At the Million Man March, Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam issued American Jews an invitation, and as with all invitations the invitee has the right to accept or refuse.
The issue is, do American Jews want to dialogue with Farrakhan, who is arguably America's most prominent anti-Semite?
To answer that question, we have to know how sincere is his invitation. This is important, because judging from his past words and deeds, and the words of some of his top aides made the very day of the Million Man March, sincerity is sorely lacking on Farrakhan's part.
"I don't like these squabbles with the members of the Jewish community," Farrakhan told the marchers. Well, I don't like them either. But "these squabbles," as he calls them, are the result of his anti-Semitism. Indeed, on the day of the march, Quanell X, the Nation of Islam's national youth minister, told the Chicago Tribune, "I say to Jewish America: Get ready…knuckle up, put your boots on, because we're ready and the war is going down…All you Jews can go straight to hell."
Another top Farrakhan aide, the reinstated Khalid Abdul Muhammed, also is quoted as saying on the march day, "The so-called Jew is a parasite who comes into our community and takes out trailer and tractor-loads of money on a daily basis."
I will agree with Farrakhan on one thing; that ending tensions between blacks and Jews "may be good for both and ultimately, for the nation."
But if Minister Farrakhan wants a truly constructive dialogue, he must stop the hate — his own and that of his followers. He must put the word out to his adherents that anti-Semitism is wrong and will no longer be part of the language of the Nation of Islam. He must tell the editors of the Nation of Islam's newspaper, the Final Call, to remove from its "Final Call Book List" the following titles: "Jewish Onslaught," "The Jews and Their Lies," "The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews," "The Ugly Truth About the ADL," "Secrets of the Temple" and other anti-Jewish tracts. He must tell his bookstores to remove from their shelves the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and other rabidly anti-Semitic books and pamphlets.
"Perhaps in the light of what we see today it's time to sit down and talk, not with any preconditions," Farrakhan said from the podium. But how can we come to a dialogue with someone who has yet to show any frankness in his renunciation of Jew-hatred? We, too, have our dignity and pride. We cannot be asked to come to a dialogue hoping, or begging, an anti-Semite to stop being anti-Semitic.
A good place for Farrakhan to begin might be his own eight-step plan for atonement: First by hearing and acknowledging that he has been wrong in his anti-Semitism; then to confess and repent his sin of anti-Semitism, followed by atonement and the expiation of his sins; then can the next steps of forgiveness, reconciliation and healing be reached and a truly fruitful dialogue take place.
Without a clear renunciation of anti-Semitism, his call for a dialogue is merely empty rhetoric aimed more at public opinion then at the Jewish community. Otherwise, the only words of Farrakhan and his followers that will continue to ring true are those hate-filled declarations and assertions that cannot be recalled, but only renounced.
The Book of Proverbs (10:18) says that "Righteous lips cover up hatred." Farrakhan and his followers do not speak yet with righteous lips, but only with a hateful tongue. But keep talking, Minister Farrakhan, we are listening for your righteous lips. And on the day we should hear words of respect come from your mouth, we'll heed the call for a true dialogue.