Nation of Islam blasting ADL before Million Man anniversary

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WASHINGTON — A rally marking the one-year anniversary of the Million Man March will unfold next week on the Anti-Defamation League's doorstep.

United Nations Plaza will serve as the backdrop, but the ADL headquarters is located just across the street.

It may be pure coincidence, but after an editorial this week in The Final Call, the Nation of Islam's newspaper, stepped up its vitriol against the ADL, officials at the Jewish defense organization say they will eye the rally warily.

"We would be irresponsible if we weren't concerned," said Abraham Foxman, the ADL's national director.

Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan has designated Wednesday, Oct. 16 a World Day of Atonement, calling on nations to "put aside violence, murder and war" in order to "atone, repent and reconcile."

Publicity for the event has failed to match the hype that accompanied last year's controversial Million Man March on Washington, which gathered up to 500,000.

Moreover, the rally comes shortly after turnout fell short of expectations at a political summit late last month in St. Louis, which was billed as a follow-up to the Million Man March.

Still, no one is guessing how many people the Manhattan rally will draw. Phil Baum, executive director of the American Jewish Congress, believes that this year's event is receiving less attention because public perception has turned against Farrakhan.

"His positions have been so compromised and undermined by his blatant association with dictators around the world that it's hard to believe that any balanced or reasonable observer could believe that this is a message intended to promote peace and better understanding," Baum said.

Last year, as many black leaders scrambled to secure a spot on the podium alongside Farrakhan, Jewish leaders urged those opposed to bigotry to stay away from the Million Man March. That kind of call does not appear necessary now,Foxman said.

"I don't see a stampede of people wanting to participate. Even Jack Kemp hasn't said that he wants an invitation," Foxman said, referring to a recent interview in which Kemp, the Republican vice presidential candidate, praised Farrakhan's self-help philosophy and said he wished he spoke at the Million Man March.

As for the day's theme of atonement and reconciliation, Jewish leaders continue to see Farrakhan's use of such language as cynical.

"He certainly hasn't atoned," Foxman said, noting the courtesy calls Farrakhan placed this year to various dictators who sponsor terrorism, including Libya's Moammar Khadafy.

Similarly, atonement and reconciliation are not exactly the themes that jump out of the Nation of Islam's most recent editorial about the ADL.

Running under the headline "ADL: Enemy to the people," the editorial said the ADL, by pressuring the federal government to cancel contracts with security firms affiliated with the Nation of Islam, was responsible for "the loss of Black lives in cities throughout America."

The editorial also accused the ADL and the CIA of conspiring to bring crack cocaine into black communities. Recent news reports have uncovered a link between CIA funding of the Nicaraguan Contra rebels and drug dealing in U.S. cities.

While hardly charting new editorial ground for a publication that has devoted considerable ink over the years to anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, Foxman said the editorial nonetheless constitutes a "high level of incitement which we find very disturbing."

The timing of the attack piece, appearing one week before the U.N. rally, was puzzling too, he added.

The Nation of Islam and The Final Call did not return phone calls.

The scene at the United Nations Oct. 16 might have differed had New York City officials granted Jewish groups the permit they were seeking for a rally of their own. Oct. 16 marks the 10-year anniversary of the capture of Ron Arad, an Israeli air force pilot shot down over Lebanon and rumored to be alive.

Jewish groups were hoping to hold their rally to call for the release of Israeli MIAs on the 16th, but rescheduled it for Oct. 14 after city officials denied their permit request.

The Nation of Islam had beat them to it.