mr. Wallace if he could try to arrange it, he said he would, and he did. And when we met with Mr. Bronfman, we thought -- he and I, my wife, my son -- we thought maybe we have a significant beginning of a breakthrough. And then because of the statement that I made, which I don't think any well-meaning person could say was anti-Semitic -- that I compared the suffering of Iraqis to the Holocaust. Well, if that is offensive, its because I don't really know Jewish thinking. You know, if you sit and we talk on a more frequent basis, then I get to learn the sensitivity of Jews to words that I would say, that I don't intend to push any buttons. But if it does, could it be because for 40 years I have grown up in Islam without any contact whatsoever with white people?
Could it be that my circle is largely black and that it is why I am influential in black circles but not in white circles? Because I've never interacted with white people? And could it be that since the Jessie Jackson campaign a bridge through Jessie has been built now, that I have talked to members of the white community and I had a very important meeting in this house, at this table with Rabbi Marx and Rabbi Shalman. And they began to show me some of the sensitivity of the Jewish community to this word and that word that they said with Jews is a buzz word. How would I know, what a buzz word to Jews if my contact with members of the Jewish community does not exist? A dialogue with Jews does not exist. And that is bad for me, that is bad for us; itâ€™s bad for me not to know what offends you. Itâ€™s bad for me not to know how I can restructure language. When I want to convey an idea that I don't drive you away from me, but bring you toward me so that we can effect the bridge building.
JG: Why do the dialogs start off well and end badly? In your mind, why do they begin well, warm, friendly, and then always seem to end in recriminations, and at least a cessation of the dialog?
Min. LF: Here is from my vantage point, and you can check with [Chicago Sun-Times columnist] Irv Kupcinet, you can check with Rabbi Marx, Rabbi Shalman, and George Oâ€™Hare, who is an Irish Catholic. Now what happened is we had a beautiful dialog. We had dinner at Rabbi Marxâ€™s home, because he had had dinner here first, and he invited me to his home, and I was leery about going into a Jewish neighborhood, knowing that my name in Jewish circles is mud. I thought long and hard about accepting the invitation to go and meet with him in his home. But I went. Rabbi Marx, Irv Kupcinet, Mr. Oâ€™Hare, a few other rabbis. Everything went along fine and at the end of the dinner Rabbi Marx reached in his pocket and pulled out an envelope. And he said, "Well I donâ€™t want us to think that this is a love feast. If anything, itâ€™s tough love. And then he proceeded to give me a list of demands. If these demands were met, they said what they would do. One -- We need a history on you of good words and good deeds. Second -- We need from you... How did he put it?... Not a repudiation, but this book, The Secret Relation Between Blacks and Jews, is a great calumny against the Jewish people and we want you to publicly say -- to reounce this book. Third -- Youâ€™re a very talented person. You could go a long way and nobody in history that has been an enemy of the Jewish people has ever been written of well in history, and we want you to be written of in history as a friend of the Jewish community. And then they said, "If you do all these three things, we will clean up your image." Is that correct Brother Leonard? ["Yes."]
"Now you donâ€™t have to respond now. When we go upstairs for coffee you may respond." I went upstairs and they said, "Would you like to respond?" and I said yes, and this is my response: I quoted from Isaiah the prophet. Oh, they said you have your truth, and we have our truth. Something like that. And we need good words and good deeds over a protracted period... Iâ€™m answering, Isaiah the prophet said, "Justice stands afar off and equity cannot enter because truth is fallen in the streets." I said it is not your truth or my truth. We cannot do justice except that we agree on what truth is. Your perception and mine may be different, but we have to agree on what is truth. Thatâ€™s number one. I said if you want a protracted period of good words and good deeds, we as blacks have suffered more from the misdeeds of Jewish people than you have suffered from the misdeeds of black people. So perhaps we should say we need a protracted period of good words and good deeds from the Jewish community, so that we could structure a relationship. I said as far as the book is concerned, I will denounce that book in the morning if it is false for I want nothing false attributed to my name. I said we did not quote anti-Semitic people. We quoted rabbis and we quoted Jewish scholars...and philosophers that are respected by the Jewish community. So if you will condemn what we quoted of them as lies, then I will denounce the book as a pack of lies. But you will have to condemn those of whom we quoted as liars. Third, I said I want to be your friend, that is why I am here.
I said but if to be your friend means I have to compromise principles of truth, then yourâ€™s is a friendship that I don't need and yours is a friendship that I don't want. I would much rather go down in history as a friend of God, and I then said you may come after me with the power of your organizations. I said but I will tell you here and now I will be the winner in the end. And if the government is inspired by what you say and do to come after me, I'm telling you I will be the winner as long as I stand with God and stand on truth. Those are my words to the best of the recollection. We shook hands and we had never met again. You know why? Because it appears to me that Jewish leaders are not used to talking to a real man. They think they we should bow down to their power, their money, their influence and when we don't kow tow and bow down to power and influence and money, not to write if you show me where I'm wrong...I will bow down because wrong is what I don't want to be. But I would never bow down to your power, your influence, your organization, your money, or any threat that you will never see. And because you resent me, not you, but these Jewish leaders resent that in a black man, because they're not used to black men talking like this. I know this. I know this.
JG: Is that a Jewish attribute or a white attribute?
Min. LF: Hell, it's the attribute of a man or woman victimized by the poison of white supremacists. You still think of us as slaves or some sub-human or inferior being and when we act like we have as much power as you. Though we may not in the real sense have as much money as you, but we have dignity and pride and worth as a human being. This is resented and then all of a sudden now Farrakhan is a unrepentant anti-Semite. But you can bring to repentance Mr. Goldberg, if what I say is in error, show me where I'm wrong and I will repent. To think now that the only way that we can have a relationship is that Farrakhan has to first bow. This is what the Jews in Canada have said, the Jewish leaders in America. Before we will even enter to dialog with Farrakhan, Farrakhan has to apologize for everything that he has said that has offended us. Wait a minute, what I said true. Thatâ€™s where we got to start. And if you can show me where what I said is false, now you got a man who will apologize.
JG: Let me posit a couple of ideas about the book, which is obviously one of those touches of sensitivity, of those real points of sensitivity. I don't have my copy of the book and I don't have specific rebuttals for you. Doesn't mean I won't get them if I need to get them. But one of the things is we notice that the Nation of Islam hasn't issued a special book, talking about the secret relationships between blacks and Christians. And we notice, that, you highlight in a disproportional manner, Jewish involvement. Now I say that Jewish people who say Jews were never slave owners, Jews were never capable of being slave owners: Come on, everyone is capable somewhere in their heart of doing evil. And Jews, who were in the South, were in number, got along by doing what other whites did. But what I'm saying, is that it's a matter of emphasis. Do you understand what I'm saying? You single out Jewish slave owners and single the relationship, puts the small patch on a huge quilt.
Min. LF: Let me explain that small patch on the huge quilt and why we singled out the small patch. You see, we don't write the books that we read. Many of the publishers -- in fact a lot of them of the publishing companies -- you know, are Jewish.
JG: What does that mean?
Min. LF; Individual Jews happened to be the presidents of publishing companies. And they publish what they wish to publish and they won't publish what they don't -- which is their right as a publisher. However, in all of the things that we have read about slavery, we read about Christian involvement, and white involvement, and European involvement and we read about Arab involvement. But we were in the dark about Jewish involvement. Now, when the controversy started between myself and the Nation of Islam and the Jewish community, the Jews who were representing "the Jewish body of people" -- when they started lambasting me, some of my own followers -- I didn't order them to do this -- they started researching the Jewish involvement in the slave trade. If there were not this attack on Louis Farrakhan by the leaders of the Jewish community, there would be no need for a response to that community.
JG: So what your saying is the book is simply a defensive reaction on the part of ...
Min. LF: Exactly. But it is a defensive reaction, but it also to me is a basis for a legitimate discussion with the Jewish community. Look at this...is this true? That it was rabbinical Jews who concocted the myth, the Hamitic curse on black people. Thatâ€™s dastardly. To think of how we as a people have suffered. If the children of Ham who mocked Noah, and laughed at his nakedness and drunkeness, and a result of that was cursed by Noah and that curse was upheld by God. And these descendants of Ham are now doomed to be hewers of wood and drawers of water, meaning that our lot in life -- that we would be satisfied to be servants of white people. And then the architects of anthropology now call us Hamitic people. Oh, and we buy into a terminology that links us to one of the sons of Adam that was cursed by God -- thereby justfying our role in life as a servant of white people. And because of that Hamitic curse, you have the Mormans thinking that blacks should not be in this, blacks should not be in that. You have Christians who now feel that this is a sub-human branch of the family of human beings. So therefore we are justified in the acts that we perpetrate against such a people. We make their woman prostitutes... we misuse... Itâ€™s whole litany of things that follows from a belief system that justifies us as hewers of wood. If that came from Jewish rabbinical scholars, thatâ€™s a crime against us. And that crime is not only a crime against us, it a crime against Jewish people because it places in their mind the justification for us as servants. And them as masters. To me, when we sit down and talk, we can go over the books.
You just can't throw it away and say, "Ah, thatâ€™s a great calumny." Why? Because if there's any truth in it, you don't want to face the truth of it. You say well they took it out of the context and thatâ€™s what ADL does with everything that I say. They take words out and put it out in a dossier and send it all over the world to everybody -- "This is Farrakhan." Well, this is the Jews. Is that fair? Letâ€™s talk about it. See, and you know what, when you do stuff to others and somebody uses your own tactic back on you, you say youâ€™re screaming now. But letâ€™s scream. And letâ€™s sit down, man, and letâ€™s end this madness. You know, honest to God, sir, I want for your people what I want for myself. Rabbi Shalman told me, you know "you correct your people." Remember? In other words, don't even arrogate to yourself that you could correct us. We'll correct our people.
Well, what kind of talk is that? If God raised me, you mean God can't send somebody to you to correct you in your error that you might come back to your favored position with God? What is the matter with you that you can't see that God could send a black person to do some good for the Jewish people? Thatâ€™s why, when Rabbi Schalman said to me, "Would you appear before the board of rabbis?" I said, tomorrow if you can arrange it. And Rabbi Marx said "Would you come to the synagogue?" I said tonight -- if you can arrange it. I will go to the synagogue, brother, because to me I don't harbor any ill will against the Jewish people, so when I go, I go with the sincere desire to build a bridge. Thatâ€™s why I went to Israel. Because I don't harbor any ill will against the Jewish people.
J.G: You been on the record as stating very anti-Israel positions.
Min. LF: I'm anti-the way -- t is political -- but I am anti-the way Israel was set up. I am anti that. Because to me the Jewish return to the Holy Land should be under the auspices of the Messiah.
JG: Actually youâ€™re Hasidic.
Min. LF: I guess you could say that.
Leonard: Thatâ€™s what Jude [Wanniski] said.
Min. LF: But if the Hasidics said this, nobody would say they're anti-Semitic.
JG: Some would. Do you think that Israel should be removed, should be deconstructed now?
Min LF: No, no, no, no. The fact that Israel is there, it would never have happened if God didn't permit it. Thatâ€™s number one. Now what was His purpose?
JG: That would have been called a big concession on your part. People would be surprised to hear you say that.
Min. LF: I have said it beforei and I'm saying it now because the fact that Israel is there 40 years or more. The fact that she has the support of England, America and other governments of the world, the whole Arab world recognizes Israel is there now and if they want good relations with America, good relations with England, good relationships with the West, they have to form better relationships with Israel. Thatâ€™s a political reality today.
JG: God would not allow that to happen if He did not mean it to happen.
Min. LF:I would say as Scripture says that some things that appear negative and cause us to suffer, but if we come out of the emotional to what is Godâ€™s purpose in this, we lose hate and we lose bitterness. And thatâ€™s why I said to Rabbi Schalman and Rabbi Marx, "You know I think the Jewish people concentrate too much on Hitler, and we blacks concentrate too much on white people, what white people have done to us. We need to ask the question, if you have a covenant relationship with God, and a favored position with God, why did God permit Hitler to do this to the Jewish people? And we as blacks should ask, "Why did God permit whites to do to us what was done?" And we get out of looking at the agency of will, permissive or active, and get up into the centrum of God, then we divest ourselves of a lot of the bitterness and hatred. And then we see beyond our pain to something good. Now, letâ€™s look at Israel at present. What was the land like before the Jews got there?
JG: From what I know? I have an answer for you.
Min. LF: I do too.
JG: Give me your answer.
Min. LF: No, Iâ€™m going to let you give your answer and Iâ€™m going to agree with you.
JG: (laughing) It was mostly barren.
Min. LF: Okay. What is it now that you have been there for 40-some odd years... With the help of the United States of America and Jewish people all over the world summoning money to Israel with Israelâ€™s words. What do they produce in the desert? Something very magnificent. Okay, now, alright, as a Palestinian Iâ€™m hurt, because Iâ€™ve been pushed out of my land. But now, the Palestinians through Arafat... the Arabs through the efforts of Sadat and others and the king of Jordan, they want to find a way to ease the tension... And I think there has to be a new paradigm. For me, for me when I was there, I wanted to talk to Netanyahu. I wasnâ€™t going to go to that man in any disrespectful way. I thought that if I went to Jerusalem and had a chance to talk with him, knowing that Iâ€™m looked at as anti-Israel and anti-Semitic, listen to what I wanted to say to him: "Mr. Netanyahu, what is it that you, as a Jew, want for yourself and your people?" And if Mr. Netanyahu says he wants independence and sovereignty, he wants the state of Israel to be secure from any threat of harm or danger from her Arab neighbors. He wants genuine peace, but on terms that would not compromise the security and the sovereignty of the Jewish state.
Prophet Muhammad said, "A man is not a Muslim," or to put it another way, "A person is not a righteous person unless he wants for others what he wants for himself." So I would say to Prime Minister Netanyahu, "The Palestinians want for themselves the same thing that you want for yourself. The only difference is, you are in a position to grant this to the Palestinians. Now you are worried about security and Jerusalem being the capital of Israel." And I wanted to tell him, as I said to Chairman Arafat, Jerusalem, Palestine or Israel will never belong to any people who are not striving to be as God commanded. You canâ€™t stay there in unrighteousness. If you will live according to what God has ordained for you, from the Scriptures, that is your home. But if you go against what God has ordained, no power will secure you in that land. No weapons have ever secured the Romans or others who have conquered Jerusalem. They couldnâ€™t stay there with weapons. Weapons is not your security, it is your obedience to the commandments of God. That is the security of Israel." And all I would ask Netanyahu to do is if you grant justice to the Palestinians.
And what is justice? If the Palestinians want the land that has been marked out for them, let them have what you have. Let them have self-governance. Let them have independence. Let them fly their own flag and produce goods and services. Let them learn from the great development of the state of Israel so they could develop their part. And to me, that is security. But if you think that a tough stance and weapons of war will give you security, then look at people who are so frustrated by the way they are treated that they become suicidal bombers. This is awful. And I think that the Jewish people and the Jewish children and the Palestinian children deserve to live in a world where the hatred that has been engendered by injustice over the years can cease to be passed on to Jewish and Arab children. And I think that the only way that can happen is when the powers in Israel feel secure enough to grant the Palestinians justice, knowing that they, Israel, is backed by the only remaining superpower in the world. And that no Arab or combination of Arabs would dare attack Israel, knowing there would be swift retribution from the only remaining superpower in the world. I donâ€™t think that Israel needs to fear that.
I think thereâ€™s a new hope, thereâ€™s a new chance for real peace in the Middle East. I think Prime Minister Rabin saw this. This is just my belief. I believe that Prime Minister Rabin and his wife Leah, they looked at their grandchildren... and when he thought of leaving the earth, what would he leave for his grandchildren? I think his grandson is in the armed forces of Israel. I donâ€™t know whether his granddaughter is. But when I saw them at the funeral and heard them, I thought to myself, man, this young man, a Sephardic Jew, killed one of the fathers of the state, because he thought that father had betrayed the ambition or the idea of Eretz Yisrael. But what Rabin wanted was to pass on to that young man and to his grandchilden and all the Jewish people a legacy of peace. And if he could trade land for peace, then he thought that was a good political step for him to take. This is from my long-range looking at the situation, and I feel that that poor man was on the road that could have led to a lasting peace -- if the accords that were worked out would ultimately lead to Palestinian sovereignty. And land of their own, with true political, economic independence and an inter-relationship with Israel as other states relate. And cooperation with that state, and with each other. I know that could happen if justice comes to the Palestinians. But as long as we, or the Jewish state, feel that Arabs are perennially our enemies and we must curtail any advancement towards sovereignty or independence, your security will always, always, always be endangered. That is the most important area of the world that could lead to worldwide conflagration, if the peace process is not put back on track, in my opinion.
JG: Itâ€™s a relatively mainstream position you take. The position is not too far from certain political parties in Israel, which is quite interesting.
Min. LF: To wind things down, may I say the statement that Pope John Paul made and the steps he has taken to mend relationships between Christians and Jews were brave and bold steps. Here is another man like Rabin, if I may make such a comparison, who sees the end of his life but is concerned what life will be like after him. And he made some admissions and some steps.
JG: In the minds of many, he did not go far enough.
Min. LF: Thatâ€™s a problem. When a cripple, who has been crippled by an unfortunate accident, takes one step, the doctors applaud, because one step will lead to another. But if the cripple takes one step and you say, "Ahhh! What kind of step is that? Ah, you didnâ€™t go far enough." Then you kill the spirit of the person to make the next step. When if you encourage it, thatâ€™s why I think your politics is crazy.
JG: What do you mean when you say weâ€™re bad at politics? Because we set markers that are impossible for the other side to meet? Because Jude [Wanniski]was talking about this.
Min. LF: No, no. You donâ€™t exercise the same bit of wisdom that you do in all your fields of endeavor. Look, Jewish scientists are responsible for all kinds of breakthroughs, medicine, research, development. How did they advance? They tried this and they never admit failure, because every so-called failure is taking us closer to the truth that weâ€™re really seeking. We donâ€™t say, "What a failure!" We say, "Ah,we tried that, letâ€™s try this." That is what you do in science, what you do in medicine. Thatâ€™s what you do in social engineering. But no, look at the politics, man. Here is a small group of people who are powerful all over the world. Hereâ€™s a large group of people, the Catholics,
they make a step and a good step. They were crippled by real anti-Semitism. They were crippled and here comes a modern Pope who wants to heal the cripple and make the cripple make a step. And they made the step. Certain Jewish leaders said it was a good step, but he didnâ€™t go far enough. Let him make the step. Praise him for the step that he made and then say, "You know that the next step, that would strengthen Jewish-Christian relationships, would be "A, B and C." But to act as though, "Arrr, well you made a step. Well, itâ€™s about time." Thatâ€™s not good politics.
And with us. If white folks want to apologize for slavery, you know I think thatâ€™s a good first step. But look at how long it took a person to recognize, "I was wrong." When we got him recognizing he was wrong, keep on encouraging him, because the more you encourage him to recognize he was wrong, the more you encourage correction in that wrong. And so thatâ€™s what I think Jude meant and thatâ€™s what I think I mean, that it is politically disastrous... and you know every time that Jewish people will do that, you increase the fire of anti-Semitism.
JG: Your position, if I understand it correctly, is that anything harsh youâ€™ve said is only in a defensive reaction to something negative that was said against you.
Min. LF: I donâ€™t want to say that Iâ€™m going to make myself some victim that everything I said, you know, is "If you hadnâ€™t have said that, I wouldnâ€™t have said this." You know, but I took offense too, because in defending I wasnâ€™t just deflecting blows. I was delivering a few of my own. So thatâ€™s real. So I donâ€™t want to characterize it as anything as what it is, Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam, locked in a struggle with the Jewish community...and we are arguing back and forth. But where are we going?
JG: Thatâ€™s the good question. It canâ€™t go on forever.
Min. LF: It cannot and it should not. It must not. You know what? I went to a mall in Phoenix to see the movie on Mt. Everest. Itâ€™s the newest mall in Phoenix. Thousands of people. And people are saying, "Farrakhan, Farrakhan..." And theyâ€™re mobbing me. And I go and sit in Starbucks to get some coffee. And when I walk in, I notice this man and this woman. And the man says to the woman, "I believe itâ€™s him." So I go up to the counter and I order my coffee and the woman asks, "Is that Farrakhan?" I turn around and she says, "Farrakhan, Iâ€™m very pleased to meet you." I went over and I shook her hand. I shook her sonâ€™s hand. And as I was shaking her hand, she said "Iâ€™m Jewish," as if now Iâ€™m supposed to snatch my hand away...and I took her hand and I held it. I said, "Should that make a difference because youâ€™re Jewish?" "Because Iâ€™m an Israeli." I said I was just there. I took her hand and put it there [over my heart] and said "If you knew me better, you would not be afraid of me. You would not be afraid of the future of what Farrakhan would do if he becomes a powerful human being. Because if Iâ€™m powerful, if I become powerful, I become powerful for right and for good, for justice, not just for my people, but for yours as well. And if your people, the Jewish people, who have given so much...and so much to me...if we could find a way to resolve the problems of this century and go into the new century as better human beings, what legacy would we leave for our people."
In a few months Iâ€™ll be 65 years of age. I, like Yitzhak Rabin, like Mandela, like those of my age, like Rev. Billy Graham or like Rev. Schuler, we see an end coming to our life. We see our children. We see our grandchildren and we see the horrible condition that our world is in. And this is our world because this is our watch, this is our time and we can make a difference. And because we started off boxing... sometimes the people who start out fighting in the neighborhood wind up being best friends, because they learn to respect each other. I have never disrespected the marvelous abilities and contributions of the Jewish people. And itâ€™s because you are so great and because God has put so much on you that I think much more is demanded of you -- notwithstanding small numbers, because the atom is small, but itâ€™s the source of everything.
JG: Do you understand that some Jewish people actually respond, when someone says to them Jewish people are great in science, theyâ€™re great in music, theyâ€™re great in business especially, Jewish people say itâ€™s anti-Semitic, because our reaction to that is they are singling us out, philo-Semitism is just another form of anti-Semitism. If can ascribe to us corrective-characteristics -- weâ€™re "excellent in finance" -- then that means you can ascribe to us negative characteristics. That weâ€™re greedy bloodsuckers. You see it is the individualization versus the group characterization...
Min. LF: Let me have your paper for a minute. I would divide this, like this. This hemisphere is called "Jews" and coming from above is revelation. And whenever God reveals to a people, that is to give that people eminence. God does not waste His time revealing wisdom to you that has not been revealed before you, for you to be on the bottom. This is Godâ€™s will, so when He reveals revelation to you, Heâ€™s raising the Jewish people to a position of eminence. And that is your trial. How do you respond to the greatness of God, that Heâ€™s sharing His greatness with you? But Godâ€™s greatness is not alone in the Jews. Itâ€™s in all human beings who are made in the image and likeness of God. But you, as a Jew, have been singled out by God for revelation... For what purpose? That you could be the instrumentality of the cultivation of the greatness of others, not the exploitation of the weakness of others. Now, you divide this hemisphere. There are Jews who want to obey God according to the purpose of his revelation, and there are Jews who want to disobey God. And youâ€™re still wise and youâ€™re still great, but youâ€™re using your greatness now for negative purposes. And of course the term "bloodsucker," which I used -- and I could have chosen a better word -- but if you heard what I said in context, I said "Jews, Arabs, Koreans, Chinese and blacks," who exploit the ignorance of a community and never help them to better themselves. Thatâ€™s not why God made you great. He made you great so that in my condition of weakness I could see the greatness of God manifested through you by your doing by me what God did by you. And that would take nothing from you. That enhances you.
When I talk about Jewish greatness, Iâ€™m talking about the greatness of God manifested in you by Godâ€™s revelation to you of his wisdom. And now if you donâ€™t use it right, then God comes over here to another people and he says, according to the Quâ€™ran, I will try you and see how you act. Now there are Jews over here who have taken the greatness of their gifts and done things that the whole human family has benefitted from. And you know as well as I that there are other Jews that have not done it according to the will of God, but have satisfied their lust for power or wealth or their greed for this or that, to serve selfish ends, not the ends for which revelation has been given them.
JG: Is that unique to the Jewish people?
Min. LF: No! No! That is a human condition that all human beings have to learn to overcome. Thatâ€™s why I said "trial," because once God elevates you, He puts you on a trial. We believe now God has chosen us, to try us, to give us revelation. The question is now how do you use it? Do you use it for your personal aggrandizement, or will you use it to fulfill the will of God? And the will of God is not just for Jews, not just for blacks, itâ€™s for each human being who lives on this earth. They deserve the blessing of God and your people have received Godâ€™s blessing through His revelation and through His prophets. Now your duty was to bless humanity with your blessing -- through you, that we could come to know God as you have known Him. And somehow that has not gotten through as good as it could have, as good as it should have. So when I say your greatness...I know you are a great people. Thereâ€™s no question about that in my mind. Itâ€™s not your greatness. Itâ€™s Godâ€™s greatness manifest in you. But the same way God favors you, He can favor another. Heâ€™s not locked into us. So if we donâ€™t act by His favor, as we should, then He gives his favor to someone else. And thatâ€™s what I meant when I said "your greatness." You know the truth is that whenever we can ascend to the heights, the reverse is also true to that same degree. We can fall when we go contrary to the statutes, laws and commandments of God. Thatâ€™s why real Judaism is not passive. Real Judaism is active on the laws, statutes and commandments of God.
I thank you Mr. Goldberg for taking the time to come out here, and I would like, if there are questions that come up, if you want to ask, I donâ€™t care if they are never published. I just want to be able to learn the things that ill-effect the Jewish community so that I can be a better communicator.
JG: Let me tell you very briefly what the goal is here, and it seems to be in sync with something you said. You said if you got to know me better, you would understand the nuance, your meaning, not just the soundbite. The goal here is precisely that...for me try to explore these questions honestly, try to look at the impasse.
Min. LF: But donâ€™t you think we deserve to understand the Jewish community? We better.
JG: You know Iâ€™m in a strange position, where no one in the Jewish community would question my loyalty to the Jewish community. Iâ€™m a veteran of the Israeli army and Iâ€™m a religious Jew. Iâ€™m also, however, a journalist, and that gives me the freedom to come here, to sit with you, without...
Min. LF: "Fear of..."
JG: Well, Iâ€™m no Bronfman. I donâ€™t know have twelve billion dollars. But people have said this, "Why would you waste your time going to listen to him? We know what he says." Iâ€™m a journalist. Iâ€™m free to go to anybody and maybe thereâ€™s something we donâ€™t know yet. And itâ€™s my hope that thereâ€™s something that we donâ€™t know yet.
Min. LF: I want you to think about this. When you talk about black-Jewish relations, if you look at how those relations are structured, theyâ€™re only with persons who have accredited themselves in some way in academia, in politics, in science, in music. Your relationship with the grass roots of people is almost non-existant. So when we talk about black-Jewish relations, you are talking about Jewish relations with the black middle- and upper class. The Nation of Islam is not upper class. We are the poor. I happen to be a Muslim and am now being widely -- more and more widely respected among Muslims all over the world. Donâ€™t you think that if we could structure a relationship here, in America -- the only remaining superpower -- and I being a Muslim and you being Jewish, or the Jewish community, what effect would that have on Jewish-Muslim relations in the East, if we could work something out in the West?
JG: As a Jewish doctor would say, "It couldnâ€™t hurt." Itâ€™s a punch line of an old joke. It couldnâ€™t hurt.
Min. LG:. But I really, really, really think, Mr. Goldberg, that we lose as blacks by not knowing you.
JG: I agree with that.
Min. LF: And you lose interchange by not knowing us as you should or as we think you should and that knowing each other cannot happen unless dialog is there. Now you have dialog with many members of the black community. Some are honest. Some are dishonest. I would never divulge what I have heard from some black leaders what they say behind the backs of Jewish leaders. I myself cringe. Now Iâ€™m not falsifying or exaggerating. There are people among us that donâ€™t like the Jewish leaders because theyâ€™re forced to be unmanly. Because they need, and because they need your support, they need your money, they need so much from the Jewish community, they suffer from indignities...that they are not manly enough, I would put it to be honest with you. And there is something about kings and rulers and people of power, they like to hear what makes them feel good. And I think the Jewish leaders are lulled into a sense that these black people that they pour money into or put confidence in, really, really, really are your friends. And I really, really, really am your enemy, because I speak straight words, even if theyâ€™re wrong, theyâ€™re straight. When you mean to tell me you would trust somebody that has never taken a dime from you, that has not asked you for a dime, and speaks straight words to you. You wonâ€™t trust him. But you trust somebody that is on your payroll thatâ€™s stroking you, at how great you are, but behind the door is saying things that would make you throw up. Thatâ€™s what I hate in the relationship. Too much damnable hypocrisy, even on both sides. Because some Jewish leaders will give this black person some money and then when they leave they say to us, "I was with a certain Jewish leader, this is true, a political leader in a certain city you might guess."
JG: I have it down to a brotherly love type of situation.
Min. LF: (Laughing) This man to me... hen we met in his city, this is the truth, in one room was I donâ€™t know how many black preachers and in this next room was myself and the mayor. He said to me, "Farrakhan, you are a minister in this crisis." I asked him, "What do you want?" And he told me the only thing he wants is justice for his people. I respect him for that. And then he hinted that the others he could buy. Now the truth of the matter is, he does not respect them at the level which they would like to be respected and they donâ€™t respect him in the light he would like to be respected. Heâ€™s a meal ticket and when heâ€™s gone, they hope that the next one will give them handouts or some little stipend. And this is the way black leaders treat Mayor Daley. But if we are going to have and effect good relationships, they must start with honest dialog. And thatâ€™s what I believe the Jewish community needs to hear from black persons... honest dialog. Even if itâ€™s painful, okay, we got some things on our side that you need to tell us that may be painful, but if itâ€™s painful and yet itâ€™s correct, I need to correct myself, our people need to correct themselves, and that is the way I think we can begin to produce the kind of relationships that would be beneficial.
JG: Well, as you know I work for a very big newspaper that every Jewish person reads, and Iâ€™m interested in pursuing this to the level that you indulge me. Put it that way. And continuing to talk about these issues and seeing if I canâ€™t write something that goes around all the usual sort of land mines and traps that have have always sort of messed it up before, which means agreeing to disagree on a whole host of subjects, nevertheless.
Min. LF: Letâ€™s talk about it, because I donâ€™t care about how you disagree with me, how can I reason with you, and I think itâ€™s bad that we canâ€™t dialog to the point of reason. Is there anything you would like to say Brother Leonard that we have missed?
Leonard: Well, I think the Jewish community would see that there are people in the black community that donâ€™t necessarily encourage Min. Farrakhan to continue to make these efforts, that people in the black community are seriously hurt and injured over the treatment of Min. Farrakhan by certain Jewish political leaders in particular, and the continuation of the strife and the disagreements is furthering the gulf between the black and the Jewish community, almost to the point now where there is a concern where Louis Farrakhan and the treatment of Louis Farrakhan is being viewed as the attitude of Jews toward all black people. And weâ€™re headed in that direction.
JG: An extrapolation. The way that Jews look at Farrakhan is the way that Jews look at all black people.
Leonard: Because of the way Farrakhan is viewed by the black community, and this is something that weâ€™re going to try to explain to Jewish people and Jewish leaders where Rev. Jackson was concerned in 1984. I think we are revisiting that same point now and unfortunately in the political shortsightedness... Even the Jews who maybe know better probably should do more to send signals that certain Jewish leaders are not representing all Jews when criticism comes to black leaders. The other thing of course that the litany of criticism that has come to so many black leaders over the last few years, weâ€™ll go down the list, and at the end of the list, one would have to ask the question, do Jewish leaders really respect black people? Because if there is no black leader that you get along with, then how can you say that you really respect black people. Iâ€™m talking now about the chosen leaders of the black community...Well, Andy Young, you mentioned Nelson Mandela earlier, Dave Dinkens. When Dave Dinkens didnâ€™t do according to what Jewish leaders wanted in Crown Heights, how was he characterized? And what that made Dave Dinkins look like inside of his own community after doing so much for the Jewish community, often almost to the detriment of his own community. But in the end, how was he characterized? He didnâ€™t get a reward. As a matter of fact, interestingly enough they said "Heâ€™s worse than Louis Farrakhan" in one of the papers.
JG: Are those just isolated voices?
Leonard: The problem with the isolated voices is when other voices donâ€™t speak to correct, then it gets to be with every statement that represents the viewpoint of the Jewish community as a whole. The Jewish people who criticize Louis Farrakhan in the way that they criticize him, the adjectives that they choose in representing their feelings toward him, then turn around and say "This guy is anti-Semitic." Well how to you think we feel when we read the characterizations of Min. Farrakhan by Jewish leaders in this country? It doesnâ€™t endear us to the Jewish community. Not at all. Quite the contrary, so I think itâ€™s a political mistake, because itâ€™s overkill, itâ€™s a disavowing of the feeling of another whole people, another whole community, with only a concern for your own pain.
JG: Well, like I said, the cycle is useless.
Min. LF: We have to break the cycle.
JG: Itâ€™s an admirable goal to strive for.
Leonard: If you look at the criticisms when they started, and you look at Min. Farrakhanâ€™s evolution in leadership since then, it should tell Jewish political leaders that if this man is continuing to grow and is becoming more and more important as a leader and a world leader, then what does that say regarding our voices against him? And what do people who continue to follow him in greater numbers think of us and our characterizations of him if he continues to rise?
Min. LF: The last sad fact is that the European anti-Semites who want the destruction of the Jewish people play off of our controversy to justify what they want to do. And where you canâ€™t find one instance where Farrakhan calls for, initiates, does anything to harm the smallest hair on one Jewish person, but there are others out there in the white community who have different things in mind altogether. And they...like Iâ€™m the tank, and theyâ€™re like people coming behind the tank, and if you keep engaging me and I keep engaging you and this thing keeps ratcheting up and up, before you know it, the dislike for the Jewish community will become so widespread. Then you will really see the rise of the real anti-Semite who will do some awful and ugly things. My followers never touched a Jewish synagogue. If we saw somebody lighting on them, we would stop them. Thatâ€™s what our religion teaches us... Respect for the houses where Godâ€™s name is mentioned and revered. You donâ€™t know enough about us and thatâ€™s the sad thing.
The Hon. Elijah Muhammad is my mentor and I used to drive with him to the Jewish kosher markets before there were any Arabs that had halal meat. We bought all of our meat from Jewish markets. We did business with the Jewish people and we still do.
Leonard: Thatâ€™s what I was going to say. I donâ€™t know any of the people who we deal with, whether theyâ€™re tailors or merchants that think that Louis Farrakhan is anti-Semitic -- or his violin teacher -- Itâ€™s interesting that the people who have interfaced with him, you wonâ€™t hear that. But all of the people -- and thereâ€™s no question, I think you will see -- if you start doing this interview. If you say, you have as a journalist certain freedoms, when it comes to Louis Farrakhan, your freedoms are limited. Iâ€™m telling you that now. And Iâ€™d like for you to call me and tell me whether Iâ€™m telling you the truth or not. You will not write whatever you want based on your opinion of Louis Farrakhan.
JG: You really believe that? You really believe that? You donâ€™t think I have the guts...
Leonard: Youâ€™ll not get it in the major papers of this country. Others have gone before you, and Iâ€™ve said this...
Min. LF: Letâ€™s say what happened in the past is not a predicate for the future or the present, because there may be, among the Jewish community, just like there is among us, a desire among some to break this cycle and try to put it behind us. And if Mr. Goldberg feels, whatever he feels, that he has gained from whatever we have said, he should try, and if he meets an impediment or a stumbling block, then he will have to decide how to deal with that impediment. Iâ€™m not prepared to say that he wonâ€™t be successful, because every day is a new day. See, my brother is not like that. He and I are not the same in that sense and heâ€™s going strictly on the history he knows as a guide. And Iâ€™m going on things I believe can change in all of us.
JG: I will tell you that people did not think this meeting would even take place, from your end. People on my end said "Oh, he wouldnâ€™t meet with you." Could I ask you one favor? In order to prove that I actually met with you. Could we have our picture taken? Hey, Iâ€™d like to show my editors, "Weâ€™re on the road to something."
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