Jay-Z released a new collection of performances called 444. One lyric is blatantly anti-Semitic. Jay-Z will get a pass. Want to learn why? Read Bieganski, specifically chapter 3. Its opening paragraphs are below.
Chapter Three: Bieganski in the Press
When addressing charges of anti-Semitism, academics and the press deploy importantly different narrative techniques depending on the ethnic identity of the accused. A comparison of treatments of the convent in Oswiecim, Poland, and the Khalid Abdul Muhammad speech at Kean College demonstrates this. All of the magazine articles listed in the 1989 and 1993-1994 Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature and all of the 1989 and 1993-1994 New York Times articles from LexisNexis pertaining to the convent and the Muhammad speech constitute the data for this chapter's comparison of these two events' treatments.
In attempting to make a point about the treatment of Poles in narrative produced by academics and journalists, this chapter will refer to treatment of a control group, African Americans. The Muhammad controversy was chosen because of its many parallels with the convent controversy. Both occurred as part of a constellation of events prompting accusations of anti-Semitism. The accused in both cases were members of a stigmatized minority who had reason to feel ill-used and misunderstood by the press and academe. Both involved clashes between members of world religions. Both African Americans and Jews and Poles and Jews were portrayed as sharing important histories of suffering and struggle. The two controversies occurred within a few years of each other, and significant dramatis personae played roles in both.
Mainstream Press Coverage
of Khalid Abdul Muhammad's Speech at Kean College and Attendant Controversies
In November, 1993, Khalid Abdul Muhammad, of the Nation of Islam, made a speech at Kean College in New Jersey. He said, inter alia, that Jews were not related to the main characters in the Bible, who were black (although, somehow, black Jesus' killers were Jews), that Jews hold economic, cultural, and political control of American and African blacks, which they use to torment and oppress blacks, that Jews were responsible for the Holocaust because of their obnoxious behavior in Germany, that Jews control the press worldwide, and that Jewish involvement in the Civil Rights Movement was a ploy to get blacks killed. These charges were leveled in non-standard, frequently obscene and contemptuous language. For example, when Muhammad accused Jews of controlling the world gem trade, he said, "That's why you call yourself Mr. Rubenstein, Mr. Goldstein, Mr. Silverstein. Because you been stealing rubies and gold and silver ... we say it real quick and call it jewelry, but it's not jewelry, it's Jew-elry, 'cause you're the rogue that's stealing all over the face of the planet earth." When ridiculing Jewish involvement in the Civil Rights movement, Muhammad imitated a Yiddish accent. Muhammad, in future speeches, called for death to all Jews: "Never will I say I am not an anti-Semite. I pray that God will kill my enemy and take him off the face of the planet Earth" (ADL, McFadden 1994).
Jews and others asked African American leaders to repudiate ties to Muhammad, the Nation of Islam, and its leader, Louis Farrakhan. Supporters of the Nation of Islam and NOI itself increased verbal attacks on Jews. Howard University sponsored a Jew-baiting speech; the Washington Post's Richard Cohen compared it to a Nazi rally (Corry 1994, 53). Benjamin Chavis, head of the NAACP, defied calls for him to denounce Farrakhan, and invited Farrakhan to an NAACP leadership summit.
Muhammad's speech occurred at a time of tensions between African Americans and Jews. In 1991, African Americans in Crown Heights participated in an action, often labeled a "pogrom." After one participant yelled, "There's a Jew; get the Jew," Yankel Rosenbaum, a Jewish scholar, was stabbed in the street. His confessed killer was acquitted, released, and taken out to a celebratory dinner with jurors, only two of whom were white; none were Jewish (Vinegrad). Academics Leonard Jeffries and Tony Martin made anti-Semitic statements. Howard University turned away a scheduled Jewish guest speaker (Holmes 4/16/94)...