Yesterday, Athletes Against Antisemitism – a virtual event to combat antisemitism and promote racial justice and unity – was held online, hosted by Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Zach Banner.
I’m hosting my first virtual panel!
For more info and to register –> https://t.co/2PTYYrrty8 pic.twitter.com/To65EBlKLA
— Zach Banner (@ZBNFL) February 10, 2021
We already know how amazing Zach is as an ally to the Jewish community, so I was looking forward to it.
Then a controversy threatened to derail everything.
About a day before the event, it came to the attention of many that one of those participating was hip-hop artist Jasiri X, who is also the founder/CEO of 1Hood. This seemed highly problematic, given his past which includes his relationship with Louis Farrakhan, who he has called his “spiritual father”:
Jasiri X is affiliated with Muhammad Mosque No. 22 of Pittsburgh and calls Louis Farrakhan his “spiritual father.” pic.twitter.com/vGkVLHQHYw
— John-Paul Pagano (@johnpaulpagano) May 3, 2017
his demonization of Israel, calling us an “apartheid” state, and even creating a song about it:
and his choice in friends :
With a day to go before the panel, the question was: what to do?
Some, like Stop Antisemitism, felt quick action was required; so they publicized all of this ahead of the event in order to pressure the organizers to remove Jasiri X.
Why is a Jew hater speaking on tomorrow’s panel ‘Athletes Against Antisemitism”?! @jasiri_x claims:
👉🏻 Jews are white supremacicts
👉🏻 Jews poison the water of Palestinians
👉🏻 Jews train U.S. Police officers to kill Black Americans
Jasiri is an antisemitic bigot! pic.twitter.com/XKiPcXJTCq
— StopAntisemitism.org (@StopAntisemites) February 16, 2021
I personally felt conflicted.
On one hand, I found his inclusion on the panel troubling as well. My issue was I felt publicizing this could embarrass Zach Banner, a genuine ally of the Jewish community. I preferred the backdoor approach – approaching him behind the scenes.
But time was running out. My contact was unable to contact Zach and the event went ahead with Jasiri.
Then this happened.
I applaud Jasiri X for his unqualified apology. There were no excuses, no “I’m anti-Zionist-not-antisemitic” sentiments.
He directly confronted his past and even understood exactly why he was called out on it. That takes courage.
Just like with the case of Nick Cannon, I support building bridges with those who seem sincere in doing so, rather than tearing them down for past antisemitism. As the Rabbi said, this seemed like real teshuva.
I don’t regret my approach of not calling out Jasiri X’s participation publicly before the event because my concern for Zach Banner and not hurting him is not something I should apologize for. But in this case, there is no doubt the approach of those who did publicly call it out directly led to this powerful moment.
To support our work, please click on one of these options: