The cry of "black anti-Semitism"
The Militant Friday, February 14, 1969
By Elizabeth Barnes
NEW YORK, Feb. 7-In a statement made this week to the board of governors of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, Rabbi Jay Kaufman, executive vice-president of the League, expressed his attitude toward what he conceives of as the "dangers" of black "anti-Semltism." Anti-Jewish feelings among black people present a new brand of anti-Semitism, he said, one that is "rare to the American continent, though classical in Europe."
''It does not spring from religious roots, but is carefully cultivated, artificially created by demagogic leaders," he added. "Unable to offer any constructive program to mitigate the suffering of deprived Negroes in the ghetto, they offer them jobs Jews attained through training, labor, proficiency and seniority."
Earlier this fall, William Wexler, president of the 500,000-member B'nai B'rith, made a similar statement about what he construed to be a threat by the black community against Jewish people. He said that Jewish communities "cannot shrug off a practice of discrimination in reverse that ousts a school teacher from his job in a ghetto neighborhood to satisfy the new black power criteria for self-segregation."
The views expressed by these men are not untypical of those who have been swept along in the tide of the furor over black "anti-Semitism." An article in the Jan. 26 New York Times entitled "Jews Debating Black Anti-Semitism" indicated that many Jews felt that "anti-Semitic utterances and literature employed by a handful of black power extremists is tolerated by too many Negroes as a convenient weapon in their competition for jobs held by Jews in teaching, school administration, and social welfare fields."
These statements all point to what is a central feature of the campaign against "black racism" and black "anti-Semitism." Involved is an attempt to inflame the Jewish community to resist the various demands which have been raised by the black community in the struggle for better schools - demands for black autonomy, for black control of the schools (including the right to hire and fire), for more black teachers and administrators and for a curriculum more suited to the needs of black children.
In mobilizing support for their campaign, the "protesters" against so-called "black racism" are effectively appealing to two contradictory fears which many Jewish people feel because of their special position in American society.
By falsely asserting that somehow the black community could and would play the role of oppressor in relation to the Jewish community - some even go so far as to imply that black people could become the new basis for fascism - the campaigners against black "anti-Semitism" demagogically appeal to the well-founded fears of the Jewish community about the dangers of anti-Semitism in general.
At the same time, they play upon the white racism of many Jews, which is not unlike that of any other grouping of white Americans. This is done by arguing in favor of such things as the "right" of white teachers - based, as Rabbi Kaufman put it, on their "training, labor, proficiency and seniority"- to teach in black schools, whether the black community likes it or not.
The ironic thing is that many of those who are participating in the outcry against black "anti-Semitism" appear to be too blinded by their own prejudices and fears to realize that their very outcry only serves to confirm the need for the very black demands which are under attack.
The demand for black control of the schools is based on what should be an obvious idea: that it is black people who should determine what goes on in the schools their children attend because it is black people who best understand the needs of black children, who are heirs to a history of exploitation and degradation at the hands of whites.
One of the most obvious indications of the need for black control is the fact that many white teachers and administrators - including well-meaning ones - are so prejudiced in their outlook that they do not recognize the racism which saturates our society and which is institutionalized in the type of education which black children receive.
In New York, this gulf between white educators and black students has been widened by the United Federation of Teachers' strikes which alerted the black community to the fact that, for now, the majority of the white teachers are against their struggles.
Kicking off the campaign against the so-called dangers of "black racism" was the report by Mayor Lindsay's Special Committee on Racial and Religious Prejudice which studied the racial tensions resulting from the fall strike. After examining a collection of documents gathered by the Anti-Defamation League, the committee came up with the verdict that the "bigotry" of the black community and of the "black extremists" was more "open, undisguised, nearly physical in its intensity - and far more obvious and identifiable than that emanating from whites."
Black "racism" and "anti-Semitism" more identifiable than white racism! Maybe so for the members of this committee who are apparently so biased and prejudiced in their outlook that they cannot see that the teachers' strike itself was a racists strike, directed against what should be a democratic right of all peoples: the right to control what goes on in their own communities.
Obviously the demand to replace prejudiced white educators and teachers with black ones will not in and of itself solve the problem of inadequate and racist education. It is not teachers, racist or otherwise, who are ultimately responsible for the oppression of black people, despite the fact that they may oppose some of the struggles being waged against this oppression. But the fact that the source of the problem is elsewhere does not in any way negate the legitimacy of the demand for black community control of the hiring and firing of teachers in the black community and the demands for a crash program to train and preferentially hire black teachers and administrators for jobs in black schools. This is a necessary step in the struggle against the system of racism. Jewish people certainly have every right to be sensitive to the dread menace of anti-Semitism. But to guard against it effectively, it is necessary to understand its real nature and source. Anti-Semitism is not simply the expression of anti-Jewish prejudice. (If it were the Jews would have died a long time ago of the now politely muted but still virulent prejudice of so many white Americans.)
Real anti-Semitism is social, political and economic discrimination against Jews. It is-in times of deep social crisis-such nightmares as Hitler's ovens.
Such a monstrosity cannot be imposed by America's most oppressed and exploited minority. It can be perpetrated only by the capitalist rulers of America, who are exploiting the fears of Jewish people to turn them against the force they should rally behind - the black community. For regardless of whatever prejudice they may share with non-Jewish whites and no matter how their bitter experiences under this foul system may intensify that prejudice, the black people today are in the forefront of the fight against a system that breeds racism and anti-Semitism.
Behind charges against Jackson
The Militant March 9, 1984
Charges of "Black anti-Semitism" - currently being flung at Jesse Jackson in the Democratic primaries -have a long history.
The Black revolutionary leader Malcolm X was often falsely accused of hating Jews. Black leaders in New York City opposed a racist strike led in 1968 by teachers union chief Albert Shanker against the Black community's right "to control its own education. They were smeared as anti-Semitic.
In 1979, Jesse Jackson and leaders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference made trips to the Mideast and met with Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat. They were all accused of anti-Semitism.
Even Andrew Young, when he served as UN ambassador in the Carter administration, was subject to these charges when he held an "unauthorized" meeting with a Palestine Liberation Organization official. Young resigned under pressure over the incident.
More recently Jackson again came under fire because the PUSH Foundation, a group associated with him, received completely legitimate financial donations from the Arab League, a confederation of 21 Arab governments.
The anti-Semitic label has been pinned on Jackson from the day he announced his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. Jackson has been hounded and harassed by right-wing thugs who invade his campaign meetings calling themselves "Jews Against Jackson." These hoodlums are an outgrowth of the racist Jewish Defense League.
This campaign to label Jackson anti-Jewish was accelerated when he used anti-Semitic language inreferring to Jews and New York City as "Hymies" and "Hymietown." This was wrong. Jackson has since apologized.
However, those who were quick to accuse Jackson of anti-Semitism have not been so quick to oppose the harassment of his campaign by the JDL thugs or the smear campaign against Operation PUSH.
Those in ruling-class circles who condemned Jackson really believe that Blacks have no business running for U.S. president or offering opinions about U.S. foreign policy in the Mideast or elsewhere.
The hypocrisy of many of these "opponents" of anti-Semitism should not go unnoticed.
In ruling-class circles and among Democratic and Republican politicians speaking in private, anti-Semitic, racist, and sexist language - is routine and commonplace. Just as routine is their charge of "anti-Semitism" whenever they want to discredit the Black movement.
Racist drive behind 'Black anti-Semitism' charge
The Militant , March 30, 1984
BY MOHAMMED OLIVER
There's a raging debate in the big-business media: is Jesse Jackson an anti-Semite?
No. The Militant has already answered this charge against Jackson in an editorial in the March 9 issue, pointing out that it's actually a racist slander aimed at all Blacks. The Militant explained that ruling class circles condemn Jackson - who apologized for using anti-Semitic language - because they "believe that Blacks have no business running for U.S. president or offering opinions about U.S. foreign policy in the Mideast or elsewhere."
Following Jackson's "Hymie-Hymietown" remark , a lot of attention was focused on whether the slur would damage "Black-Jewish relations." Earlier this month, Jackson himself said he hoped to speak in as many synagogues as possible to help mend fences between the two groups. Jackson was reported as saying that the "alliance" between Blacks and Jews in the civil rights movement in the 1960s had been strained in recent years and that the tension has "now reached a critical point."
In the March 18 debate with presidential candidates Walter Mondale and Gary Hart, Jackson said his campaign hoped to "reach out for the locked out, we make a decided effort to reach out for women, for Hispanics, for Blacks, for Asians, for Arabs, for Jews, for those who have been locked out, and that is in part the mission of our campaign."
But this statement's a complete muddle. Blacks, Latinos, Asians, and Arabs suffer national oppression and are mostly working class in social composition. They suffer a second-class status - socially, politically, and economically. Women face oppression as a sex. Historically, Jews have been discriminated against in ruling-class inspired campaigns designed to make them the scapegoats for problems faced by working people. Jews, however, are not an oppressed national minority in the United States.
Moreover, lumping all Jews together overlooks the fact that they are divided by class and political outlook. Many Jews did support the civil rights movement and opposed the South's apartheid-like system of Jim Crow.
They were inspired - as were many whites - by the massive outpouring of the Black community in direct action against the system of legalized segregation and joined the struggle.
At the same time the official leaders of major white churches, white capitalist media, and most unions - headed by white racist bureaucrats - rarely if ever actively joined the direct action campaigns for Black civil rights. Among these organizations were the major Jewish groups, such as the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith and the American Jewish Congress.
The civil rights movement won a major victory. De jure, or legal, segregation was eliminated. It took many years of battle in which many a martyr fell, but Jim Crow was sent to its grave.
Yet, the racial oppression of Blacks continued. Dilapidated and inadequate housing, dirty and low-paying jobs, inferior education; cop terror, and other evils of race discrimination still plagued the Black community. Blacks rose up in rage and anger. In the mid and late 1960s, Black rebellions swept the United States.
Many Black organizations turned to more consciously nationalist ideas and programs, and as they did so they lost the support of procapitalist liberals - including many Jews.
We began to struggle against de facto segregation-the institutionalized nice discrimination in housing, employment, education, and so on. However, our fight to desegregate housing, win affirmative action, and improve our education through desegregation or community control of the schools has been met with violent opposition from the capitalist class.
Blacks - fighting to achieve equality -are realizing more and more that we need political power to win full equality and liberation . The U.S. ruling class opposes our struggle. One of their weapons against us is to try to discredit the Black movement. That's the purpose of their demagogic campaign against "Black anti-Semitism." It appeals to well-founded fears about the dangers of anti-Semitism in general to smear the fight for Black civil rights. The lie is spread that if Blacks had political power, we would use it against Jews.
Jewish organizations like the B'nai B'rith, which sup-port the Israeli colonial-settler state and the U.S. capitalist government, toe this same reactionary line. They howl "Black anti-Semitism" and "Black racism" at Blacks fighting for affirmative action with quotas or community control of the schools in the Black community .
The racist charge that Blacks are anti~Semitic is also aimed at the widespread support in the Black community for the ·Palestinian struggle for national liberation. This sympathy is reflected in the fact that Jesse Jackson and other Black leaders have spoken in favor of the right of self-determination for the Palestinian people.
So, when Jackson made his "Hymietown" jibe, there was a chorus of racist opponents of Black rights who said: I told you so. You can't support the struggle for a Palestinian state without being anti-Jewish.
Well, that's a lie. One can be anti-Zionist without being an anti-Semite. Zionism, in fact, is a reactionary political ideology that tries to justify the formation of the colonial-settler state of Israel on Palestinian soil. The fightto end that occupation is anti-Zionist and antiracist, not anti-Jewish.
Anti-Semitism, however, remains a big problem. But its source isn't the Black community. What the roots of anti-Semitism and other prejudice are and how to combat them will be the subject of a future column.