Last week an 800-word letter was sent to leading Anti-Defamation League activists by ADL President Jonathan Greenblatt. The letter was sent to counter what Greenblatt said was an “organized, concerted effort” to delegitimize the group.
Greenblatt listed the supposed myths/charges against the group, among them, that the ADL does not support Israel; that it no longer combats anti-Semitism; that it supports the movement to boycott Israel; and that Greenblatt is a Democratic operative. While Greenblatt didn’t state it, according to the JTA which broke the story, the ADL president’s purpose was to refute myths circulating in the right-wing Jewish blogosphere and on social media.
As someone who has been criticizing the organization for the past dozen years (and part of that right-wing Jewish blogosphere), I must disagree with the ADL President’s complaint. He is not comprehending the real complaint about the ADL. The vast majority of the complaints do not claim that the ADL has abandoned Israel, supports BDS, or no longer fights anti-Semitism. The majority of the attacks center around one serious charge against the group, a charge that was raised way before Greenblatt became the leader of the ADL. The charge is that the Anti-Defamation League prioritizes Democratic Party/ progressive political issues in front is stated mission, and when the two conflict, the ADL’s stated mission takes a back seat to party loyalty.
The ADL’s website describes its purpose:
“The Anti-Defamation League was founded in 1913 “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all.” Now the nation’s premier civil rights/human relations agency, ADL fights anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry, defends democratic ideals and protects civil rights for all.”
During the term of Greenblatt’s predecessor Abe Foxman, the ADL shifted direction, making Democratic Party politics its primary concern.
In his book “Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide,” Michael Oren wrote that at the very beginning of his administration, Obama met with his hand-picked members of Jewish leadership. Obama included the anti-Israel J Street which discarded the pro-Israel and actual part of Jewish leadership, the ZOA. As head of the ADL, Abe Foxman was part of that meeting.
According to Oren, Obama told the Jewish leadership that one of his goals was to put some distance between the US and Israel to make America look better to the Arab countries. “When there is no daylight,” the president told American Jewish leaders in 2009, “Israel just sits on the sidelines and that erodes our credibility with the Arabs.”
Obama followed through and by the middle of his first term he became possibly the most anti-Israel president in the history of Modern Israel. Despite the Obama policy (that Foxman and the supposed Jewish Leaders kept silent about), in 2011, Foxman’s ADL and the AJC led an effort asking Jews not to criticize Barack Obama’s anti-Israel policies. They asked Jews to pledge not to make Israel a wedge issue in the 2012 campaign.
The Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee have joined together in an effort to encourage other national organizations, elected officials, religious leaders, community groups and individuals to rally around bipartisan support for Israel while preventing the Jewish State from becoming a wedge issue in the upcoming campaign season. Join the ADL and AJC in taking the “National Pledge for Unity on Israel” — and sign our pledge.
The message was clear, even though Israel had ceased being a bi-partisan issue, they wanted the Jewish vote to continue to support Obama. The real purpose of their effort was to isolate Jewish groups who pointed out the failings of President Barack Obama’s anti-Israel policies. They wanted Jews to continue supporting the Democratic party because the ADL (and especially Foxman) had a vested interest in ensuring that the Jews continue to vote Democratic and re-elect this president, and the ADL’s leader feared losing access to the White House.
There is no better evidence of the ADL putting party before its mission than that the group remained silent about the Democratic Party, keeping three pro-Israel planks out of its platform in 2012, the Israeli flag burning, and other anti-Israel protests at the 2016 Democratic convention.
Under Foxman the ADL began to address issue that had nothing to do with its mission.
In 2007 they joined the Democratic Party in criticizing the Supreme Court’s decision upholding the laws against partial birth abortion. The issue in this case is not whether or not one supports abortion, especially partial birth abortion, but whether or not it is an issue for ADL.
At the end of 2010 President Obama was trying to sell the much criticized “Start Treaty.” At the time, John Podhoretz said the proposed treaty creates “a parallelism between American strength and Russian strength that is a very, very bad precedent in terms of how we ourselves think about American power.” Many others criticized the treaty as one-sided in favor of Russia, but the ADL stepped outside its mission. In a letter sent to all members of the Senate, the ADL urged Senators to put aside reservations about the treaty or its protocol in the interest of the greater goal of preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. No Kidding he wanted the senate to believe that the Start Treaty would prevent Iran from developing nukes. Heck the P5+1 nuclear treaty Obama approved last year didn’t even do that. The real reason for the Start treaty was Mr. Foxman and the ADL were trying prove that they were the real leaders of the progressive/Democratic party movement.
In 2009 ADL issued a “White Paper” promoting the progressive’s negative PR spin against the Tea Party Movement, calling it part of the “New Rage in America” (which wasn’t true). That same Anti-Defamation League refused to recognize the blatant anti-Semitism present in Democratic Party-approved Occupy Wall Street, until a campaign by Joel Pollak in Breitbart’s BigGovernment.com embarrassed them into making a statement.
When Bibi Netanyahu scheduled his March 2015 speech to Congress, Abe Foxman speaking for the ADL, took the Democratic Party position, telling The Jewish Daily Forward that the controversy over Netanyahu’s speech was unhelpful. He added that Netanyahu should stay home. “One needs to restart, and it needs a mature adult statement that this was not what we intended,” Foxman said in an interview. “It has been hijacked by politics. Now is a time to recalibrate, restart and find a new platform and new timing to take away the distractions.” Foxman was right when he said the speech had been hijacked by politics, but rather than call out those who were making it political (the White House and Democratic Party leadership), Foxman protected his position in the progressive movement and told the Israeli Premier to cancel his speech.
When Barack Obama tried to sell his Iran deal with words that William Daroff Senior Vice President for Public Policy and Director of the Washington office of The Jewish Federations of North America said echoed the false anti-Semitic canard that Jews pushed America into the Iraq War, the ADL was silent.
During his presidency, Obama has allied himself with Al Sharpton, who fomented the anti-Semitic pogrom in Crown Heights and incited the anti-Semitic fire-bombing of Freddy’s Fashion Mart in Harlem. Not only did the ADL fail to criticize the president for partnering with the unrepentant anti-Semite, but as Sharpton became important in Democratic Party politics, the ADL embraced Sharpton as well.
In 2016 Obama’s State Department condemned Israel for allowing people to build houses on the western side of the Jordan River. The land was legally purchased in 2009 by Dr. Irving and Cherna Moskowitz from US Presbyterian Church. It wasn’t the building of houses that the Obama administration objected to. If Christians or Muslims were to live in them, Obama wouldn’t have objected. As it is with so many other things, the Obama administration objected to the fact that Jews were going to live in those buildings. This wasn’t a statement about Israel “taking Palestinian land and building settlements,” the Obama administration was saying that Jews are not allowed to purchase land from Christians and build homes on the parcels, clearly an anti-Semitic position. Not wanting to criticize a Democratic Party president, the ADL was silent.
Then there are the two most recent examples: the ADL’s false charges of antisemitism against Steven Bannon, and their protection of Keith Ellison against valid charges that he is anti-Semitic and anti-Israel. The ADL criticized the Republican Bannon who has a history of supporting Jewish causes, and protected the Democrat who has a history of Antisemitism, associating with terrorist Muslim Brotherhood organizations and opposing the Jewish State. Mr. Greenblatt backed off both positions after he received overwhelming criticism.
Whether or not the reason behind the ADL’s initial stance on the Democrat Ellison, or Republican Bannon, has anything to do with their party affiliation cannot be proven. However, as pointed out by the examples above, those stances do follow a long-time ADL trend.
In his letter to supporters, Mr. Greenblatt, said the “attacks” on the ADL is part of the divisiveness in America today:
“Much of this campaign reflects wider trends of our time: the dangerous polarization in the US, Israel and within our community fed by the dogma that if you are not 100 percent with me you are the enemy as well as the phenomenon of ‘fake news’ where agenda-driven half-truths are presented as fact, reinforcing these hardened positions,” said the email, one of whose recipients posted the contents on Facebook.”
ADL President Jonathan Greenblatt is acting like the Republican and Democratic party establishments, who didn’t understand (or try to understand) the reasons for the candidacies of Bernie Sanders and President-Elect Donald Trump. Despite what Greenblatt believes, the criticism of the ADL has nothing to do with the polarization of America, nor can it be blamed on “fake news.”
The attacks on the ADL are based on false promises. The organization says its mission is fighting “anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry, defend[ing] democratic ideals and protect[ing] civil rights for all.” What that mission hid was that the organization doesn’t defend “democratic ideals” but “Democratic Party” ideals. The organization isn’t anti-Israel, nor have they stopped fighting anti-Semitism, it’s just that their priority is to be a one-sided political organization.