Touring Derrick Bell’s Afrolantica, Part 4: The Wages of Antisemitism

Part 1: A Guided Tour Through Derrick Bell’s Afrolantica Legacies

Part 2: A ‘Euphoria of Freedom’

Part 3: What Could it Mean to Be White?

I planned to blog about the late Derrick Bell’s Afrolantica Legacies from beginning to end. However, recent events in France necessitate a brief detour to the book’s sixth — and longest — chapter. “Shadowboxing: Blacks, Jews and Games Scapegoats Play” features two dialogues devoted to Bell’s defense of Louis Farrakhan, the antisemitic leader of the Nation of Islam.


Bell describes a radical student named Nat T (a reference to the slave revolt led by Nat Turner) who comes to visit him in his law school office. When Bell rejects Nat T’s violent, kill-all-the-white-people rhetoric the student storms out, promising to murder him and the other “black tokens” when the revolution arrives.

As Nat T leaves the building he upsets Ben Hirsch, a Jewish faculty member whom Bell describes as “a staunch supporter of Israel where he travels frequently and consults with the government.” Hirsch comes to Bell to complain, leading to a Socratic dialogue where Bell blows over a series of Straw Man arguments. Despite Bell’s reliance on cliches throughout his narratives, this invention of a pro-Israel professor shows a genuine gift for the surreal.

Page 89:

“… when one black leader makes comments they deem anti-Semitic…”

Bell denied Farrakhan’s antisemitism. And his sentiment mirrors paleo-conservative former MSNBC contributor Pat Buchanan’s description of Father Charles Coughlin (who published the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in his newspaper Social Justice in the 1930s) as “an alleged antisemite.”

On page 97 Bell reprints a blurb he provided for Farrakhan’s book A Torchlight for America:

“his basic sermon… is a quite conservative message of self-help.”


“Unlike those conservatives, black and white, who only preach self-help to the poor as a crowd-pleasing abstraction, Farrakhan’s formulas emphasize the Nation of Islam’s experience in educating black children, rehabilitating black prisoners, ridding black communities of drug dealers, and rebuilding respect for self — the essential prerequisite for individuals determined to maintain the struggle against the racism that burdens our lives and, unless curbed, will destroy this country.”

Antisemitic political cults regularly implement extensive social services to dupe citizens into supporting them. Hamas spends 80-85 percent of its annual $70-90 million budget on schools, clinics, and other welfare-related programs. The IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation (which sponsored the flotillas to break Israel’s defensive blockade of Gaza) acts as the charitable wing of the Muslim Brotherhood. In the 1970s the Black Panthers set up lunch programs and schools while they stockpiled guns. During the height of the Ku Klux Klan’s power in the 1920s, they too invested in community programs and social services to sway people to their side.

On page 98 we get to the crux of the matter:

“… I am moved to his side [Farrakhan’s] by the ‘take no prisoners’ attitude of his attackers; for example, when Benjamin F. Chavis, the former NAACP executive director, warned his Anti-Defamation League (A.D.L.) counterpart, Abraham Foxman, that continued A.D.L. attacks on Farrakhan could create precisely what Jewish leaders say they fear: black anti-Semitism.”


Bell believed that the Jews were the guilty party in inspiring others to hate them. How is this doctrine different from Peter Beinart’s claim that settlement construction motivates the Palestinians to refuse peace with Israel? And why would the Obama administration object to new apartments in Jerusalem?

On page 99, further confirmation of Bell’s antisemitism through his reliance on the Protocols conspiracy theory:

“In addition, there is the use of economic clout to threaten business enterprises of those deemed dangerous to Jewish interests.”

And on page 101:

“Jewish groups utilize their formidable economic power to intimidate blacks into halting actions that Jews find offensive.”

Here Bell employs a sanitized variation of the “Jews control the economy” delusion, the second example provided in the European Union definition of antisemitism.

What ideas about Jews do you suppose Mohamed Merah filled his head with all his life?

Updated: The wages of antisemitism now paid in full, as the Washington Post reports:

An Islamic extremist who boasted of killing seven people to strike back at France died Thursday after jumping from his window, gun in hand, in a fierce shootout with police, a French minister said.

Interior Minister Claude Gueant said the suspect, who claimed links to al-Qaida, jumped out after police entered the apartment Thursday and found him holed up in the bathroom.

The death of Mohamed Merah, 23, ended a more than 32-hour standoff with an elite police squad trying to capture him alive. Merah was wanted in the deaths of seven people, three paratroopers, three Jewish schoolchildren and a rabbi, all killed over 10 days. Another student and another paratrooper were wounded in his attacks.



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