Farrakhan's Saviours' Day Speech Marked by Anti-Semitism
Posted: March 27, 2009
Louis Farrakhan's keynote address at the Nation of Islam's (NOI) 2009 Saviours' Day convention, which took place on March 1 in Rosemont, Illinois, featured expressions of anti-Semitism that have largely been absent from his speeches in recent years.
Approximately 14,000 gathered at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center to listen to Farrakhan's address, in which he demonized Israel and charged that the pro-Israel lobby disproportionately controls the U.S. government. (The Rosemont Theatre, where the speech took place, seated 4,400 of the attendees. The rest watched on television screens from elsewhere on the premises.)
At one point during his address, which lasted more than three hours, Farrakhan implied that the validity of Holocaust records should be open to debate:
… you can't even engage in constructive argument over the veracity of the figures of the Holocaust. We know something happened, sure, but you can't talk about it. In certain cities in Europe they arrest you and put you in prison for denying such.
During his discussion of Israel's military action in Gaza to staunch the barrage of Hamas rockets fired at Israeli towns and cities, Farrakhan portrayed Israelis as, "Liars, thieves, murderers" who have "taken the position of God" and are out to "kill everybody."
When the people of Gaza were being slaughtered, the pro-Israeli lobby sent messages to the House and the Senate of words that they wanted them to use, gave them the language, and now you have bipartisan support. And there's not a vote that the pro-Israeli lobby wants that doesn't get bipartisan support. Why? Because the Israeli lobby controls the government of the United States of America.
U.S. elections, he said, are subject to the same influence:
You cannot deny the pro-Israeli lobby and get reelected. Ask Cynthia McKinney. Ask David Hilliard. Ask our mayor in Oakland, California. Ask Percy, the former Senator. Ask Jimmy Carter. You can't criticize, you can't say nothin' because if you do, you're branded as an anti-Semite.
Farrakhan added that once elected, members of Congress cater to the needs of the pro-Israel lobby that controls their seat:
Why, U.S. Congress, will you not speak? It is because you fear a lobby that has money and influence that will turn you out of your seat? So you're terrorized. That's why you don't act for the American people that sent you to Congress. You are not their representative. You are the representative of the money and interests that have bought your soul.
Farrakhan also accused a "corporate-controlled" U.S. media of preventing Americans from learning what he described as the truth about Israeli actions in Gaza:
They drop phosphorous bombs. They drop depleted uranium, dirty bombs. They used new weapons that have never been used in a theater of war before, they tried them out on the Palestinians. They killed men, women, children. Nobody's saying anything. It is as though it's wrong to say, 'Israel, you're wrong.'
Farrakhan called on the American Jewish community and the U.S. government to condemn Israel's actions. Until that happens, he claimed, Muslims should not be expected to speak out against suicide bombers who target Israel:
You expect Muslims to stand against suicide bombers. You expect us to say, 'wait a minute, you do not kill innocent people for political purposes.' You want us to say that and if we don't say it you rise up against us. But we don't hear you correcting your brothers because what they're doing is creating hatred for Israel and hatred for America that looks the other way while the Palestinians are being slaughtered."
At one point Farrakhan singled out Malik Zulu Shabazz, the anti-Semitic and racist leader of the New Black Panther Party (NBPP), as a "profound teacher" and example of individuals who can help in community-building among African Americans. Shabazz was seated on stage.
Leonard Jeffries, the former head of the Black Studies Department at the City College of CUNY, who has espoused racist and anti-Semitic views and theories since at least the early 1980s, was also seated on stage and named by Farrakhan.
Farrakhan also refuted accusations of anti-Semitism, denying that he hates anyone based on religious beliefs and also denying that he teaches others to do so. He added, "I hate anti-Semitism... Please don't call me an anti-Semite, but you can if you want to. If it makes you happy."
For the most part, the rest of Farrakhan's speech, titled "Accepting Responsibility to Build Our Community," focused on the economy and on President Obama's election and its impact on African Americans.
Ishmael Muhammad, Farrakhan's assistant minister at Mosque Maryam in Chicago, spoke at the event on Saturday and to media before and during the convention. Muhammad addressed questions about Farrakhan's role in the NOI, saying, "He's in full control... He absolutely has his hands on the Nation of Islam, and we would not want it any other way." Although Muhammad is widely considered among the likely contenders to succeed Farrakhan, he said that he doesn't feel "the least bit qualified" to lead the movement.
Farrakhan ceded his leadership role with the NOI due to illness in September 2006, but has remained active in the movement and stated during last year's Saviours' Day address that he had spent much of 2007 "working on the inside of the organization."