History will remember Jesse Jackson as “a man of God and of the people,” who is “determined, strategic and unafraid of the work to redeem the soul of our nation,” U.S. President Biden said on July 16.
In the White House announcement, which marked the 81-year-old Baptist minister and activist’s retirement, Biden invoked a quote from Jewish scripture—that man is created in the divine image. He called Jackson an “extraordinary” leader, who “helped lead our nation forward through tumult and triumph,” adding, “We will continue to cherish the counsel and wisdom that we draw from him.”
Jackson announced on Saturday that he would step down from the Chicago nonprofit Rainbow PUSH Coalition, which he founded in 1996 and which traces its history back to 1971. Rev. Frederick Douglass Haynes, of Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas, will become the new head of the group.
“Jackson, who has dealt with several health problems in recent years and uses a wheelchair, capped the proceedings with muted remarks,” the Associated Press reported, “the once-fiery orator spoke so softly it was difficult to hear him.”
The White House statement reflected nothing of Jackson’s long history of anti-Jewish offenses, alongside his more than 50 years as a civil-rights activist.
“I’m sick and tired of hearing constantly about the Holocaust. The Jews don’t have a monopoly on suffering,” Jackson said, per 1984 New York Times reporting. On a visit to Yad Vashem in 1979, Jackson said that “such genocide should ‘not be allowed to happen to anyone, including the Palestinians,’” according to The Washington Post.
Jackson referred to New York as “Hymietown” and Jews as “Hymies” in an interview with Washington Post journalist Milton Coleman during Jackson’s 1984 campaign for the Democratic nomination for president.
The Times reported that Jackson’s “problems were compounded” when antisemitic Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan threatened Coleman with death. Even years after Jackson sought to sever his close political connections with Farrakhan, “deep suspicions persist among Jews,” per the Times.
“Farrakhan became widely known in 1984, when he endorsed the presidential campaign of Jesse Jackson. At the time, Farrakhan attracted significant attention for his antisemitic and anti-white statements,” the ADL states. “While Jackson disavowed some of Farrakhan’s remarks at the time, he has since taken part in several NOI events.”
More recently, Jackson referred at the World Policy Forum in France in 2008 to “Zionists who have controlled American policy for decades” and “decades of putting Israel’s interests first,” which he said would end during Barack Obama’s presidency.
“Not surprisingly, those words had Obama’s aides quickly running for cover,” per a New York Post staff opinion piece.
“He meant what he said. Until things blew up in his face,” the Post added. “Jesse Jackson needs to shut up and realize that his biggest enemy is his mouth.”