Gates, Crowley, and the Jews
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Gates, Crowley, and the Jews

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President Obama toasts with Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., left, and Cambridge Police Sgt. James Crowley at the start of their meeting in the White House Rose Garden on July 30. White House/Pete Souza

Following Cambridge police officer Jim Crowley’s arrest last month of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, both men found themselves locked in a public feud and under attack from various ideologues. Some called Crowley a bigoted cop, others tagged Gates as a race-baiter.

In the end, however, both took President Obama up on his offer to make peace last week over beers at the White House – a development that probably should not have come as a shock for those in the Jewish community who know either man.

On the eve of the July 30 beer powwow, The Wall Street Journal’s SpeakEasy blog reported that in 2007 Crowley attended a three-day program for police officers on racial profiling at the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles. The Journal quoted museum officials as saying that the staff was so impressed with Crowley that they invited him back a year later for an advanced seminar, museum officials say.

“He stands out to me,” said Sunny Lee-Goodman, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center program that Crowley attended. “He was one of those people who really engaged in sessions, who really showed a high level of understanding of the issue.”

As it turns out, according to the Journal, Gates is also “prominently featured” at the center’s law enforcement training programs: “At the center’s New York tolerance center, etched on a wall near inspirational words from Gandhi and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., is a quotation from Gates: ‘There is no tolerance without respect. There is no respect without knowledge.'”

Of course, a two-sentence quote on a plaque is unlikely to impress Gates’ critics. But Gates has previously drawn praise for a much-talked-about opinion piece that he wrote in 1992 in The New York Times criticizing black anti-Semitism and some of its main purveyors at the time, including Louis Farrakhan and Leonard Jeffries. In particular, Gates took aim at the scholarship and underlying racist worldview behind the Nation of Islam’s “The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews,” a discredited but popular tract asserting that Jews played a disproportionate role in the slave trade.

“Many Jews are puzzled by the recrudescence of black anti-Semitism in view of the historic alliance,” Gates wrote. “The brutal truth has escaped them: that the new anti-Semitism arises not in spite of the black-Jewish alliance but because of it. For precisely such transracial cooperation – epitomized by the historic partnership between blacks and Jews – is what poses the greatest threat to the isolationist movement. In short, for the tacticians of the new anti-Semitism, the original sin of American Jews was their involvement – truly ‘inordinate,’ truly ‘disproportionate’ – not in slavery, but in the front ranks of the civil rights struggle.”

More recently, Gates wrote a blurb for Alan Dershowitz’s “The Case for Israel,” describing the 2003 book as “indispensable reading for those of us who are deeply disturbed by the rise of anti-Semitism in American society, even on college campuses.”

This article was adapted from JTA’s The Telegraph blog (blogs.jta.org/telegraph).

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