PHILADELPHIA — The ugly face of Jew-hatred today and how to combat it has become a burning political question here over the last month.
On July 23 Rodney Muhammad, president of the Philadelphia NAACP, minister at Nation of Islam Mosque No. 12 and a former paid political consultant to Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, posted a virulent anti-Semitic image on his Facebook page. It pictured on the sleeve of a jacket a grinning Jewish man wearing a yarmulke rubbing his hands together. Emerging from the sleeve is a bejeweled hand crushing down a mass of downtrodden people.
Next to the drawing is a quote, “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.” It’s attributed to the French philosopher Voltaire, but was in fact written by white supremacist and neo-Nazi Kevin Strom.
On top of the graphic are photos of Black celebrities Ice Cube, Nick Cannon and DeSean Jackson, who have all come under criticism for scapegoating Jews for the problems of Blacks in the U.S.
“This vile behavior from a civic leader is incredibly dangerous for Jewish communities around the world,” the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia responded, calling for Muhammad to resign as president of the NAACP. The Anti-Defamation League, Philadelphia Muslim-Jewish Circle of Friends and the Philadelphia Urban League have asked the NAACP to hold him accountable.
One leader of a Jewish organization, Rabbi Linda Holtzman of the Tikkun Olam Chavurah, which describes itself as a group founded on Jewish beliefs that pursues social justice, tried to excuse Muhammad’s actions. “I think the Black community is justly angry at the Jewish community,” she said.
Marcia Bronstein, regional director of the American Jewish Committee, wrote to the NAACP Pennsylvania State Conference saying, “Complacency about antisemitism compromises the integrity of the fight against racism.”
Philadelphia Sheriff Rochelle Bilal, former secretary of the NAACP chapter, says Muhammad should remain president. She said Jews don’t “fight against nobody unless it’s their political season.”
“The Socialist Workers Party condemns Jew-hatred in all forms — from both the left and the right, including that by Rodney Muhammad, and others,” Osborne Hart, Socialist Workers Party candidate for U.S. Congress in Pennsylvania’s 3rd C.D., said in a statement. “It’s a deadly danger for all working people.”
DeSean Jackson, a player for the Philadelphia Eagles football team, had watched a video of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan’s July 4 address, where he called Jews “Satan.” “And it is my job now to pull the cover off Satan so that every Muslim,” Farrakhan said, “picks up a stone, as we do in Mecca.”
“I hope everyone got a chance to watch this!! Don’t be blinded. Know what’s going on!!” Jackson posted on Instagram. He then posted a quote, falsely attributed to Adolph Hitler: “Because the white Jews know that the Negroes are the real Children of Israel and to keep America’s secret the Jews will blackmail America. … Their plan for world domination won’t work if the Negroes know who they were.”
After a firestorm of criticism, Jackson took down the post. He has since agreed to an invitation from a 94-year-old Holocaust survivor to visit Auschwitz.
Comedian and TV personality Nick Cannon attended Farrakhan’s speech, saying afterwards African Americans were robbed of their birthright by the Jews. He also later apologized.
The rapper and actor Ice Cube has tweeted a graphic that depicted the Star of David with a black cube in its center, followed by pictures of black cube sculptures in Manhattan and other major cities, implying secret Jewish control. He has refused to back off his posting.
NBA legend and critic of racist discrimination Kareem Abdul-Jabbar responded to Ice Cube and others saying he was shocked to see such little outrage over displays of anti-Semitism amid the “new Woke-fulness in Hollywood and the sports world.” Ice Cube responded, calling Abdul-Jabbar a “Judas.”
While anti-Semitism is at a low ebb in the working class, there has been an increase in attacks against Jews in the last few years. In 2019, according to the Anti-Defamation League, there were “a reported 2,100 acts of assault, vandalism, violence or harassment against Jews, the highest number of anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. since the organization began tracking them in 1979.”
Anti-Semitism, enemy of all workers
“Anti-Semitism is an attack on all Jews, but it also puts a dagger into the heart of the fight against racism and all struggles by working people that we see today,” SWP candidate Hart said.
“Police brutality, discrimination in housing and hiring, and racist attacks that Blacks face today aren’t caused by Jews,” he said. “This is a lie that only serves the interests of the capitalist rulers, who profit from this discrimination.
“Jew-hatred grows and gets support from the capitalist rulers when the crisis of their system leads to rising mass struggles by working people. While that isn’t happening today, the deepening capitalist economic, social and political crisis working people face shows that day will come.
“The fight against Jew-hatred is a working-class question, and a key question in the fight for the rights of African Americans,” Hart continued. “The only way to end anti-Semitism — and the oppression of Blacks — for all time is to eliminate this capitalist system of oppression and exploitation.”