That Time Mort Klein Called Ice Cube a ‘Rap Terrorist’

Mort Klein says he doesn’t believe the rapper is antisemitic, following two-hour call with him, amid antisemitism storm – but he wasn’t so friendly in 1992

Allison Kaplan Sommer
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Morton Klein, left, and Ice Cube.
Morton Klein, left, and Ice Cube.Credit: Josef Svetsky / Sports PPP Loans Basketball
Allison Kaplan Sommer

Despite being well-known for his confrontational behavior, Zionist Organization of America President Morton Klein struck an unusually conciliatory tone this week: He reached out to Ice Cube in the midst of a controversy over the rapper’s posting of antisemitic imagery and support for controversial Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan on social media.

Klein announced on Twitter Tuesday that he’d “just had a 2 hour conversation with Ice Cube,” during which “Cube told me he supports condemning Black & all antisemitism & I condemned all racism.”

In addition, the pair discussed growing up “poor in Black hoods,” and “Cube told me he thanked Jews” for “starting NAACP, many Black schools & fighting for Black civil rights.” 

By the end of their conversation – which, Klein said in an interview with the JTA, included a dinner invitation from the rapper and a request to “call him Cube” – Klein did not believe the former N.W.A. star was antisemitic. The article also said Klein reported that Ice Cube “admitted to wrongly ignoring Farrakhan’s anti-Semitism because of his support for Farrakhan’s message of Black self-reliance.”

Ice Cube acknowledged Klein’s efforts, tweeting him a “shout out” for having “the courage to seek the truth and speak with me and see for himself I am obviously NOT an anti-Semite or racist,” and expressed admiration “for the advocacy of his people.”  

Speaking with the JTA’s Shira Hanau after the conversation, Klein gave his interviewer the impression that he “didn’t know much about Ice Cube when he got on the phone with him” and “did not know the extent of Ice Cube’s support for Farrakhan, including in some recent tweets.” 

But in 1992, Klein appeared familiar enough with Ice Cube’s work to label him and his peers part of a violent, anti-white, antisemitic and misogynistic phenomenon he described as a “cultural Molotov cocktail” that was “increasingly being hurled” at Jews.

“A new term, ‘rap terrorism’ seems an appropriate label for these hate-filled violent and hate-filled lyrics/videos and rap music,” wrote Klein, then president of the Philadelphia chapter of the American Zionist Federation, in an Op-Ed published in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The Morton Klein Op-Ed on "rap terrorism" in the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1992.
The Morton Klein Op-Ed on "rap terrorism" in the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1992.

The piece opens with a description of how “major rapper Ice Cube pleads for violence against Jews to ‘get rid of that devil. Real simple. Put a bullet in his temple. Cause you can’t be a n***** for life crew with a white Jew telling you what to do.” 

He also noted that “in Ice Cube’s album, ‘Death Certificate,’ Koreans are threatened: “Pay respect to the black fist or we’ll burn your store right down to a crisp.” 

When he penned the piece, Klein appeared to be fully aware of the connection Ice Cube and his fellow rappers had to Farrakhan’s ideology. 

“Most of this ‘rap terrorism’ did not appear out of nowhere,” Klein declared. “The message of hatred by Rev. Louis Farrakhan, Prof. Louis Jeffries, et. al. seems to be having a significant impact among many rap musicians.” 

He worried that the “rapidly growing musical genre” would “create tensions between people, reduce traditional moral values, and even cheapen the value of life.” He also lamented the fact that instead of being “denounced” and “shunned,” many young people “revere these rappers.” 

Quoting a historian who observed how “verbal slanders” against Jews had in the past led to bloodshed, he concluded that this applied to slander in rap music too, and that “‘rap terrorism’ must be condemned and stopped.”

Klein himself is no stranger to attacks on rhetoric that critics charge is racist. 

He has called the Black Lives Matter movement “a Jew hating, White hating, Israel hating, conservative Black hating, violence promoting, dangerous Soros funded extremist group of haters,” sparking widespread condemnation from other Jewish leaders he sits alongside on the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. 

Union for Reform Judaism President Rabbi Rick Jacobs has said that Klein’s membership in the group means the other groups are “implicated by his views, his Islamophobia, his racism, full stop.”

Klein filed a 114-page complaint with the umbrella group in June, accusing 14 organizations of making false and disparaging comments about him, in violation of the organization’s rules against publicly attacking fellow group members. 

ZOA’s countercomplaint was in response to a complaint filed in May by HIAS, a leading refugee advocacy and assistance agency, charging that Klein had disparaged them, adding: “HIAS regrets that the Conference lacks any standards forbidding or even discouraging hate speech against other minority groups.”

Morton Klein did not respond to a request to comment on this story.