ADL: Fighting Yesterday’s Battles

First appeared in The Jewish Advocate

The ADL is now caught flatfooted by its own paralysis.

Republicans are all over national TV, arguing passionately over which (and whose) approaches – given the sorry state of American society – might best set things right. They know Democrats will use the best barbs they throw at each other against the eventual GOP nominee; even so, the most thoughtful among them value sharp debate about our serious problems – to test and clarify ideas. So if Republicans can do this, why not the Jews?

World Jewry is under significant strain. Iran presents an existential threat to Israel; the age-old virus of anti-Semitism has morphed into anti-Zionism – more difficult to fight; Muslim clergymen on every continent rage against the Jews; much of the far left loves “Palestine.” The media and academe daily assault the Jewish state. Indeed, the story of our epoch is that the Jews live in a new time defined by a new threat: a Left/Muslim alliance – that attacks both Israel and Jews. This alliance menaces Europe’s Jews and has spread to parts of the American elite, especially on our campuses.

Do Jews have the right leadership and organizations to deal with this threat? Why is public discourse on such vital issues absent? Who would try to block such a critical conversation? The ADL, for one.

It was sad to read the Anti-Defamation League’s letter to The Advocate (“ADL fires back,” Dec. 16), not solely for its personal attack, but also because it reflects how a once respectable and important Jewish organization has now reached new lows. The problem for the ADL, and this is not restricted only to this group, is that it has been unable – decades – to adjust to the new reality, and is now caught flatfooted by its own paralysis.

For decades, as Israel was defamed in the media, I watched ADL choose[start ital.] not [end ital.]to be the Anti-Defamation League for the Jewish state. (That’s precisely why CAMERA was born.) For years, as Islamic Jew-hatred and leftwing anti-Zionism overtook rightwing anti-Semitism as the bigger threat to Jewish life, we’ve seen the ADL flinch. Students from around the country told me that ADL did not answer their calls as they were harassed and intimidated by anti-Israel faculty, students and administrations. (That’s precisely why the David Project – and Stand with Us – were established.) But sure enough, when ADL found a swastika on some bathroom stall in Iowa, my mother-in-law got a fundraising letter.

Shifting the focus away from skinheads, neo-Nazis, and Christian bigots and onto radical leftists and Muslim Jew-hatred would be extraordinarily difficult. It would require a massive and unpopular effort: leading the Jews to think difficult thoughts about their new situation, thoughts that put them at odds with their comforting universalist theology of Political Correctness. And it would be costly: ADL would forfeit loads of leftwing money – and its liberal bona fides. The organization would hardly ever get a letter published in The New York Times. It would be viciously attacked by Islamist leadership. CAIR would be relentless. Abe Foxman, ADL’s head, acknowledges that Islamic Jew hatred is the biggest threat we face (he’s still shy about the radical left) – yet ADL spends much, much more time, effort, resources and focus on the older, less dangerous threats while practically ignoring the new, more ominous ones.

Stuck between a rock and hard place, the response of Ken Jacobson, ADL’s national director, to our criticism (with an arrogance that only a $50 million budget might explain) could do nothing but call me names (the Defamation League?!) and skirt the issues.

Jacobson calls our study of ADL press releases – showing they are all but silent on Muslim anti-Semitism – “amateurish.” But in the absence of information about ADL’s internal budget – what proportion of funds is spent on Christian, Nazi, leftist, skinhead vs. Leftist/Islamic anti-Semitism – the data on ADL’s press releases was the best statistical stand-in we could find. We strongly recommend that ADL’s donors review its budget for a true understanding of the organization’s priorities.

Jacobson suggested better indicators of ADL’s deep concern about Islamic anti-Semitism. He cited its Center on Extremism. But see for yourselves that the center seems stuck in another world, almost totally devoted to Nazis and skinheads – with not one Islamic group named. In his letter last week to The Advocate, Professor Barry Rubin of the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya, Israel, wrote that a visit to ADL’s Web site might leave you thinking that left-wing anti-Semitism, “the most significant form of Western-origin anti-Semitism,” just doesn’t exist.

Jacobson says ADL issues more reports today on Arab anti-Semitism. Yes, ADL loves to monitor and issue reports. In the age of video, who is reading these reports? For the most part, Jews and the public don’t have a clue about the nature and extent of Islamic hatred. Finally, he says ADL trains law enforcement officials. Can he mean about the theory and practice of Islamic Jew-hatred in the West?

Jacobson mocks our concerns about ADL’s backing a sale of a Michigan school building to the radical Islamic Cultural Association (ICA). He says we’re “playing six degrees of Islamic separation.” Actually, it’s one degree: the ICA was originally funded by the North American Islamic Trust, identified by federal officials as a Muslim Brotherhood front.

Most tellingly perhaps, ADL’s letter is silent on the shocking matter of its continued presence on a Detroit interfaith committee that includes CAIR, a Hamas front. ADL’s excuse is that the NAACP and law enforcement groups also sit on the committee. But aren’t Jews funding ADL to do the hard work of exposing our enemies? Shouldn’t the ADL chapter quit the committee and then educate black leaders as well as law enforcement officials about the menace of Islamic anti-Semitism? Isn’t that what the ADL is supposed to be doing?

The transformation of ADL into to a politically correct, liberal organization creates a leadership vacuum for the Jewish community. This, combined with the lack of public debate on the Islamist-Leftist threat, increases our vulnerability.

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