Impunity for Anti-Semitism at Penn

Penn's Muslim Students Association recently invited Bill Baker, head of Christians and Muslims for Peace, to speak at Penn's recent Islam Awareness Week.

Francisco J. Gil-White

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Penn's Muslim Students Association recently invited Bill Baker, head of Christians and Muslims for Peace, to speak at Penn's recent Islam Awareness Week.

What kind of awareness was Baker's $5,000 fee supposed to bring?

Baker chaired the Populist Party, founded and bankrolled by Willis Carto, best known for his neo-Nazi Institute for Historical Review - which publishes pseudo-academic fabrications denying the Holocaust - and for his ties to the Ku Klux Klan, which has mutilated and/or murdered thousands of blacks. In 1988, the presidential candidate of his Populist Party was David Duke, former "Grand Wizard" of the Ku Klux Klan. (His campaign manager was former American Nazi leader Ralph Forbes.)

When the Orange County Weekly exposed Baker's neo-Nazi history in 2002, he replied in writing: "I never supported the views of Willis Carto... I was chairman of the Populist Party for a short time and publicly resigned due to infiltration from various racist individuals and organizations."

I can find no record of Baker's "public" resignation. In any case, why would racists need to "infiltrate" a party founded by a neo-Nazi? And if Baker really opposes Willis Carto's anti-black and anti-Jewish hate-mongering, why join his party, let alone become the chairman? Finally, why would Baker, if non-racist, organize that party's 1984 national convention, which called for restoring anti-black (Jim Crow) segregation laws?

This information has already brought public disgrace to Baker. Following the OC Weekly expose, an embarrassed Rev. Robert Schuller of Crystal Cathedral fired him and evicted his CAMP organization. So how does Baker's well-known record fit with his Penn theme of "Finding Common Ground between Islam and Christianity?"


? Speaking in 1983, before the anti-black, anti-Jewish Christian Patriot Defense League in Missouri, Baker expressed his disgust at New York, "'Cause the first people I meet when I get off the plane are pushy, belligerent American Jews."

? Baker's book Theft of a Nation calls for dismantling the "Zionist State."

Given that Baker's professional anti-Semitism is well known, and given the long Christian and Muslim history of persecuting Jews, what does it mean for the MSA to honor Baker as the first non-Muslim to speak at Islam Awareness Week? Baker's Christian-Muslim unity is a euphemism for anti-Semitism.

One has cause for worry. Muslim extremists have cooperated closely with Nazis since the 1930s. A relevant example here is the Islamist Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, founder of the Palestinian movement and Yasser Arafat's mentor and hero. Hajj Amin was a top Nazi. Meeting with Hitler in 1941, the Mufti begged him to invade the Middle East and exterminate the one million Jews still living in Arab-dominated lands. Hitler promised to put the Mufti in charge of the killing. Then the Mufti went to Bosnia, where he organized thousands of Muslim volunteers into the Nazi SS Handzar Division, and the Nazi SS Freiwilligen-BH-Gebirgs-Division. They hunted down Yugoslav Serbs, Jews and Roma (Gypsies), slaughtering them in their homes, or in the Jasenovac death camps of the Ustashe (Croatian Nazis). The Mufti intervened with pro-Nazi governments in Eastern Europe, making sure that additional hundreds of thousands of Jews were shipped to the death camps.

Those who invited Baker therefore have some explaining to do, and this includes the Penn administration, which helped pay Baker's $5,000 fee.

But here is the saddest detail. Christopher Strong from McGill University sent an outraged letter to The Daily Pennsylvanian attacking the Baker event. In stark contrast, Penn Hillel President Jason Auerbach reacted with lightning speed, co-signing with MSA President Muhammed Mekki a reply published in the DP. The authors reaffirmed the unity of Penn's Muslims and Jews and "worried that questions about Baker's character [i.e. his neo-Nazism] might distract some students from the broad but vital message of IAW."

But the message of IAW is hardly independent of their choice of speakers.

Since the Auerbach-Mekki letter states that "shortly before the event, Hillel discovered evidence of Baker's past anti-Semitism," the MSA shouldn't have let him speak.

Instead of protesting, Hillel co-signed a letter that included no apology from the MSA. This, despite the fact that MSA leader Mekki had stated that Baker's "alleged anti-Semitic position 'is irrelevant to the discussion.'"

Despite recurring historical tragedies, many Jews still think that they can woo gentiles to tolerance by pushing anti-Semitism under the rug. But this teaches contempt for Jews and encourages anti-Semitism as an acceptable norm. "We don't want trouble" is not a strategy for tolerance.

Rather, Jews should be insisting on respect. Like everybody else, they deserve it. How can us Gentiles who oppose anti-Semitism make headway if many Jews, motivated by a mistaken charity, go out of their way to be "understanding" of this prejudice?

[This article originally appeared in the Daily Pennsylvanian on November 5, 2003. Footnotes and citations can be found at]