By Sanford Gruenfeld
In a speech at the Hillel Jewish Student Center last Tuesday, outspoken Jewish Defense Organization leader Mordechai Levy told about 50 Jewish students to lead a major protest when a representative of the anti-Semitic Nation of Islam speaks on campus tomorrow evening.
Abdul Alim Muhammad, the Nation of Islam’s Washington spokesman, will speak at the Art-Sociology Building in an appearance sponsored by the Black Student Union.
In his speech Levy attacked the Nation of Islam, which is led by controversial black activist Louis Farrakhan, as an anti-Semitic, racist, violent organization with close ties to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.
“The Nation of Islam hates Jews,” he declared. “The Nation of Islam hates whites. They call them ‘devils’. They certainly do support Gadhafi, and they hate this country.”
He blasted Farrakhan’s supporters for allegedly attacking demonstrators protesting their leader’s appearance at the University of the District of Columbia March 11. Two George Washington University students were reportedly injured in the incident.
The alleged attackers “beat [the protestors], beat them, and beat them,” Levy declared, adding that one of the victims was injured so seriously that he “could not remember his own name” for twenty minutes after the incident.
He criticized mainstream Jewish groups for not adequately responding when anti-Semitic speakers who advocate violence are brought to campus, saying that there are generally “two reactions” within the Jewish community, that of groups such as Hillel and that of his group.
“People say they do nothing,” he said of Hillels, “that’s not true. They answer phones. They type letters, and they, on cue, issue statements condemning bigotry … but that’s about all they do.”
In contrast, there is “one organization that’s been there every single time” militant anti-Semites such as Farrakhan have spoken, according to Levy, “and that group is the Jewish Defense Organization.” In what he called “our kind of reaction” he said, “Jewish students don’t sit down silently, and Jewish students don’t sit down quietly, but they take to the streets, and they march and they protest, and they aren’t the Jews of forty years ago.”
An accountant by profession, Levy spent several years as a member of the Jewish Defense League, which was begun by Rabbi Meir Kahane. Kahane, who is now a member of the Israeli Knesset, spoke at Hillel February 8. Levy left the JDL to found the JDO, which teaches Jews self-defense techniques and advocates a militant response to anti-Semitism.
He implored his audience to look out for Jewish interests and “hit violence with violence,” attacking the idea of “turning the other cheek” when threatened.
“I don’t believe in turning the other cheek,” he declared. “Turning the other cheek has gotten us hit by the other fist.”
“If any students are hit or if any students are hurt” in a protest against an anti-Semite, he added, “my answer is maximum physical retaliation.”
While expressing concern about the influence of leaders like Farrakhan, whom he said is “getting a tremendous base in the black community,” Levy was even more worried about Democratic Presidential candidate Jesse Jackson, whom he said was “very friendly” was Farrakhan “but much more powerful than him.”
Displaying a picture of the two black leaders together, Levy warned his audience that he believes they harbor similar attitudes toward Jews. “The only difference,” he said, “is that Farrakhan says he hates Jews, and he does, and Jackson says he doesn’t hate Jews, and he does.” He cited Jackson’s famous description of New York as “Hymietown” during his 1984 campaign as one example of this anti-Semitism.
Levy and the JDO have begun an effort to “politically weaken and destroy” Jackson’s campaign. They have helped form a group known as “Americans Against Jackson,” which hopes to distribute 1,000,000 copies of the Jackson — Farrakhan picture in New York before the key primary there this month.
Levy also asserted that the increasing power of Jesse Jackson is not the only instance of an anti-Semite achieving political gains. Saying that “clearly anti-Semitism is exploding” in America, he cited several local primary elections in which he said Ku Klux Klan and Nazi supporters have been receiving cotes.
He compared the situation of the Jews in America to that in pre-Nazi Germany, asserting that Jews here are “on real thin ice” and expressing his belief that “a Holocaust is coming.”
He compared his message to that of Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky, whom he called a “great Jew.” Jabotinsky, the “head of a militant group” that advocated Jewish self-defense, traveled around Europe in the 1920’s and 1930’s warning Jews about the danger of the Nazis. His warnings were often ignored.
The Jews of Europe “didn’t want to believe [Jabotinsky’s warning],” Levy declared, “and by the time they saw that it was happening, it was too late. When are we going to take action? When are are we going to take on the modern-day Hitlers and do what must be done?”
He repeated several times that he only advocates violence in self-defense, and he said that violence is “not good,” but is sometimes a necessary response.
“One doesn’t ignore Nazis, and one doesn’t debate Nazis. One destroys Nazis,” he said. “What Jew would argue today that, had someone assassinated Hitler in 1923, a lot more Jews would be alive today?”
Citing the case of a ship full of Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany whose passengers were denied permission to immigrate to America by then-President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Levy called on the Jews in his audience to learn “the lesson of Jewish history.”
“for the Jews,” he declared, “it’s the Jewish cause that comes first, because, in the end, when all is said and done, when the crisis arrives, no one will fight for the Jew and no one will help the Jew, except another Jew. That is the lesson of Jewish history.”
He expressed his differences with Kahane regarding the situation in the Israeli-administered territories. Whereas Kahane wishes to annex the territories and expel the Palestinians who live there, Levy believes that Arabs who are willing to obey the laws of Israel should be allowed to stay and only “rioters” should be deported.
Reactions to Levy from Jewish audience members were generally positive. “I think he has a goo message, that Jews should be proud of themselves and defend themselves,” said Hillel Student Organization President Howard Kram, who had heard Levy twice previously.