by Daniel Rosehill | CommunityM.com | October 2011
In the history of civilization, there has perhaps never been a more comfortable haven for Jews than 21st century America. Of course, it wasn’t always that way. Just half a century ago, in 1961, a report into nationwide anti-Semitism found that of 1,152 clubs surveyed in 46 states plus the District of Columbia, 555 of them barred Jews from membership and almost three out of every four country clubs practiced discrimination of some form or another against Jews, whether or not they allowed them membership. Some half a century before that – even before Henry Ford’s virulently anti-Semitic campaigns – the Leo Frank case in 1913 proved that the only evidence American southerners needed to convict and then lynch a man, was that he was Jewish.
But even today, though the Land of the Free is unquestionably among the most accommodating realms in the world for Jews, it is by no means devoid of anti-Semitism. From pundits to politicians, media figures to movie stars, American bigots come in all shapes and sizes and range from the openly unabashed to the clumsily camouflaged. Our selection of the “nasty nine” most famous, powerful or active American anti-Semites (in no particular order), serves as a chilling reminder that bigoted Jew hatred in America, while seemingly diminished, is far from dead.
The American Bigots
Leader of the Illinois-based Nation of Islam (NOI), Louis Farrakhan arguably tops the list of prominent individuals with a longstanding record of espousing views deemed anti-Semitic by the Anti Defamation League, Bnai Brith, and the general media. In a sermon recorded by a Chicago Sun Times reporter, Farrakhan, whose notorious and oft-repeated comparison between whites and the devil has prompted questions about his sanity, has referred to Judaism as a “gutter religion,” said that Jews are “pushing” the US into war, and claimed that “you can’t do nothing in Hollywood unless you go by them [Jews].” Despite several promises to tone down some of the harsher and more pejorative tones of his characteristically fiery rhetoric, Farrakhan’s Jew-bashing remains seemingly undiminished in recent years. During a keynote address at the NOI’s 2011 Saviors’ Day convention in Rosemont, Illinois, he collectively referred to Jews as “bloodsuckers,” adding, for good measure, that they controlled the banking industry. In a 2010 lecture series, described by the ADL as “rife” with anti-Semitism, he downplayed historic Jewish suffering and claimed that Blacks were the original “children of Israel,” while alleging continued Jewish involvement in the international slave trade. Through NOI Farrakhan was also behind publication of The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews, a scurrilous work bearing the subtitle, “How Jews Gained Control of the Black American Economy.”
One of the most recent anti-Semites to unmask herself, this formerly well-respected and longstanding member of the illustrious White House Press Corps was forced into retirement following a comment she made – ironically – to Rabbi David Nessenoff of RabbiLive.com, a Conservative rabbi heavily involved in anti-bias work, independent filmmaking, and blogging.
During the interview, conducted as Thomas left an American Jewish Heritage Celebration Day event at the White House, she commented that Jews should “get the h--- out” of what she termed “Palestine,” advocating that they “go back” to Europe.
The impromptu interview would prove to be her undoing. Amid national criticism of the comments, from non-Jewish as well as Jewish sources, the Anti Defamation League (ADL) asked journalism schools and organizations to rescind any honors they were prepared to confer upon Thomas. The Society for Professional Journalists prevaricated somewhat about discontinuing the Helen Thomas Award for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism before finally capitulating to public pressure and announcing that the Awards’ continuance had been rendered untenable by the shameful remarks.
Thomas, perhaps emboldened by her decision to unveil herself as an anti-Semite in her first interview, or, more likely, simply realizing that her almost 70-year career in the press had already culminated in a shameful end, decided to better her previous comment with yet another inflammatory remark. This time, speaking at the Annual Images and Perceptions of Arab Americans Conference, Thomas claimed that “Congress, the White House and Hollywood, Wall Street are owned by Zionists,” putting to bed any doubts that her previous rhetoric had been made in a political, rather than racial, vein. In yet another interview, Thomas expanded on her previous remarks with the heinous, yet increasingly popular accusation – first termed by the French philosopher Pierre-André Taguieff as “la nouvelle judéophobie” (the new anti-Semitism) – that Israeli Jews are doing to the Palestinians precisely what the Nazis did to them in Europe.
Perhaps the richest and most famous anti-Semite is Hollywood star Mel Gibson, the Australian-American son of a Holocaust denier who is the man behind the film The Passion…, which has perhaps done more than any other major videographic or literary work in recent history to revive and lend support to the age-old charge that the Jewish nation was collectively responsible for deicide. Abraham Foxman of the Anti Defamation League was quick to label the film anti-Semitic, in response to which Gibson said that anyone who drew an anti-Semitic message… was misinterpreting… and defying repeated Papal condemnation of all forms of racism. Gibson’s mask was dropped, however, after his arrest for driving under the influence (DUI) with an open container of alcohol, when he told the arresting officer that Jews were “responsible for all the wars of the world.” Perhaps equally telling was Gibson’s response when asked about his father's unabashedly anti-Semitic musings, including that the Jewish population of Europe actually increased in Hitler's day and the no less despicable charge that Israel had a hand in bringing down the World Trade Center, the younger Gibson consistently offered his tacit concurrence by saying that “my father has never told me a lie.”
Syndicated columnist, political advisor, author, and prominent media personality, Pat Buchanan has also long drawn accusations of anti-Semitism for his often caustic remarks about the Jews and Israel.
His statements have varied from the terse “Capitol Hill is Israeli occupied territory” (The McLaughlin Group weekly public affairs program, 1990), to the somewhat more expansive allegations of Jewish political influence, such as those made in his 2008 column, “A Phony Crisis, and a Real One” in which he claimed that Israel and its “fifth column in this [New York] City” were together drawing the U.S. into a war with Iran which it didn’t want to fight. In 2007, again on The McLaughlin Group, Buchanan repeated his familiar contention that Jews wield disproportionate control and influence in America, this time claiming that: “If you want to know ethnicity and power in the United States Senate, 13 members of the Senate are Jewish folks who are from 2 percent of the population. That is where real power is at.” A 1991 Newsweek article addressing the question of Buchanan’s much debated anti-Semitism, entitled “Is Pat Buchanan Anti-Semitic?”, pointed out that his 1992 campaign slogan, “America First,” echoed the Nazi revisionism which he has been doggedly accused of throughout his writing and political career. The article also noted that Buchanan’s accusation that only Israelis and American Jews supported war in the Middle East selectively ignored the Christian American groups that were also calling for the military campaign at that time.
Perhaps the best known Jew-basher from the heartland of the Deep South is David Duke, an American White Nationalist and former Grand Wizard in the Ku Klux Klan who has used a variety of platforms – perhaps most effectively, online media such as his website and YouTube channel – to voice his hatred of Jews. Duke attended and spoke at the infamous two-day “International Conference to Review the Global Vision of the Holocaust” held in Tehran, Iran, internationally condemned as a meeting of thinly disguised Holocaust deniers.
Although Duke’s campaigns for the U.S. Senate in 1990 and governor in 1991 both ultimately proved unsuccessful, he nevertheless remains a prominent figure in the Deep South, and has used informal meetings, political forums, and the internet to spout the usual tenets of anti-Semitism.
Like Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Duke sports an anti-Semitic doctoral thesis. Duke’s is entitled “Zionism as a Form of Ethnic Supremacism” and it “earned” him his doctorate from the Ukrainian Interregional Academy of Personnel Management (MAUP), an institution with a well-known history of harboring academics who espouse anti-Semitic world-views.
Though he may not be a household name, few anti-Semites can claim as much worldwide influence as Frank Weltner, founder of JewWatch.com. The site, ostensibly a “scholarly resource” of information about the Jewish people and “worldwide Zionist criminality,” is in reality the internet’s first and foremost source of hateful misinformation against the Jews, many of it bearing, as The Age’s Sam Varghese observed, an uncanny and sickening resemblance to Holocaust era Nazi propaganda. The site was at the center of an international internet petition to have Google remove it from its search results, after it ranked first for the keyword “Jew” in 2004. (It currently ranks second, after a Wikipedia entries on Jews). The campaign ultimately resulted in Google adding an explanation to its searches that results are based entirely on computer algorithms and are not a reflection of prejudices or racism at the world’s leading internet search company (which happens to have been founded by Jews). Despite the furor, though, JewWatch’s campaign of hatred and bias against Jews continues unabated. It has, according to its own reports, received over one and a half billion page views, and its collection of pseudo-scholarly racist hype grows by the day.
Standing out by virtue of his religion among this strange coterie of modern Americans, is Richard Falk, himself an assimilated Jew, professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University, a noted jurist, and a UN rapporteur to the Palestinian Territories. Falk seems committed to using every possible platform afforded to him by the UN to criticize Israel (even, on several occasions, leading Israel to deny him entry).
Falk’s most recent slur, which for many has pushed him beyond the category of staunch critic of Israel into that of self-hating Jew, was an offensive caricature posted on his blog depicting a dog with a kippah wearing a sweater emblazoned with the letters “USA” and urinating on a depiction of Lady Justice, all while devouring bloody human bones. Falk has previously lent support to the “Nazi Israel” canard, stating that in his view it isn’t “an irresponsible overstatement to associate the treatment of Palestinians with the criminalized Nazi record of collective atrocity.” He has also advanced the “Apartheid Israel” allegation, offering, in the course of a UN report he authored, an explanation as to why he believed a system of apartheid was in operation in what he termed the “Occupied Palestinian Territories.”
For left wing apologists, Falk, like Noam Chomsky, may simply seem like another arrogantand hopelessly misguided critic of Israel. But his relentless and obsessive Israel bashing, self-description of himself as an “assimilationist,” and remarkable reluctance to accept culpability or apologize for the cartoon which so clearly implicated Judaism in the alleged human rights abuse of Palestinians, suggest otherwise. His longstanding attacks on Israel are likely a smokescreen for his admitted desire to appear a more palpable “Jew” to Americans.
Formerly known as “LeRoi Jones,” this Newark-born poet and essayist boasts a long history of spouting anti-Semitic and anti-white beliefs. Most notably, his homily to the September 11th tragedy, “Someone Blew Up America,” sparked public outrage for repeating a number of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, in poetic form, inculpating both Jews and Israel for the worst terrorist attack in US history. One stanza of the piece reads, “Who told 4000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers to stay home that day / Why did Sharon stay away.” The shocking poem prompted New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey to rush through legislation stripping Baraka of his previous title of Poet Laureate of New Jersey. Baraka’s attempt at legal revenge from McGreevey ended in abject failure after the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled that state governors enjoyed immunity from suit, and the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal on the case.
In 2002, however, a separate advisory board named him the poet laureate of the Newark Public Schools, as a sort of response to his previous dethroning, but it was to prove to be a very minor consolation for Baraka, whose 2002 piece had proved so offensive to so many Americans that his reputation had already been dealt a severe hammering.
Despite the controversy, Baraka remains a prominent figure in the Tristate Area poetry scene and counts honors from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation Award for Drama among his many awards and accolades.
Another prominent figure in the fringe American far right is Willis Carto, best known for his longtime propounding of such anti-Semitic theories as Jews’ control of global resources, Holocaust denial, and white racism. Described by the ADL as one of America’s most influential anti-Semitic propagandists of the past 50 years, perhaps Carto’s most notable quotation is his venomous reflection that “if Satan himself were to summon all the super-human genius and diabolical ingenuity at his command” to create a force that would seek out the “disintegration and… destruction of the nations,” that force would have been the Jewish people.
Of David Duke, the aforementioned white supremacist leader who attended a conference almost globally decried as a gathering of Holocaust revisionists, he wrote with respect and admiration, opining that he and his ilk were “standing up for America.” His Institute for Historical Review, founded in 1979, takes as its practical sole remit the downplaying of the severity of the greatest calamity in the modern history of the Jewish people, while the Institute’s annual conferences are attended by virtually all of the world’s most notorious Holocaust denying iconoclasts. US Federal Appeals Court justice Robert H Brook, rejecting a lawsuit instigated by Carto against the Wall Street Journal (alleging libel for having described his organization as “far right” and anti-Semitic), wrote in his opinion for the Court that if anti-Semitism were to have a core meaning, then Carto’s movement, and all that it stood for, was probably as close an approximation of that in an organization as one could reasonably hope to get.
Modern American Anti-Semitism
Despite the substantial eradication of institutional anti-Semitism in the US, and the far lesser prevalence of anti-Semitism in the US than in Europe, there remains, as demonstrated above, a measure of hostility and hatred to Jews emanating from people of every ilk. Perhaps the only thing that’s certain is what pioneering Hebrew journalist and early Zionist Nahum Sokolow termed “sinat olam l’am olam – the eternal hatred towards the eternal people.”Even in the most seemingly modern, progressive and liberal society, anti-Semitism will continue until the end of days, when all hatred and discrimination will finally be eliminated from the earth, once and for all.
The superintendent of the National Pencil Company in Atlanta, Leo Max Frank, was convicted on August 26, 1913, for murdering one of his factory workers. Raised in New York, he was cast as a representative of Yankee capitalism, a rich northern Jew lording it over vulnerable working women. Former U.S. Representative Thomas E. Watson used the sensational coverage of the case to push for a revival of the Ku Klux Klan, calling Frank a member of the Jewish aristocracy. There was jubilation in the streets when Frank was found guilty and sentenced to death. By June 1915 his appeals had failed, but Governor John M. Slaton believed there had been a miscarriage of justice, and commuted the sentence to life imprisonment. Two months later Frank was kidnapped from prison by a group of 25 armed men who later hanged him. The lynchers included several prominent citizens – a former governor, the son of a senator, a minister, a state legislator, and a former state Superior Court judge – their names matching those on Marietta's street signs, office buildings, shopping centers, and law offices today.
Abbas’ thesis, which was later transplanted into a book entitled “The Connection between the Nazis and the Leaders of the Zionist Movement 1933-1945,” describes the Holocaust as “the Zionist fantasy, the fantastic lie that six million Jews were killed,” and dealt with the same general subject matter.