Hip-hop Mogul Russell Simmons created a firestorm after making a comparison between Anti-Defamation League president Abraham Foxman and the Minister Louis Farrakhan. Foxman is calling the comparison, which occurred this week while Simmons was in Jerusalem for the Israel Presidential Conference, “outrageous and ugly.”
During his now-contentious remarks, Simmons defended the friendship he has with Farrakhan and dismissed the radical faith leader’s comments on Jews. In drawing his comparison, the business leader claimed that Foxman has alienated African Americans just as Foxman has purportedly alienated Jews.
While Foxman is outraged by the incident, some are coming to Simmons’ defense, claiming that the mogul was joking around in making the statement. Rabbi Marc Schneier, who co-founded the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding with Simmons, claims that he saw the mogul wink when he was making the comments and that they were made in jest.
“I find it sad that Abe would expend so much time and energy in attacking Russell Simmons, who is one of the greatest friends of the Jewish people and a tireless advocate of the state of Israel,” Schneier apparently told JTA following the incident.
But Foxman remained frustrated by the comments. It is interesting to note that the ADL leader has praised Simmons publicly before for his engagement with Jews and his outreach to bridge divides between African Americans and the Jewish people.
“What’s surprising is that Simmons did it in Jerusalem,” Foxman said. “What’s disappointing is that someone who has a history of having a blind spot to one of the most vociferous and ugly anti-Semites would be given a platform in Jerusalem. And what’s outrageous is how divisive and ugly his attack on us was. And, finally, what’s shocking is that his colleague and partner, Rabbi Marc Schneier, stood by in silence.”
Read more about the debate here.
(H/T: JTA via The Jewish Forward)