ZOA President Morton A. Klein and Chair Mark Levenson, Esq. released the following statement:
The Zionist Organization of America strongly praises and thanks former NBA greats Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Charles Barkley, as well as current Pittsburgh Steeler Zach Banner, for their moral clarity in publicly calling out and criticizing entertainers Nick Cannon and Ice Cube, and current and former NFL and NBA players, including DeSean Jackson and Stephen Jackson, for their vile and false anti-Jewish podcasts, media, and social media rants against the Jewish community, and their praising of venal antisemite Louis Farrakhan. Cannon, Ice Cube, and both Jacksons took to social media to praise Louis Farrakhan, who has demonized the Jewish People and incited violence against Jews, and also promoted anti-Jewish conspiracy theories.
Abdul-Jabbar wrote a column published by The Hollywood Reporter, stating that the anti-Jewish attacks by prominent black Americans is “a very troubling omen for the future of the Black Lives Matter movement, but so too is the shocking lack of massive indignation. Given the New Woke-fulness in Hollywood and the sports world, we expected more passionate public outrage. What we got was a shrug of meh-rage.” He also called out performer Chelsea Handler, who is white, for tweeting out an antisemitic Louis Farrakhan video, and recommending it to her fans and fellow celebrities.
Abdul-Jabbar said that support for the notorious Jew-hater Louis Farrakhan, and his claims that the Jewish People are plotting to dominate the world and that Jews own all the banks and are oppressing blacks, is a “dehumanizing characterization of a people.” Abdul-Jabbar added: “It’s so disheartening to see people from groups that have been violently marginalized do the same thing to others without realizing that perpetuating this kind of bad logic is what perpetuates racism.”
Barkley said on his podcast, “The Steam Room,” last week: “These black men out here who are being antisemitic: This gotta stop…. Man, what the hell are you all doing…. I don’t understand how insulting another group helps our cause…. We can’t allow black people to be prejudiced also – especially if we’re asking for white folks to respect us, give us economic opportunity and things like that. I’m so disappointed in these men…. I don’t understand how you beat hatred with more hatred.”
Barkley also took issue with so-called apologies that some of these entertainment and sports stars offered. “These lightweight, flimsy apologies – I don’t like them either because I think sometimes when you say stuff like that you really mean it — you just got people called you on it…. I don’t understand how they can be in your vocabulary and in your heart…. To take shots at the Jewish and white race – I just don’t like it ’cause it’s not right…. Under no circumstance do you quote Hitler.”
Zach Banner posted a series of tweets and videos on social media slamming DeSean Jackson, while defending the Jewish People. Among his messages were: “We can’t move forward while allowing ourselves to leave another minority race in the dark,” and, “I stand in solidarity with all my Jewish brothers and sisters.”
Banner noted: “We need to understand that Jewish people deal with the same amount of hate and similar hardships and hard times. I’m not trying to get emotional right now but I want to preach to the Black and Brown community that we need to uplift them and put our arms around them just as much. When we talk about Black Lives Matter and talk about elevating ourselves, we can’t do that while stepping on the backs of other people to elevate ourselves.” He added in an interview: “As a black, African American football player in the NFL, I cannot allow one of my colleagues to destroy another group or to try to elevate ourselves past them, because then we are being hypocritical.”
In a video he posted on Twitter, Banner blasted the lack of outcry from other football players: “The lack of empathy from my brothers and the NFLPA [National Football League Players Association] toward the DeSean Jackson situation this week and our Jewish friends and fans … is bullcrap. It’s horrendous…. We have to be able to hold each other accountable … publicly.”
What were Abdul-Jabbar, Barkley, Banner, and others responding to?
On July 4, Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson posted a series of messages on social media — two praising Farrakhan and endorsing a July 4 Farrakhan speech in which Farrakhan called Jews “Satan” and said it is the duty of Muslims to stone them and “knock out their brains,” and others in which he falsely blamed Israel for the deaths of George Floyd and Freddie Gray, who were killed by U.S. police officers. Separately, Jackson posted a copy of a quote he believed was from Hitler claiming that “white Jews” were extorting and blackmailing America as part of a plan of “world domination.” Jackson issued two apologies but neither repudiated Farrakhan. Meanwhile, those who follow Jackson on Instagram are still adding anti-Jewish comments on his recent posts that Jackson has not deleted or condemned. One is: “You know the black are the real jews [sic]. Don’t back peddle[sic] unless its[sic] to the end zone.” Another: “Stop apologizing they haven’t and all you was[sic] saying is the truth.”
Stephen Jackson, a former basketball player, defended DeSean Jackson and claimed the football player was “speaking the truth” in his anti-Jewish posts. Stephen Jackson followed up with: “Your races [sic] pain doesn’t hurt more than the next races [sic] pain.” Jackson wrote: “Don’t act like your hardships or [sic] more devastating then [sic] ours.” Then, separately in an interview on social media, Stephen Jackson asked the person he was conversing with: “Do you know who the Rothschilds are? They control all the banks, they own all the banks.”
Nick Cannon hosted a series of videos and podcasts featuring guests who are part of the Nation of Islam or are devotees of Farrakhan. In one, the guest, Minister Tony Muhammad, falsely claimed that the United States was giving Israel $80 billion a year. In another video, activist Hawk Newsome accused American Jews of having their own police force. But the video that got Cannon in the most hot water was his interview with rapper “Professor Griff,” with Cannon claiming, “You can’t be antisemitic when we [blacks] are the Semitic people…. When we are the same people who they want to be. That’s our birthright…. We are the true Hebrews.”
Cannon also said of “Jewish people, white people, Europeans” who lack as much or any melanin: “They had to be savages.”
Ice Cube, the hip-hop artist, posted a series of tweets praising Farrakhan and accusing Jews of oppressing and controlling blacks. One tweet was a copy of a painting that had previously been widely condemned as anti-Jewish.
Allen Iverson, one of the former Philadelphia 76ers, on July 15th reposted on Instagram a two-year-old photo of himself with Farrakhan. DeSean Jackson reportedly was one of 176,000 to “like” the photo. In the caption Iverson wrote: “#BucketListMoment #LoveConquersHate #GoodDefeatsEvil.”