An upcoming visit to Los Angeles by Black Muslim leader Louis Farrakhan, who came to national attention for vitriolic anti-Semitic remarks made during Jesse Jackson’s 1984 presidential campaign, has brought strong protests from local Jewish leaders.
At the same time, prominent black leaders in Los Angeles have been reluctant to publicly criticize the minister, who has called Judaism a “dirty religion” and Adolf Hitler a “great man.”
Despite what one Jewish spokesman called a “rapprochement” between black and Jewish leaders reached through discussion over the last year, only two black Los Angeles city councilmen have agreed to take a public stand against the Farrakhan appearance.
Mayor Tom Bradley, Los Angeles Urban League President John Mack and local NAACP chapter president Raymond L. Johnson Jr. have not spoken out on the visit.
The controversial head of the Chicago-based Nation of Islam is scheduled to speak Saturday night at the Forum about POWER (People Organized and Working for Economic Rebirth), a movement that Farrakhan started last January--with a $5-million loan from Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi--to enhance black economic opportunities.
In his most recent speech on POWER, made July 22 in Washington, Farrakhan spent little time talking about black economic strategy. He spoke instead of Jewish “wickedness,” and called Zionism “an outgrowth of Jewish transgressions.”
Any black leader who repudiates him “based upon Jewish control and Jewish money should be thrown out by every black people,” Farrakhan said. He asked blacks called to serve in the armed forces “not to fight for America . . . not to fight for a government that is the No. 1 enemy of freedom-loving peoples on the Earth.”
Fearing “a replay of July 22,” as Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, put it, various Jewish leaders and others have met with local black leaders to ask them to publicly repudiate Farrakhan.
They have also put together a multi-ethnic, interdenominational newspaper advertisement condemning him.
“This is a time for all leaders in the community to speak out forcefully,” Hier said. “Hate is a malignancy. If it is not addressed head-on it’s going to get worse.”
Prominent black clergyman Bishop H. H. Brookins of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, like some other black leaders, however, said he thought such concerns were “premature.”
“There are many black leaders who are in disagreement with Mr. Farrakhan on his anti-Semitic binges,” he added. “To condemn a person before he speaks, I think, is unfair.”
Responding to that argument, the president of the Jewish Federation Council, Bruce I. Hochman, said “I find that kind of provincialism absurd. He (Farrakhan) has made his positions known in a half a hundred speeches. How many times does somebody have to say something before you say ‘enough’?”
Some black leaders said they felt that they were being pressured into a “roll-over-and-die posture” by the Jewish leaders, and say that Farrakhan has positive things to contribute to blacks and other minorities, particularly in the realm of economic self-development.
“I will not denounce Farrakhan,” said Danny Bakewell, president of the Brotherhood Crusade, a black organization similar to United Way. “I reserve the right to disagree with him on those things that do not coincide with my values, but I demand the right to embrace those things he says that are in the interests of the black community.”
Farrakhan was a supporter of Jesse Jackson during the 1984 Democratic presidential primaries and created some problems for Jackson by condemning Judaism as a “dirty” religion. Jackson was reluctant to completely dissociate himself from the Nation of Islam leader, but finally called that and other statements “reprehensible and morally indefensible.”
City Councilmen Dave Cunningham and Gilbert Lindsay, who are black, have lent their names to the newspaper ad condemning Farrakhan, which will be published Friday in The Times. “I’m against hate, period,” Lindsay said.
State Assemblywoman Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) and the Rev. Thomas Kilgore Jr. of the Second Baptist Church could not be reached for comment on the controversy surrounding Farrakhan’s visit.
They are scheduled to be honored Friday at a $50-a-plate dinner organized by Friends for the Benefit of Economic Unity, a newly formed local affiliate of POWER that arranged Farrakhan’s visit.
Bradley, Mack and Johnson of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People also could not be reached for comment on Farrakhan.
Bradley did meet with Jewish leaders over the weekend but declined to make a public statement. According to one person present, “The mood of those who met with him was disappointment.”
The mayor has since decided to hold a press conference Saturday to discuss the Muslim leader’s appearance, Bradley spokeswoman Ali Webb said Tuesday.
Farrakhan, who will speak in Miami and New York City after his appearances here, is concluding a series of speeches on POWER in Houston, Detroit, Atlanta, and Washington, according to Farrakhan’s minister of information, Abdul Allah Muhammad, who arrived in Los Angeles on Monday.
Farrakhan has drawn large crowds at each city, according to press accounts, most recently 10,000 to hear him at the Washington Convention Center in July.
Spokesman Muhammad said Tuesday that the July 22 speech, which provoked the current concern of Los Angeles Jewish leaders, was somewhat atypical of the speeches Farrakhan has given on POWER. Muhammad said Farrakhan had encountered “many roadblocks” in an earlier visit to Washington and “the issues he addressed (on July 22) were partly in response.”
In Saturday’s speech, Muhammad said, “You’ll hear (him) delving deeply into the hows, the how-tos, the methodology and the strategy of POWER.”
Asked if that meant that Farrakhan would refrain from anti-Semitic remarks, Muhammad replied, “He’s not going to be governed by reaction to his visit.”
Black leaders said efforts were under way to encourage a “dialogue” between Farrakhan’s representatives and local Jewish leaders, because, one said, “The Jews and the Muslims do not talk other than in the media.” They said they hoped a meeting might be arranged later this week.
Meanwhile, a resolution was introduced Tuesday in the state Assembly by Tom Bane (D-Van Nuys) and Bill Filante (R-San Rafael) condemning Farrakhan’s “racism, anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism” and calling his presence in Los Angeles a “cause of concern.”
Jewish Defense League director Irv Rubin announced that his group plans to demonstrate outside both the home of Dr. Jerry Buss, the Forum’s owner, and the Forum itself Saturday night.