Memo: To Sen. Joseph Lieberman
From Jude Wanniski
Re Understanding Farrakhan
I was sorry to see you were forced to back down on your offer to meet with Min. Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam. I’d thought it a brave and important thing for you to do, in the spirit of reconciliation between black and Jewish Americans as well as between Islamic and Jewish Americans. The American Jewish Coalition did Vice President Gore no favors in undermining your outreach to Min. Farrakhan, who has been seeking such reconciliation since 1984, as far as I can tell. In each and every instance where it appears there may be some success, though, the Jewish political establishment tosses a hand grenade into the proceedings. I’ve gotten to know Min. Farrakhan very well over the past four years and can assure you he is neither bigoted nor anti-Semitic. The controversial statements attributed to him are either false, taken out of context, or viewed through a cultural prism when they are meant only as political views. While he did raise a concern about your commitment to the interests of Israel relative to those of our country, he did praise your selection as a breakthrough in the Democratic Party. His question about your theoretical dual citizenship was legitimate. I think you know it is on the minds especially of those Americans who see the conflict in the Middle East from the Palestinian viewpoint.
Two years ago, in an attempt to make a breakthrough, I arranged for Min. Farrakhan to be interviewed by Jeffrey Goldberg, a gifted free-lance journalist whose reports appear regularly in the Jewish weekly Forward and the NYTimes Magazine. The interview never appeared, but Min. Farrakhan gave me the tape he had made of it, and I’ve had it transcribed. I thought I could run it on my website in two installments, but it will take longer. Here, though, is the opening of the discussion, which will give you a good idea of how different a man he is than you may imagine:
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Minister Louis Farrakhan: Mr. Goldberg....ask anything that you think the knowledge of which will lead to bridge-building if possible between myself, the Nation of Islam, and the Jewish community. Any impediments to bridge-building -- I would like us to try to remove them if I can. And so there is no question that should be considered “off limits” to whatever it is we wish to accomplish.
Jeffrey Goldberg: I do appreciate that. The genesis of this is a conversation I had with Jude [Wanniski] who I know through various contacts in the Jewish community. We were talking because I, like many Jews among journalists, am dubious about certain statements that have been made by you and by members of Nation of Islam concerning Jewish people and Jewish roles. Jude said...“listen, why don't you just talk to him yourself instead of getting a ‘filtered’ version?” [As I said to Jude] “The thing that's curious to me about Minister Farrakhan is this: Even if I accept everything that you [Jude] said as an accurate representation of what he [Farrakhan] thinks about Jewish people, he seems to spend a lot of time trying to have a relationship with the Jewish people. And it's not typical in my experience and my knowledge that people who are not interested do not spend a lot of time worrying about the relations with the Jewish community and talking about relations in the Jewish community. In other words, they're content to say what they say and let the Jews be hostile.”
But with you there is a contradiction in my mind, which is that you express on a fairly regular basis the desire to calm the waters, to smooth-out the relationship between the Nation and the Jewish community and [blacks] and the Jewish community. So it's that apparent contradiction that is interesting to me. I am not, today, so interested in reading a list of quotations that you have said or were to have said and then saying: “Well, are you going to apologize for it or not?”.... I'm more interested in exploring, with you, just what you think about Jewish people; why you think about Jewish people; the role they play, etc. through your prism. Just putting it on the record.... I'd start by asking: What do you like about the Jews in America and the Jewish record of achievement in America? In reading you, you seem to have some positive things to say and I'm curious to start on that note.
Min. F: Let me say first that I admire the Jewish people because in every field of human endeavor, Jewish people – if not at the very top of that field – have contributed greatly to the growth and development of every discipline that is worthwhile; every aspect of science that is worthwhile; every aspect of culture that is worthwhile. So in essence, I have great admiration for the Jewish people -- and this is not to stroke you because you are here. It is why I attempt constantly to try to find an avenue to solve problems that may exist between us without preconditioned terms that insult each of us – knowing that the Jewish people have been the recipients of Divine Revelation coming from the prophets of God as representatives of God to the Jewish people.
This means to me that the Jewish people are special in the eyes of God because if they were not, why would he send so many of his servants to this one community? At the same time that God sends prophets and revelation to the Jewish community and through that community to the world. This places upon the Jewish community a tremendous duty and obligation as representatives of God to be a servant of the best that is in human beings. Where we come into conflict is that when you see revelation, God gives you instruction as to how to use the wisdom and the favor that he has given. If we use that favor in accord with the will of God, then we produce good. If we use that favor in contradiction to the will of God, we produce that which is in contradiction to the will of God. By the Jewish people having been blessed with Divine Revelation, this affords the Jewish people the opportunity to be the best as representatives of God. But it also affords an opportunity for those Jews who would allow greed or other bad characteristics to dominate their use of their blessings to use their great gifts of the Divine in a negative way that ill-affects their relationship with God and ill-affects their relationship with members of the human family. That's the paradox. Without the Jewish people there would not be the great advancement that humanity has gained and on the other hand there are some members of that community who claim Jewishness but use the wisdom and favor of God to involve themselves in that which is in direct contradiction to the teachings of the prophets.
[To be continued].