TEL AVIV – American Jewish leaders expressed outrage over the place of honor given to virulently antisemitic Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan at Aretha Franklin’s funeral on Friday.
Farrakhan was seated in the front row alongside other controversial African-American figures, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. Former president Bill Clinton sat three places to Farrakhan’s left.
Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said it was “jarring” to see a “hatemonger” like Farrakhan at the funeral.
“It was absolutely jarring to see one of America’s leading purveyors of antisemitism given a place of such prominence at Aretha’s funeral,” Greenblatt told the Algemeiner. “We join the country in mourning the Queen of Soul, but this was an honor that an unapologetic hatemonger like Farrakhan didn’t deserve.”
Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center charged Farrakhan with despising America and Jews.
“Like millions of other Americans who grew up listening to Aretha Franklin’s amazing voice, I was saddened by her passing. Putting Louis Farrakhan in a seat of honor in the first row on stage, near President Clinton and amidst a generation of African-American political and religious leaders was equally saddening,” Cooper said in a statement to the Algemeiner.
“50 years ago Aretha Franklin received an award from Martin Luther King Jr. and toured the country to raise money for the struggling Civil Rights Movement,” he added. “For decades Farrakhan has stood against everything MLK lived and died for. He hates America and hates Jews. Aretha Franklin wasn’t a hater. The sight of his smiling face on stage soured the heartfelt music and words during the marathon tribute to a great icon.”
Betty Ehrenberg , executive director of the World Jewish Congress North America, lamented Farrakhan’s status as a role model for activists and candidates for office.
“We were dismayed to learn that Farrakhan was seated in a prominent place at the funeral of a widely revered artist,” she said. “And it is equally dismaying to see him being admired by some newly emerging activists and candidates for office who should not associate with an unapologetic antisemite with a long history of racist views.”
As Breitbart Jerusalem reported in March, Rep. Danny Davis, an Illinois Democrat, praised Farrakhan as an “outstanding human being.”
The three leaders of the Women’s March, Tamika Mallory, Carmen Perez and Linda Sarsour have also aligned themselves with Farrakhan.
Abraham Foxman, head of the Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism at New York’s Museum of Jewish Heritage, told the Algemeiner, “Sadly the African-American community has a blind spot when it comes to antisemitism. They have always given a pass to Louis Farrakhan’s racism and antisemitism. They don’t recognize him as a racist and antisemite, and that’s sad for the relationship between our two communities.”
Renowned law professor Alan Dershowitz expressed his dismay that Clinton appeared alongside Farrakhan.
“I know there was a relationship 30 years earlier between Louis Farrakhan and Aretha Franklin. I don’t know if that relationship continued, or whether the family invited him, but I think any president should have said, ‘No. If you want me on the stage, you can’t have a bigot like Farrakhan sitting next to me,’” he told Fox & Friends.
“You just can’t mainstream and allow legitimacy to a man who has expressed the kind of hateful views he’s expressed of Jews, of white people, of gays,” he added.
Democratic New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind called the incident “shocking.”
“Louis Farrakhan, front and center, treated like royalty? What is this obsession with America’s Black Hitler? In spite of his crude, vicious comments about Jews, whites, gays, he is placed up front with President Clinton? Shocking!”
Earlier this year, Farrakhan delivered a rancorous anti-Semitic rant at the 2018 Saviour’s Day event in Chicago, calling Jews members of the “Synagogue of Satan” and claiming that Jesus called the Jews “the children of the devil” and “when you want something in this world, the Jew holds the door.”
“Jews were responsible for all of this filth and degenerate behavior that Hollywood is putting out turning men into women and women into men. And Farrakhan, by God’s grace, has pulled the cover off of that Satanic Jew and I’m here to say your time is up, your world is through,” the Nation of Islam leader said.
After Franklin died last month, Farrakhan released a statement saying, “In 1972, when I was minister in New York City, Temple No. 7, the police attacked our mosque. Within a few hours, Aretha Franklin came to the mosque, to my office, and said that she saw the news and came as quickly as she could to stand with us and offer us her support.”
“We marveled at her show of courage, fearlessness which was rooted in her profound love for her people and her desire for justice for us,” Farrakhan added.