Jewish Journal

It’s ‘alleged’ anti-Semitism: a-l-l-e-g-e-d

by Brad A. Greenberg

May 6, 2008 | 6:09 pm

Like the Wall Street Journal last week, the liberal Israeli daily, Ha’aretz, carried a story this week that convicted the Rev. Eric Lee of saying, “The Jews have made money on us in the music business and we are the entertainers, and they are economically enslaving us.”

Prominent California reverend and black activist Eric Lee has apologized for anti-Semitic comments he said last month at a Los Angeles event commemorating the assassination of Martin Luther King.

The Los Angeles Times on Friday reported a “reconciliation” meeting between the Pastor and Daphna Ziman - an Israeli-American philanthropist and the recipient of this year’s Tom Bradley Award for community service, for whose honor Lee made the keynote speech at an award ceremony in Los Angeles.

During his speech, Lee, the local president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a civil rights group, is reported to have suddenly launched an anti-Semitic rant, stating that Jews have made money on blacks in the music business.

In fact, there has been much dispute, which I reported several times over, about exactly what Lee said. And the word missing from the above story is “alleged.” It is what Lee is “alleged” to have said. But Ha’aretz’ Shlomo Shamir, like so many people who read Lee’s apology, assumed, apparently without talking with Lee or Daphna Ziman, the Jewish philanthropist whose emailed account of Lee’s speech went viral.

The difference between Shamir’s news article and the Wall Street Journal op-ed by MLK’s former lawyer is just that: One was news and the other opinion. Both, though, need to be accurate.

We likely will never know what exactly Lee said during his April 4 keynote before members of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity. Ziman and Lee, however, appear to have moved on with the ceremonial breaking of bread. My colleague, Tom Tugend, has a report from the publicized meeting.

Judging by the determinedly upbeat comments of the participants, their private deliberations had touches of a peace summit, a revival meeting and an exploration of past, present and future relations between the African American and Jewish communities.

Ziman and Lee, sitting side by side and occasionally linking hands, were a picture of amity and good will, with both crediting their reconciliation to “divine intervention.”

Ziman noted that in the past three weeks she had moved “from shedding tears to a sense of hope” and stressed that those present had a responsibility not to damage future generations through prejudice.

“I request the pledge of every religious leader in the United States that no racism be spouted in public places and places of worship,” she said.

Lee described Ziman and himself as “two passionate and well-intentioned people who both love God.”

(Thanks to Richard Silverstein for emailing me Shamir’s dispatch)

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