Saturday October 26, 1996
DEBRA NUSSBAUM COHEN
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
Billed as the "World's Day of Atonement," the day was part evangelical preaching and part black empowerment rally, filled with messages of black pride and white hatred, a desire for peace and exhortations to warlike rebellion.
His followers, eager to hear Farrakhan explain their marginalization, filled the block that is across the street from the United Nations and against the back of the headquarters of the ADL.
Farrakhan spoke for more than 2-1/2 hours from behind a four-sided structure made of bulletproof plastic. He said he had to be shielded from attack because "not everyone loves me."
The ADL was on an extremely high security alert because the rally came just days after an editorial, "ADL: Enemy to the people," appeared in the Oct. 8 edition of the Nation of Islam newspaper The Final Call.
"We are used to demonstrations here and once and a while, the sponsors are not our best friends," said Abraham Foxman, ADL's national director, who refused to describe the security precautions his organization took beyond working with the police.
"This is a little bit new in the sense that we were targeted," he said. "The Nation of Islam made clear that they really wanted it at our site, though originally I thought they wanted it at the U.N. and that the ADL was incidental."
Held on the first anniversary of Farrakhan's Million Man March, the rally drew many back for a second time.
John Lewis had come to New York with 32 other people from his hometown in Knoxville, Tenn.
He said he had been a formal follower of Farrakhan's for six months, his interest sparked by last year's event, which he attended as part of a three-bus caravan from his city.
"I like what he has to say," said Lewis, who declined to comment on the minister's anti-Jewish rhetoric.
Khassin Rigner came from Staten Island to the rally because "this is my religion."
When asked whether he agrees with Farrakhan's statements, he said, "I have nothing against what he says about Jews."
"He's speaking the truth!" yelled one woman, who refused to give her name, after she overheard a journalist asking another attendee about Farrakhan's anti-Jewish attitudes.
"He never killed nobody, he never burned them, never was in the Holocaust! He speaks the truth about Jews," she shouted shortly before Farrakhan began speaking, attracting the bemused interest of many in the packed crowd.
Another attendee, a woman who said her name is J. Sketch, said she appreciates Farrakhan's message of black unity, but is not sure what to make of his anti-Jewish rhetoric.
"I've heard him say that the Jews were tentacles, but I'm not sure he speaks of all Jews. I think he's talking about a certain amount who may be wrong, just like some people are wrong in all groups.
"I take it in and decipher it and make up my own mind," she said. "I'm receptive because it's about black people coming together. That's why I'm here."
Surrounded by a phalanx of Fruit of Islam guards dressed in militaristic black uniforms, Farrakhan spoke of U.S. government and international conspiracies against blacks and Arabs. Over and over he slammed whites, the U.S. government and the United Nations for being oppressive and unjust.
But the only ethnic or religious group he singled out was the Jews. Though barely mentioned in most media accounts of the rally, the minister's anti-Jewish rhetoric was, as it often is, ardent and plentiful.
In the beginning of his speech, which was delivered like a fire-and-brimstone sermon and filled with references to biblical characters and narrative, Farrakhan said, "The apple tree [of wisdom] is drying up among the Jewish people."
He compared the Jewish people to "the locust, which eats away the foliage."
He later spoke of Jewish control of business and government and said, "The black people and the red [people] are the fulfillment of what is written in the Torah, the Gospel and the Koran.
"We were sold [as slaves] to Europeans, Arabs and Jews," he said.
"If the Jewish people has something to do with our enslavement, then the Jewish people must have something to do with our expiation," he said in a soaring, angry voice.
"If you accept this judgment," he said, apparently addressing the Jewish community, "and turn swords into plowshares, then we can avert all war!"
"I got a hard job," boomed Farrakhan at the rally. "I have to tell the leaders of America where they're wrong, the leaders of the world where they're wrong."
"That don't make me loved, but I am loved by the people who are catching hell. I love you, brothers and sisters," he said.
And the crowd roared back: "I love you, too, Minister Farrakhan."
Copyright Notice (c) 1996, San Francisco Jewish Community Publications Inc., dba Jewish Bulletin of Northern California. All rights reserved. This material may not be reproduced in any form without permission.