The Anti-Defamation League’s Detroit Follies

Is the answer a second ADL?

{xtypo_dropcap}M{/xtypo_dropcap}y critique of the Anti-Defamation League for not doing more on Islamic anti-Semitism brought a sharp and somewhat defensive response from the organization’s leader, Abe Foxman, which unintentionally confirmed my point. In attempting to prove me wrong and misguided, Foxman only cited one specific public “action” by the ADL on the threat of radical Islam – a speech he gave almost four years ago. The only other examples he provided were private briefings, which cannot be checked or assessed for their effectiveness.

In his letter to the Advocate, Foxman wrote that “the greatest threat to the Jewish people and the highest priority for the ADL was that which came from Islamic extremists.” Yet, a review of ADL’s Web site shows that since 1995 the organization has devoted less than 3 percent of its thousands of press releases to “Islamic Extremism” and “Arab Anti-Semitism.”

Why is this so?

In both the Muslim world and in the West, a huge torrent of Islamic hatred for Jews spews from a wide range of sources, some of them state-financed. In books, articles, television and radio, mosque sermons, organization position papers and even schools, hatred of Jews is presented daily to an audience of millions. This torrent dwarfs all other non-Islamic sources of anti-Semitism combined, resulting in significant risks to the safety of Jews worldwide.

We know well that anti-Semitism mutates over time. In the past, hatred of Jews has been based in Christian theology, nationalism and racialist movements, usually located on the political right. It also appeared in Communist countries, especially in the USSR. Jews have had to continually develop new strategies to fight the dominant form of anti-Semitism of their time.

But adjusting the community’s response is not easy. Maybe ADL leaders have concluded that a shift away from their major traditional focus – Jewry’s enemies on the right – would be institutionally risky and unwise, that expanding ADL’s mandate to include Islamic anti-Semitism might weaken its effectiveness against neo-Nazis and Christian anti-Semites. In today’s politically correct culture, confronting Muslim anti-Semitism risks accusations of intolerance, bigotry and Islamophobia, even by – or especially by – some Jewish intellectuals. They could easily imagine that the prospect of such accusations might cause ruptures in their solid support groups.

Whatever the case, for the sake of Jewish safety, Jewish leadership needs to expose and oppose Islamic Jew-hatred. What should such an effort include? Here are key tasks:

Wake-Up Call. World Jewry needs to be educated about the threat: We live in a “new time” and we must respond – with focus, energy and Jewish creativity. Most Jewish establishment leaders have failed to mobilize a response. A new kind of leadership must emerge and rally the people, a leadership that is willing to speak out honestly.

Develop Alliances. Islamic anti- Semitism forms part of a more general attack on the West. Therefore we have potential allies around the world who – out of their own self-interest – will join us in this effort. Anti-Jihadist alliances are already emerging in the United States. In New York, the Human Rights Coalition Against Radical Islam (HRCARI) – a rainbow coalition of Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, gays, women, atheists, Muslim moderates and apostates from Islam – is holding rallies and protests against Islamist assaults on any and all targeted peoples around the world.

Analysis of religious texts and teachings. The enormous, life-saving reversals in Christian theological teachings about Jews could not have been achieved without years of intensive Jewish critique of Christian Biblical texts and traditions. It was the sensitive sharing of these studies with Christians of good will that turned the tide. If the Muslim world is ever to experience theological (and social) re-interpretations of its “teachings of contempt” about Jews – which predominate but are also contradicted in the Islamic canon – then Jews will have to confront, study and speak about the theological anti- Semitism embedded in Muslim holy books. (The ADL flees from this task: It criticizes Jew-hatred in the Arab media without reference to the Islamic sources.)

Activism on behalf of the community. Jewish activists seem to prefer almost every cause in the world, except what is in their own community’s interest. These talented people need to be enlisted – to sponsor conferences on Islamic anti-Semitism and Islamist penetration of American society; to expose the Saudi lobby and its impact on silencing scrutiny of anything Islamic; to lobby our elected officials about the dangers facing the country; and to campaign for implementation of sensitivity training for university students who come from lands with anti-Semitic cultures.

Perhaps the ADL should maintain its current mission and continue being effective at what it does. Meanwhile, the Jewish people must find a way to launch a new defense organization adapted to the evolving menaces of the 21st century. We’re long overdue.

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