Allegations of Anti-Semitism at Los Angeles MLK Event

ImageImagine attending an event to celebrate Martin Luther King Day 2008 in a major U.S. city, during which the keynote speaker makes blatantly anti-Semitic remarks. Imagine further that in attendance at this MLK event are the mayor, city council members, a state senator, and a state assemblyman – all of whom sit in silence as the speaker goes off on a tangent about rich Jews holding blacks down. Imagine further that the speaker makes these anti-Semitic remarks right after saying “Thank Jesus for Barack Obama.” It would be a story worth reading.

Daphna Ziman is the founder of Children Uniting Nations. According to their web site, “CUN is a proactive organization created to bring attention to the plight of at-risk and foster youth. The goal is to reach as many children in out-of-home care by offering role-model support, guidance, a sense of community and promote the importance of an education.”

Ziman was attending an MLK event held by African-American fraternity Kappa Alpha Psi, where she received a community service award for CUN’s mentoring work in Los Angeles’ inner city. Ziman’s award was followed by the keynote speaker, Rev. Eric Lee, President/CEO of the L.A. branch of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. In an e-mail Ziman sent her friends and colleagues following the event, she accused Lee of making some highly inflammatory comments, right after he compared Barack Obama to Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X (emphasis in original):

It was right after the mention of Malcolm X that he looked right at me and started talking about the African American children who are suffering because of the JEWS that have featured them as rapists and murderers.

He spoke of a Jewish Rabbi, and then corrected himself to say “What other kind of Rabbis are there, but JEWS”. He told how this Rabbi came to him to say that he would like to bring the AA community and the Jewish community together. “NO, NO, NO,!!!!” he shouted into the crowd, we are not going to come together. “The Jews have made money on us in the music business and we are the entertainers, and they are economically enslaving us”

Ziman, an Israeli-American, was so incensed by what she heard that she stormed off the stage in tears. Earlier this week, she gave an interview to Roger Simon of Pajamas Media (click here for video) in which she elaborates on her accusations, and even says that Assemblyman Mike Davis approached her afterwards and apologized personally for Lee’s anti-Semitic remarks.

A fascinating story – naked bigotry at a Martin Luther King Day celebration. If it’s true. In the Pajamas Media video, Ziman – who supports Hillary Clinton for President, and who mentioned Clinton in her own remarks when she accepted the Kappa Alpha Psi award – doesn’t hesitate to draw parallels between Lee and the infamous Jeremiah Wright. Ziman goes so far as to say Obama himself should take responsibility for Lee’s remarks.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a firm account of what exactly Lee said in his keynote speech that Ziman took as anti-Semitic. According to the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, the only people who corroborate Ziman’s version of events are the guests who accompanied her to the ceremony. The Journal could not get anyone else on the record as to the actual content of Lee’s speech, or even if he said anything that could have been misconstrued – they all claim that they weren’t listening.

“I speak for a living, and I learned a long time ago that when you speak about controversial issues you have to be really careful and sometimes, even the best of people, will make mistakes. I can’t say I was tuned into what [Lee] was saying, but I do know people make errors,” said Assemblyman Mike Davis – the same man who Ziman says was so embarrassed by Lee’s anti-Semitic statements that he apologized to her personally.

Lee has issued a public statement denying that he made bigoted remarks, but he also sent a separate apology to Ziman over the misunderstanding. The formal apology is eloquent and contrite. The public denial was a little more nuanced:

In a very small part of my presentation, I referenced a meeting I had with Rabbi’s and other community leaders. A Rabbi stated in that meeting that the close relationship between the African American and Jewish communities had been disconnected after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. I further referenced in my speech that my response to the Rabbi was that the Black Power Movement emerged after the assassination of Dr. King and it was a direct response to the negative characterizations of African Americans through the silver screen, TV and the music industry, industries that are influenced by many in the Jewish community.

In fairness, Lee’s apology to Ziman occurred later, and thus supersedes the above statement, which seems to imply that Hollywood Jews have exploited black Americans. Despite Ziman’s obvious attempt to turn this episode into an attack on Obama, Lee has no apparent qualms about spreading the ugly “Jews control Hollywood” meme. Still, none of the public officials who attended were paying close enough attention to confirm or deny Ziman’s allegations of explicit anti-Semitism. The Los Angeles Times didn’t even report on the story until today, eight days after it happened. The Times doesn’t bother to quote Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s office, or any other public official who attended the event. The Times also doesn’t bother to clarify whether or not Assemblyman Mike Davis personally apologized to Ziman.

As usual, when a genuinely interesting news story is in the making, the establishment media is absent, late, or lacking details. And they wonder why so many Americans choose to get their news and comment from alternative newspapers and independent internet writers instead.

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