Blacks praise of Farrakhan stuns Jewish organizations

In a move to reconcile with Farrakhan, Hugh Price, president of the Urban League, praised march organizers for holding the biggest "family values" rally in U.S. history. He also applauded Farrakhan's offer to hold a dialogue with Jews.

"I commend Minister Farrakhan for his overture to the Jewish community before a worldwide audience," Price told blacks gathered at the National African American Leadership Summit. "I hope it will be reciprocated and that the serious work of interracial healing and collaboration will begin."

The praise for Farrakhan — coming from a black leader who earned respect from Jews for speaking out against anti-Semitism and racism when others remained silent — has caused a stir in Jewish quarters.

Jewish leaders have categorically rejected Farrakhan's call for dialogue, saying that the Nation of Islam leader must first renounce anti-Semitism, racism and bigotry and apologize for past statements.

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, criticized Price's remarks. "I am surprised that Hugh Price would commend Farrakhan for his overture to the Jewish community because that overture is a sham," he said.

While accepting praise at the conference from Price, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Harvard professor Cornel West, among others, Farrakhan lashed out at black church leaders who boycotted the Million Man March and continue to shun him in the community.

Black ministers, Farrakhan was quoted as saying, have misunderstood him and his commitment to God and Jesus. Likening himself to Jesus, he said: "When I speak, blind people see, deaf people hear, dumb people speak, the sick get healed and the mentally dead people come to life. Dope addicts get cleaned up, alcoholics get saved, homosexuals get turned around."

Speaking at a news conference capping the summit, Farrakhan also charged that he, like Jesus, faces persecution from Jews.

"I don't talk Jesus, I live Jesus, and that's why I'm in trouble like he was. Do you understand what I'm saying? The same scribes that were enemies of Jesus, how do you write about me?" he said. "You can't defeat me because he who is in me is the master of it all."