“The ADL has become a fraud,” wrote Jewish-American political activist Charles Jacobs, president of Americans for Peace and Tolerance (APT), in 2019 about the Anti-Defamation League. As he and others have documented, the ADL, the “biggest Jewish defense agency” against antisemitism, has in recent decades become the “biggest failure” as leftist biases among American Jews have perverted this core ADL mission.
Jacobs recently reviewed the ADL’s downfall and the need for new Jewish leadership in an APT webinar with his fellow conservative Jews William A. Jacobson and Jonathan S. Tobin. Jacobson, a Cornell University Law School professor, heads the Legal Insurrection Foundation. The political commentator Tobin edits the Jewish News Syndicate (JNS).
The “ADL advocates for the Democratic Party’s agenda items,” Jacobs wrote in 2014, and has made an “awful detour into universalism and partisan politics.” This reflects the historically left-leaning political sentiments of most American Jews. As the conservative Jewish political writer Seth Mandel noted in 2018, the “ADL has long supported abortion rights, which is not a ‘Jewish issue’ in any way.”
These biases have often rubbed conservative Jews the wrong way, such as Herut North America’s United States National Director, Moshe Phillips. In 2013, he rebutted a 2010 smear by then ADL National Director Abraham Foxman of the late conservative talk radio pioneer, Rush Limbaugh, as an anti-Semite. “The ADL does not speak in our name. Abraham Foxman does not speak in our name,” Phillips wrote.
While Foxman had extensively analyzed Islamic antisemitism and its threats to Israel, vitally important for Jews, in his 2003 book, Never Again: The Threat of the New Anti-Semitism, such views remained exceptional among ADL leaders. As Jacobs observed:
Like failed generals fighting the last war, they focused on Nazis and the political right — and ignored the changed battlefield for as long as they could. They deliberately, out of political consideration, minimized the assaults coming from “progressives” and Islamists.
That modern anti-Israel “animus comes mostly from the ideological left, with which a majority of Jews identify for many reasons, is painful and confusing to many,” Jacobs observed in 2010. He elaborated in 2017:
ADL kept sending those (fundraising) postcards with swastikas found in bathroom stalls in Iowa, and campaigned against Pat Robertson…even though many people now believe that Robertson and Christian evangelicals are Israel’s, and the Jews’, best allies.
An APT study of 1995-2011 ADL press releases offered a “good if not perfect indicator of ADL priorities,” an APT pamphlet noted. In this 15-year period APT “found that only 3 percent of ADL’s press releases focus on Islamic extremism and Arab anti-Semitism,” while merely another five percent of press releases concerned terrorism. “Fighting for causes unrelated to Jewish defense accounts for 31 percent of ADL’s press release output,” APT concluded.
Meanwhile the ADL’s own 2014-1017 extensive studies of antisemitism worldwide revealed that Muslims are by far the most anti-Semitic group globally in comparison to other religions and atheists. In a “cover-up mode” the ADL downplayed its own data, Jacobs observed. The findings were “politically incorrect” for an ADL “anchored in the Left.”
Empirically proven Islamic antisemitism calls into question the open border policies of Jewish groups including the ADL towards Muslim migrants and/or refugees. Jewish leaders “refuse to acknowledge the political and social consequences of the mass influx of Muslim immigrants,” Jacobs has noted. These leaders “fail to understand how promoting tolerance of the intolerant may be lethal,” as when the ADL has ignored Islamic threats to homosexuals in the United States.
By contrast, the ADL has a “pattern of allying with Muslim anti-Semites to fight ‘Islamophobia’ and then defaming legitimately concerned citizens,” Jacobs noted in 2012. Thus ADL branches have actually coordinated with local affiliates of the Hamas-derived Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), something that made him call for Foxman’s resignation. American anti-sharia activist Pamela Geller noted that same year that he had equated her with anti-Semites such as Louis Farrakhan and Patrick Buchannan.
Precisely the opposite, Jewish leaders must demand of Muslims a reevaluation of Islamic anti-Semitic doctrines, Jacobs demanded in a 2010 interview. This would parallel past critical Jewish engagement with Christian antisemitism. As Jacobs noted, 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.”
The dismal state of the ADL and other Jewish organizations prompted APT and its Jewish allies in 2020 to call for new Jewish leadership in America. Yet Jacobs noted in 2010 the reticence of many Jews to risk conflict with powerful Jewish personalities and groups. “In the case of the ADL, I know several prominent Jewish leaders who agree with my criticism 110%, but could not speak out publicly without great risk,” he had said.
Jews desperately need effective defenses against contemporary anti-Semitic dangers. Yet since Jonathan Greenblatt succeeded Foxman as ADL National Director in 2015, Jacob’s concerns have only worsened. Greenblatt, a veteran Democratic political operative has abandoned whatever political impartiality Foxman once showed and turned the ADL into a rigidly leftwing organization, as a concluding article in this series will examine.
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