CHICAGO – Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan has written the leaders of more than a dozen major U.S. Jewish groups and denominations seeking "repair of my people from the damage" he claims Jews have caused blacks for centuries.
Farrakhan sent the letter along with two books from the Nation of Islam Historical Research Team that the 77-year-old minister said prove "an undeniable record of Jewish Anti-Black behavior," starting with the slave trade and Jim Crow laws.
"We could charge you with being the most deceitful so-called friend, while your history with us shows you have been our worst enemy," he wrote.
Farrakhan has long accused Jews of wrongdoing in speeches, but he has rarely addressed Jewish groups so directly in writing.
The Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish civil rights group which distributed copies of the letter, said in a statement Tuesday that Farrakhan's "anti-Semitism is obsessive, diabolical and unrestrained. He has opened a new chapter in his ministry where scapegoating Jews is not just part of a message, but the message."
In the letter, dated last Thursday, the Chicago-based Nation of Islam leader said he sought a dialogue with Jews. He sent the letter to groups including the Orthodox and Reform movements, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and the American Jewish Committee, a New York-based advocacy and humanitarian nonprofit that spearheads inter-religious dialogue.
"This is an offer asking you and the gentiles whom you influence to help me in the repair of my people from the damage that has been done by your ancestors to mine," he writes. "Your present reality is sitting on top of the world in power, with riches and influences, while the masses of my people ... are in the worst condition of any member of the human family."
In the past, Farrakhan's most inflammatory comments have included referring to Judaism as a "gutter religion" and calling Adolf Hitler "wickedly great." Recently, he has railed against the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which he claims is conspiring to trap the U.S. in a war with Iran.
Farrakhan echoed similar comments last Saturday in an Atlanta speech titled, "Who Are the Real Children of Israel?"
He did not respond to several messages seeking comment Tuesday. Farrakhan has over the years denied claims of anti-Semitism, arguing his remarks are often taken out of context and that criticism of Jews in any light automatically earns the "anti-Semite" label.
Associated Press Religion Writer Rachel Zoll in New York contributed to this report.
Nation of Islam: www.noi.org
Anti-Defamation League: www.adl.org