BTL’s post below got me to go to the Aruz Sheva site, where I noticed an article about the fact that Jews in Chicago are now hiring off-duty cops to protect them from thugs. On the north side of Chicago, by the way, where you don’t expect to find this problem. So, curious as always, I googled: antisemitism Chicago. And came up with this completely fascinating article from the NY Times, an op-ed, written in 1988. What a difference 27 years makes!!
I am reprinting this in full, because it is so surprising on so many levels. As you read, ask yourself these questions: Would the NY Times ever print something like this today? Would they ever call out black antisemitism? And BTL, now we can fully understand why we once considered ourselves to be liberals, why the NY Times was once the go-to paper to understand the world.
CHICAGO— Virulent anti-Semitism has gripped Chicago’s black community. Nobody morally powerful enough to try to combat it, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who lives here, has attempted to do so.
It is so poisonous that the Rev. Andrew Greeley, a Roman Catholic priest and writer and a Chicagoan, has said, ”If I were Jewish, I would be terrified.” The Rev. John Egan, a priest who for 40 years has fought for racial and religious equality, said that ”the anguish and anger of Jews” in Chicago is ”real and deep.”
Mr. Jackson rightfully presents himself as a keeper of the nation’s conscience. Why has he remained silent? As he campaigns for Gov. Michael S. Dukakis, what conclusions can Jewish voters in Chicago – indeed, across the nation – draw from that silence?
Chicago’s most prominent black anti-Semite is Steve Cokely, who was dismissed in May as an aide to the acting Mayor, Eugene Sawyer, for astonishing anti-Jewish and anti-Christian speeches.
Mr. Cokely charged that Jews are involved in an international conspiracy to control the world and that ”the AIDS epidemic is a result of doctors, especially Jewish ones, who inject AIDS into blacks.” He has attacked Mr. Jackson, whom he calls ”the nigger,” and the late Mayor Washington for having Jewish advisers.
In addition, Mr. Cokely has asserted that the crucifix is a ”symbol of white supremacy” and that the Illinois law requiring children to remain in school until age 16 exists to promote white control of blacks.
Chicago’s leaders have ominously been silent about Mr. Cokely. Only after local newspapers broke the story did Mayor Sawyer, behaving like a man forced to drink poison in public, dismiss him.
Afterward, charging that he was the object of a plot, Mr. Cokely accepted a job with the Rev. Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, who remarked that Mr. Cokely had offended Jewish leaders only ”because the truth hurts.”
The other day, Mr. Cokely underwent a public rehabilitation when he was invited to appear before the City Council’s health committee, whose chairman is Alderman Allan Streeter, a black. It was Mr. Streeter who, after a controversial painting of Mr. Washington attired in female undergarments was forcibly removed from a student exhibit at the school of the Art Institute in mid-May, charged, erroneously, that ”the fellow who drew that picture is Jewish.”
In the May issue of his newsletter to his constitutents, Mr. Streeter said the Anti-Defamation League has a ”hit list” of ”African-American leaders,” and criticized the ”continued Jewish dominance of the news media.”
To its credit, the overwhelming majority of the black community rejects Mr. Cokely, according to a Chicago Tribune poll. But that has not stopped black leaders from cynically stirring embers of anti-Semitism in the streets like sparks in the stubble of the dried-out Midwestern cornfields.
Many Chicagoans have been upset by the continuing defense of Mr. Cokely by black political activists and other spokesmen of the black community such as the Rev. B. Herbert Martin, who was subsequently named head of the Commission on Human Relations. Earlier, Mr. Martin had said that the black community felt there was ”a ring of truth” in Mr. Cokely’s remarks about a worldwide Jewish conspiracy, although he said he personally did not share this view. He had also said, ”There is a growing opinion among younger blacks, grassroot black people, that Jews are running things, that Jews are unfair, unloving.”
A state Representative, William Shaw, who is black, told The Chicago Defender, a black newspaper, that if the Jews ”target Martin, I will call for a boycott on everything dealing with the Jewish community.” He asserted that he did not want ”black leadership picked off one by one” by Jews, who ”have yet to explain Israel’s selling guns to the South African Government.” And he dismissed the Holocaust by saying, ”We went through our own.”
The Chicago Jewish community’s unrest has been fed in the past year by the defacing of the Holocaust memorial in suburban Skokie and in the vandalizing of several synagogues. It isn’t known who did this dirty work.
Moreover, last November, Mr. Cokely accused North Side Jewish merchants, on the 49th anniversary of ”Crystal Night” – the night the Nazis vandalized Jewish shops, offices and synagogues – of breaking their own windows in order to gain sympathy for themselves.
Black leaders’ failure to repudiate Mr. Cokely has underscored their willingness to tap into what they identify as a current of anti-Jewish feeling in their community.
What’s amazing is that, no matter how wild the charges, they all drop one by one into a void of near-quiet. For example, black politicians complain that Jewish merchants have long gouged blacks. In so doing, they imply that Jews’ enormous contributions to the black civil rights movement have counted for little in comparison to their history of exploiting blacks.
The onslaught of reckless accusations has left the community in general, and the Jewish community in particular, dumbfounded. When Jews have objected to them, they have been accused of trying to impose their will on the black community.
Mad as the entire series of incidents may be regarded, madder still is the failure of any but the State’s Attorney, Richard M. Daley, and editorial writers and columnists to denounce them.
In a mirror reflection of the opportunistic racism they have criticized in such white leaders as Edward R. Vrdolyak, black politicians cynically fan the anti-Jewish mood in their wards. Disingenuously, some argue that only suspicious and badly intentioned people would consider the charges harmful to Jews.
It all reminds me of the poet Charles Mauras’s defense of the forged documents used against Capt. Alfred Dreyfus in one of history’s most painful anti-Semitic episodes. They were, he wrote, an ”act of patriotic devotion,” done ”for the good and honor of all.”
Chicago is neither Germany of 50 years ago nor France of a century ago. But the anti-Semitism is exactly the same. Its themes of the evil, aggrandizing, ruthless Jew are identical with those that have surfaced wherever and whenever hatred of Jews has been manipulated for political purposes.
”The community is shocked into a catatonic state when it hears such barbarous falsehoods,” said the writer Saul Bellow, a Chicagoan.
In recent decades, we have indicted long-dead leaders of church and state, including prime ministers and popes – as well as American Jews -who failed to condemn the anti-Semitism that seemed to pile up around them while they were influential. We condemn them for not speaking out, imagining that we would be braver and more moral than they in comparable circumstances.
The dismaying fact remains that hardly any Chicagoan of major influence in government, religion, education and business has spoken out strongly, unambiguously and consistently against the anti-Semitism that has infected the city’s life. Everybody, it seems, has a good reason to remain quiet. Today, the loudest thing here is the silence greeting the ugliest experience that the city has suffered in a long time.
Look homeward, Jesse. This is where the ”common ground,” which you spoke about in your inspiring speech in Atlanta, begins.
Update: I did a bit more sleuthing. The NY Times gives Jesse Jackson a pass in the article I’ve posted. I therefore assumed that Jesse Jackson’s Hymietown remark happened post-1988. Nope He said it to a black Washington Post reporter in 1984.
Therefore, the NY Times was doing what they always do – shucking’ and jivin’.