Jonathan Tilove, Forward (New York City), March 3, 2006
For the small, hardy band of right-wing Jews who attended this past weekend’s American Renaissance Conference, the biennial gathering of white nationalists ended on a sour note.
The events Saturday, February 25, passed without major incident. But then, late Sunday morning, none other than former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke approached the microphone on the floor during the question-and-answer session for French writer Guillaume Faye. After congratulating Faye for stirring remarks that “touched my genes,” Duke asked if there weren’t an even more insidious threat to the West than Islam.
“There is a power in the world that dominates our media, influences our government and that has led to the internal destruction of our will and our spirit,” Duke said.
“Tell us, tell us,” came a call from the back of the room.
“I’m not going to say it,” Duke said to rising laughter.
But Michael Hart, a squat, balding Jewish astrophysicist from Maryland, was not amused. He rose from his seat, strode toward Duke (who loomed over him like an Aryan giant), spit out a curse — “You f . . . ing Nazi, you’ve disgraced this meeting” — and exited.
As it happens, only a few minutes earlier Hart, a mainstay of American Renaissance conferences, had been trying to reassure Herschel Elias, a first-time attendee from suburban Philadelphia, that he should not let his observation that the meeting was “infiltrated by Nazis and Holocaust deniers” ruin his impression of American Renaissance.
“The speakers aren’t Nazis,” Hart assured him. “Jared isn’t a Nazi.”
Jared is Jared Taylor, editor of American Renaissance magazine. He founded the publication 1990, and since 1994 he had sponsored the biennial conference that bears its name. A former liberal, Taylor is glib, gracious and genial, capable of putting his white nationalism in the most benign and commonsense terms.
“We mean well to all people,” he said in his address at this year’s conference, “but our own people come first.”
The conference has attracted ever larger crowds, with this year’s event drawing about 300 people — all white (no more than 5% Jewish) and most of them male. The attendees are united by a common belief in black intellectual inferiority, opposition to non-white immigration and ardor for maintaining America’s white majority. By the end of this seventh biennial conference, however, the delicate state of his coalition seemed apparent.
Hart, who spoke at the 1996 conference about his plan for a racial partition of the United States, said that Taylor now had to face the fact that he must purge the Nazis or lose the Jews. “He can’t expect Jews to come if there are Nazis here,” Hart said.
And therein lies Taylor’s dilemma.
From the start, he has been trying to de-Nazify the movement and draw the white nationalist circle wider to include Jews of European descent. But to many on the far right, taking the Jew-hatred out of white nationalism is like taking the Christ out of Christmas — a sacrilege. Actually inviting Jews into the movement is an act of lunacy, or betrayal, to them.
Still, just before dinner Saturday, Taylor sounded resolute.
“Ultimately, for all the things I care about to happen, Jews must be part of the movement,” he said in an interview. The reason, he added, is that Jews have influence and are widely seen as “the conscience of our society.”
For example, Taylor said, without Jewish support it will be nearly impossible to restrict immigration. Besides, the conference organizer said, as far as he is concerned, a white Jew is white.
Not everyone at last weekend’s meeting could stay cool on the Jewish question. Before Faye spoke, Michael Matthews, an attendee from New Jersey, passed Michael Berman in the hotel foyer.
“Are you a Jew?” Matthews demanded. “I don’t think you should be here.”
Berman was hurt.
“You see, there’s no home for me,” he sighed after Matthews had left. “I’m like a black sheep here and everywhere I go.”