The Anti-Defamation League Has Betrayed Its Cause

The prestigious organization whose original goal was to stop the defamation of the Jewish people is now tolerating and partnering with anti-Semitic progressive organizations.

Politics is a coalition game. In it, one has to decide who is friend and who is foe; who to attack, and who to defend; who to partner with, and who is beyond cooperation. Where one draws his coalition line, there one delineates his political principles and moral values.

Viewed as such, one cannot escape the disturbing reality that the Anti-Defamation-League (ADL) has become a farce by collaborating with anti-Semitic left-wing movements.

It is no secret that Jonathan Greenblatt, the current National Director and CEO of the ADL, promotes a progressive agenda. After all, he served as an advisor to President Obama and headed his administration’s Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation. But one would expect the head of the ADL to do his best to prevent his political and ideological convictions from impeding his professional work. Unfortunately, Greenblatt fails to do so, and thus we witness his biases pervading his work at the ADL.

Different Kinds of Anti-Semitism?

For example, during Obama’s second term, physical assaults against Jews, certainly the worst form of anti-Semitism, rose sharply from 17 incidents in 2012, to 31 in 2013, 36 in 2014, and 56 in 2015, according to the ADL’s own reports. This staggering rise of 330% in four years was not met with a proper response by the ADL. To a lesser extent, this rise was evident in all other forms of anti-Semitism throughout the time period. However, only now do we find the ADL campaigning against the growth in anti-Semitism, with Greenblatt comparing the Trump era to the antisemitism of the 30’s.

A similar bias can be found in the latest ADL report, which expresses a rhetorical difference when addressing right-wing and left-wing antisemitism. Anti-Semitic incidents from the right:

need to be seen in the context of a general resurgence of white supremacist activity in the United States. Extremists and anti-Semites feel emboldened and are using technology in new ways to spread their hatred and to impact the Jewish community on and off line.

This is a sober and appropriately harsh description of the phenomenon, with no excuses made, and no justifications given. Now look at how anti-Semitism from the left is handled by the ADL.

We do not consider criticism of Israel to be anti-Semitic.

However, the assumption that American Jews are somehow responsible for the actions of the Israeli government, the stated or implied allegation that American Jews have divided loyalties, and the claim that Jews have a tribal identity that trumps their concern for the human rights of others, evoke classic anti-Semitic tropes that we cannot dismiss as regular political or protest speech.

The apologetic tone here is astounding. Is there is any excusable difference between neo-Nazi slogans of the alt-right and the extreme Muslim tweets of school teacher Nancy Salem, who back in 2013 tweeted to a friend visiting ‘Palestine’: “Kill some Jews!” or her joke: “How many Jews died in the Holocaust? Not enough.”

Take another example: the ADL’s defense of radical anti-Israel Muslim Linda Sarsour’s right to give a commencement speech at CUNY on May 25:

We profoundly reject Linda Sarsour’s positions that delegitimize Israel. We have vigorously opposed efforts like the Boycott Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement, which she supports and we oppose her stance that one cannot be simultaneously a feminist and pro-Israel.

At the same time, we strongly condemn the anti-Muslim bigotry and other invective spouted by speakers at today’s demonstration against Sarsour in Manhattan. There is no excuse for bigotry.

If the ADL chooses to support Sarsour’s right to give the speech, one would expect it to do so while “condemning” her own “spouted” anti-Semitic “invective” and “bigoted” ideals – and “rejecting” and “opposing the stance” of those who think her hateful discourse should not be given stage. The ADL’s rhetoric gets it all wrong, and not by accident.

An Anti-Semitic Coalition

Where does this double standard regarding anti-Semitism come from? The answer to this painful question can be found in Greenblatt’s recent article: “Anti-Semitism Is Creeping Into Progressivism,“ published after three Jewish lesbians were disgracefully expelled from a progressive queer parade for carrying pride flags with a star of David.

In his attempt to handle the phenomena, Greenblatt outlines his worldview. He starts by mentioning a few similar anti-Semitic manifestations: one at the “Celebrate Israel Parade in New York City,” another in the platform of Black Lives Matter, which accuses Israel of genocide, and again, Sarsour’s quote that “Zionism is incompatible with feminism.”

Greenblatt is worried, he explains, because of the ADL’s fundamental commitment to the “the agenda of the civil rights community.” The ADL, he articulates, shares “common causes” with those organizations. For example, the ADL wants to stop “the use of excessive force and the killing of unarmed African Americans by some in law enforcement,” “to combat discriminatory laws such as the Muslim Ban,” “to champion marriage equality”, and “to resist efforts to turn back the clock under the guise of religious freedom.”

And so, the ADL and Greenblatt want to partner with those radical organizations. But what does one do, as an organization sworn to fight anti-Semitism, when one’s partners turn out to be anti-Semitic? Well, here’s Greenblatt’s solution:

We are duty bound to raise our voice … even as we fight alongside other groups on issues of mutual concern … we will forcefully denounce those who would slander our community and resort to stereotypes.

This is utterly ridiculous. This notion of “we support and collaborate with anti-Semites when they do not specifically engage in anti-Semitic activities, and we reserve the right to denounce their anti-Semitism when they do,” is not only completely detrimental to the cause of battling anti-Semitism, it is in fact helping anti-Semites to white-wash their hatred.

Here is a thought experiment. Would the ADL accept a Jewish Republican organization openly partnering with a “white supremacy” organization – while “denouncing” their anti-Semitism – because they share a commitment to reduction in renewable energy funding?

Radicalizing Worldviews

In truth, one has to admit that the problem is more fundamental than political or organizational connections between the ADL and the radical left. The crux of the issue lies in the ideological radicalization of the left, a process Greenblatt epitomizes. This is expressed by the promotion of progressive doctrines such as “intersectionality” by Greenblatt and the ADL itself, apparently without realizing that lurking under those terms are hateful, divisive and oppressive agendas, which are entirely detrimental to the original cause of the ADL.

For example, Greenblatt declared that “there’s no doubt that the vast majority of American Jews live with what we would call white privilege.” And yet the ‘privileged’ discourse is the perfect disguise for left-wing anti-Semitism. If being privileged is a sin; and if the more privileged you are, the greater the sin; then the Jews and Israel are clearly culpable, and hatred towards them is not only justified, it is almost morally dutiful.

Greenblatt may not realize it, but he is riding an anti-Semitic tiger. Herbert London recently wrote that in the 1950’s “a good progressive was a good Zionist,” but now the left “is the congenial home of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.” As the left keeps progressing into oppressive and illiberal domains, the ADL follows suit and is currently less worried about antisemitism per se. By tolerating and partnering with anti-Semitic progressive organizations, the ADL is betraying its raison d’être.


Dr. Ran Baratz served as Director of Communications for Prime Minister Netanyahu between 2016-2017.

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