Jew-Hatred as History
Eminent Scholars on "The Secret Relationship"
Posted: December 31, 2001
‘The Secret Relationship itself is an invidious document of anti-Semitism; that is, it’s hard to think of any historical motivation for it other than the fomenting of hostility toward Jews and as a defense for anti-Semitic rhetoric. Unfortunately, its ‘scholarly apparatus’ is likely to impress lay persons who aren’t familiar with the relevant historiography....
"Now, nobody who is familiar with the vast body of archival material on slavery is likely to be impressed by the book’s approach. … But that’s how this book works: the accretion of anecdotes, with no honest attempt to place them in an historical or demographic perspective.... And the generalizations it makes are unsupported by the ‘evidence’ it provides.
"The Secret Relationship charges that Jews were ‘key operatives,’ incurring ‘monumental culpability’ in slavery; given its historical method, they could as easily have concluded the same about the left handers... or Scotsmen... or (had the tract considered the African side of the trade) Blacks themselves....
"Being implicated in the tragic history of America’s racial drama doesn’t distinguish Jewish Americans from other white Americans. In contrast, the active role of American Jews in the struggles of the Civil Rights era does so distinguish them. Why elevate the former over the latter? The ‘Historical Research Department’ of the Nation of Islam is not known for its disinterested pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, after all. So, again, the issue of motivation - and therefore the issue of anti-Semitism - can’t be avoided.
"The Secret Relationship is less crude than The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and other documents of which Henry Ford was fond; one cannot respond with a blanket denial. (No doubt that there were eleven Jews in the Confederate Navy, etc. etc. So what?)... , Still the book is a concerted attempt at defamation; it shouldn’t be greeted with silence.
Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
W.E.B. DuBois Professor of the Humanities
"The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews rivals The Protocols of The Learned Elders of Zion in fantasy and gross distortion. The absurdity of its pretensions to scholarship are outweighed only by its sheer viciousness. It must be taken with deadly seriousness as a transparent attempt to foment anti-Semitism, irrationality, and hatred, and to subvert intellectual discourse and common decency on our campuses."
Eugene D. Genovese
The University Center in Georgia
"Black anti-Semitism and Jewish anti-Black racism are real, and both are as profoundly American as cherry pie. All of us who are American must struggle against the devaluation of the Jewish people, which persists in the myths and symbols of what it is to be a citizen of this country. Blacks have a deep moral obligation to fight against anti-Semitism. And Jews have the same duty to combat Jewish anti-Black racism.
"Black anti-Semitism is also a degraded people’s resentment of a downtrodden people that is moving quickly up the social ladder. One sees this resentment in Louis Farrakhan, who evokes the image of alleged Jewish unity and homogeneity (certainly a myth!) in the process of asserting that if Blacks could be like Jews and create a sense of achievement and dignity among themselves, then they could succeed in similar fashion. " . . . I’ve argued with Farrakhan’s people - first, insisting that they understand that Jews are human beings, but, second, trying to point out to them that Jews are not as important as Black Muslims think.... If you want to talk about power, start with multinational corporate America."
Professor of Afro-American Studies and Religion
"The Nation of Islam undertakes to prove that Jews ‘used kidnapped Black Africans disproportionately more than any other ethnic or religious group in New World history.’ It is curious that an organization of Black Muslims should have overlooked the vital role of African chiefs in capturing and providing slaves for the trade, as well as the pioneer role of Muslims, Black and white, in trading and exploiting slaves from sub-Saharan Africa."
C. Vann Woodward
Department of History
"I think that The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews ought not to be used in an undergraduate course on Afro-American history. There are too many other important and defining issues . ..to which attention ought to be given rather than the role that Jews played in the slave trade. Their role was too minimal and their interests too specific (after all, one is talking about individual businessmen rather than the activities of a group) to give it such attention...."
Chair of the Africana Studies Department
"The question is what one makes of this fact [that Jews were involved in the slave trade] and how one interprets it, and why is it that the Jews are being singled out. Because the truth of the matter is that all the major West European powers, and many of the minor ones, were involved with the slave trade. If one says that the Jews were disproportionately involved - given their - size - one could say the same thing about the Portuguese, who were a tiny group of people who were ... in a much greater degree involved in setting up the slave trade, and founding it, and in enslaving millions of Black people in Brazil and in other parts of the world. [The] same goes for the Swedes, the Danes; they’re all involved with the slave trade - so why single out this particular group of people?
"I think one should get the facts straight. On the other hand, I think it’s important that in responding to this, one not only gets the facts straight but that Jewish people and people who, like myself, admire Jewish history and culture, and admire the disproportionate involvement of Jews with liberal causes in America - causes on behalf of Blacks and other groups - that we not overreact or suggest that there is no involvement whatever.... I think what we have to do is simply place it in context, point out that all other groups in Europe were involved, all of the white people were involved. Point out also, unfortunately, that on the West Coast of Africa there were Black magnates who were very much involved with the selling of their own people to the New World."
Professor of Sociology
"[Much of the historical evidence regarding Jewish involvement in the slave system is biased by deliberate Spanish efforts to encourage anti-Semitism in Holland.... Given this long history of conspiratorial fantasy and collective scapegoating, a selective search for Jewish slave traders becomes inherently anti-Semitic unless one keeps in view the larger context and the very marginal place of Jews in the history of the overall system. It is easy enough to point to Jewish slave-trading firms in Amsterdam (the Belmontes), in Bordeaux (the Gradis and Mendez), in Newport, Rhode Island (Aaron Lopez and Jacob Rivera). But far from suggesting that Jews constituted a major force behind the exploitation of Africa, closer investigation shows that these were exceptional merchants, far outnumbered by the thousands of Catholics and Protestants who flocked to share in the great bonanza."
David Brion Davis
Sterling Professor of History