By SHIRA HANAU
NEW YORK CITY (JTA) – Mort Klein didn’t know much about Ice Cube when he got on the phone with him on Monday afternoon, July 27, but by the end of their two-hour conversation, Klein said he was convinced the rapper was not anti-Semitic.
In fact, the president of the right-wing Zionist Organization of America said, the rapper had invited Klein and his wife to dinner — once the pandemic is over.
“He called me Mort,” Klein told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “He told me to call him Cube.”
“Strange bedfellows” would be too mild a term to describe the new relationship between the two men.
Ice Cube has drawn widespread condemnation after repeatedly tweeting anti-Semitic images and support for Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who has disparaged Jews over the years, including comparing them to termites. Meanwhile, members of a leading Jewish group have filed complaints against Klein and the Zionist Organization of America for tweets and statements they say were Islamophobic and racist.
The phone call, which Klein said was set up by a mutual friend that he declined to name, is the latest in a series of public rapprochements between black celebrities accused of anti-Semitism and prominent Jews. Earlier this month, Nick Cannon sat down with a Los Angeles rabbi to learn about Judaism. The host of the reality singing competition show “The Masked Singer” had made anti-Semitic comments on his podcast for which he later apologized.
Both Condemn Racism
This call was different from others for several reasons, in part because Klein himself has been accused of making bigoted comments, including about black people.
“Cube told me he supports condemning Black and all antisemitism and I condemned all racism,” he wrote in a tweet describing the conversation.
The pair also did not share a recording, as others have done. But Ice Cube acknowledged the conversation in a tweet Tuesday in which he praised Klein for his advocacy.
Going into the call, Klein did not know the extent of Ice Cube’s support for Farrakhan, including in some recent tweets.
Told late Monday about a Twitter exchange last month in which the rapper told Jake Tapper to “watch your mouth” after the CNN anchor tweeted about Farrakhan’s propensity for hate speech, Klein said he would ask Ice Cube about it.
“That’s troubling,” Klein said. “Please send that to me, I’m not aware of this.”
By Tuesday morning, he spoke with the rapper again. Klein said Ice Cube told him “he deeply regrets putting that out” and that he admitted to wrongly ignoring Farrakhan’s anti-Semitism because of his support for Farrakhan’s message of black self-reliance. But Klein said he would not be satisfied until Ice Cube put out a statement condemning Farrakhan’s anti-Semitism, which he hoped would happen.
On the earlier call, Klein said, the two discussed Farrakhan in broad terms in addition to criticism the rapper has faced for tweeting other anti-Semitic messages and images. In June, the rapper tweeted a picture of a mural showing a group of white men with large noses sitting around a card table held up by black men. The mural was removed after critics accused the artist of depicting the men at the table with stereotypically anti-Semitic features. Klein said Ice Cube told him he hadn’t realized the mural was anti-Semitic.
“All he said is, ‘I’m not a Farrakhan follower and I don’t support any of this,’” Klein said.
Klein said Ice Cube appreciated a story he told about how he had been a decent athlete in the black neighborhood of his youth, but when he moved to a white Jewish neighborhood he became an “outstanding” one.
The two also discussed the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, according to Klein, who has called the movement “an antisemitic, Israel hating. Soros funded, racist extremist Israelophobic hate group” and “a Jew hating, white hating, Israel hating, conservative black hating, violence promoting, dangerous Soros funded extremist group of haters.”
Klein said he told Ice Cube about the “horrible” Black Lives Matter platform, referring to the 2016 platform by the Movement for Black Lives, an activist group that represents some groups but not the entire Black Lives Matter movement. Some Jewish groups have described the platform as anti-Semitic for accusing Israel of genocide and apartheid. Klein said Ice Cube had agreed that the platform was “terrible,” though the rapper has repeatedly tweeted his support for the movement.
While the rapper’s long affinity for Farrakhan disturbed Klein, he said he believes Ice Cube is sincere in his condemnation of anti-Semitism. He even told Klein that he supports the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state, which excited the right-wing Zionist.
“He’s not everything I would want him to be,” Klein said. “But he’s moving in that direction.”