Monday, April 28, 2008

Jeremiah Wright on Zionism and Israel

I used to have hope that Barack Obama's candidacy was really a sign that this country was changing - that it was possible that a black man might actually be the Democratic presidential candidate and even win the presidency. I didn't expect miracles from him if he became president, but his candidacy gave me hope. Now, even since before the Pennsylvania election last week, I started to lose hope - because of the attacks of the Clinton and McCain campaigns, the malicious nonsense being spread about how he's a Muslim and hates Israel, the attacks from a whole host of right-wing pundits. Now, Jeremiah Wright seems to have decided that he wants to completely destroy Obama's chances for becoming the Democratic candidate - out of his own selfish desire to make a name for himself. He made a speech today at the National Press Club. I'm not going to write about all of what he said, only the part that upsets me the most.
As I said on the Bill Moyers' show, one of our news channels keeps playing a news clip from 20 years ago when Louis [Farakkhan] said 20 years ago that Zionism, not Judaism, was a gutter religion.
This is a nonsensical statement. Zionism is a political movement, not a religion. And Louis Farakkhan did call Judaism a "gutter religion." (See this pro-Farakkhan website for a corroboration of that statement - Blacks and Jews).
And he was talking about the same thing United Nations resolutions say, the same thing now that President Carter is being vilified for, and Bishop Tutu is being vilified for. And everybody wants to paint me as if I'm anti-Semitic because of what Louis Farrakhan said 20 years ago.
Which UN resolutions is he talking about? The 1975 resolution that declared that "Zionism is racism"? Or the one that abrogated that resolution? Somehow I suspect that he's referring to the first one.

Later on in the talk Wright said:
MODERATOR: You have likened Israeli policies to apartheid and its treatment of Palestinians with Native Americans. Can you explain your views on Israel?
WRIGHT: Where did I liken them to that? Whoever wrote the question, tell me where I likened them.
Jimmy Carter called it apartheid. Jeremiah Wright didn't liken anything to anything. My position on Israel is that Israel has a right to exist, that Israelis have a right to exist, as I said, reconciled one to another.
Have you read the Link? Do you read the Link, Americans for Middle Eastern Understanding, where Palestinians and Israelis need to sit down and talk to each other and work out a solution where their children can grow in a world together, and not be talking about killing each other, that that is not God's will?
My position is that the Israel and the people of Israel be the people of God who are worrying about reconciliation and who are trying to do what God wants for God's people, which is reconciliation.
I'm glad to hear that he thinks Israel has a right to exist, but why should Israel be expected to be the "people of God" in his Christian terms? Does he make the same demand of Palestinians or other Arabs? I certainly don't see it in this speech.

Now what about the group "Americans for Middle Eastern Understanding"? The name rang a bell, from my reading online about Daniel McGowan, the anti-semitic Holocaust denying emeritus professor from Hobart and William Smith College. And in fact, it's the same group that's published some of McGowan's prose on its website. The website is: AMEU and the Link is its newsletter.

From what I can see from its website, AMEU isn't interested in dialogue or reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians - it's interested in the dissolution of the state of Israel. And this is the group that Wright is recommending to us a source of inspiration for reconciliation?

My fear about Obama is that no matter what he says about Wright now - however harshly he denounces him - that this means the utter destruction of his campaign.


  1. the site you link to on whether farrakhan called judaism a gutter religion actually denies that he said it. they say he said "dirty religion" which isn't necessarily any better. lexically, it is oddly phrased for sure.


  2. adl has some good stuff:

    btw, on the rest of your post, keep up the hope about obama. he's not wright, who isn't farrakhan.

    i'm jewish, fwiw, secular, but had my bar mitzvah at the hebrew institute of riverdale if you know that spot.

    if you're interested in rabidly pro-obama stuff, you can check out my blog at

  3. Thanks for the support - yes, I just looked at the ADL report. Disgusting (but we knew that about Farrakhan already).

  4. did you have any thoughts on obama's press conference today?

    it was exactly what i was hoping he would say, but then again, i'm biased

  5. Jeremiah Wright, like many Christians, including Jimmy Carter, has theological ideas about Israel and Jews generally. They cannot get it out of their system that they know the Hebrew Bible better than Jews do and that they know God's plans for Jews. I respect Carter on a lot of things but not for his theology of Jews and Israel.

    I agree that Obama has gotten a raw deal in all this. And McCain has gotten a free pass for his endorsement from an anti-Catholic pastor.

    What I am most curious about is that there has been almost no discussion of the most reprehensible thing about Wright (and other preachers): The way he keeps dragging God into all this. It is one thing to be concerned about injustices and expose them, it quite another thing to say that God damns and curses this nation or these people. That is really ugly. This injection of God-talk into social and political issues is very frightening.

    Leon Zitzer

  6. Leon - Yes, and it's not only Wright - remember what Falwell and Robertson said after the 9/11 attacks - that we had it coming because of the gays and the feminists. Theologically speaking, that's not essentially any different from Wright's statement - it's just that we're being blamed for different sins. What I don't understand is how these preachers can be so presumptuous as to imagine that they know why God does anything (that is, if we blame God for the 9/11 attacks, which I certainly do not!). Do they have a special phone line on which God calls them to tell them why a certain thing has happened? I didn't think so.

    JedReport - I liked Obama's press conference also.

  7. Farrakha in fact never refered to Judaism as gutter as dirty. His clear comments on this are below:

    Countless times over the years I have explained that I never referred to Judaism as a dirty religion, but, clearly referred to the machinations of those who hide behind the shield of Judaism while using unjust political means to achieve their objectives. This was distilled in the New York tabloids and other media saying, "Farrakhan calls Judaism a gutter religion."

    As a Muslim, I revere Abraham, Moses, and all the Prophets who Allah (God) sent to the children of Israel. I believe in the scriptures brought by these Prophets and the Laws of Allah (God) as expressed in the Torah. I would never refer to the Revealed Word of Allah (God) -- the basis of Jewish Faith -- as "dirty" or "gutter." You know, Jude, as well as I, that the Revealed Word of Allah (God) comes as a Message from Allah (God) to purify us from our evil that has divided us and caused us to fall into the gutter.

    Over the centuries, the evils of Christians, Jews and Muslims have dirtied their respective religions. True Faith in the laws and Teaching of Abraham, Jesus and Muhammad is not dirty, but, practices in the name of these religions can be unclean and can cause people to look upon the misrepresented religion as being unclean.

    The full text of this letter is takend from here:

  8. I read the ADL report many years ago. They put together a nice collection of Farrakhan's sayings. Not only did he call Judaism a dirty religion, but he made worse comments about Jews being murderous, lying, deceitful, and that when God puts you in the oven, 'never again' don't mean a thing. That he denies saying these things many years later cannot erase from history what he said.

    This idea that preachers know all about God and claim to speak on his behalf because they have a direct pipeline to him is fairly obnoxious and frightening. I wish more people would publicly challenge this. Bill Moyers, whom I love, unfortunately gave Wright a free ride on this. And there are plenty of white preachers, as Rebecca pointed out, who are as bad and worse.

    What our society needs a good dose of is that ancient rabbinic attitude that we cannot drag God into every conversation and debate. God wants us to figure things out for ourselves. Call it chutzpah towards God (Heaven stay out it!) but that's what they advocated. Not so oddly, a certain Rabbi Joshua of Nazareth (whom some people worship as Jesus today) may well have taught the same thing (chutzpah, by the way, being an Aramaic word). The ancients still have something to teach us about renouncing the arrogant idea of a pipeline to heaven.

    Leon Zitzer