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 Minister 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

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 Minister 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
Minister Farrakhan to be interviewed by Jeffrey Goldberg, a gifted
free-lance journalist whose reports appear regularly in the Jewish
weekly Forward and the N.Y. Times Magazine. The interview never
appeared, but Minister 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:

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 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.

Farrakhan: 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. …

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