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ADL must listen to its critics

By Charles Jacobs

 

After a barrage of criticism over its failure to deal with the surge of anti-Zionist Jew-hatred, the ADL — the Jewish people’s “defense agency” — finally chose to respond to charges that it had embraced partisanship over its nonpartisan mission.  It took a column by North Carolina parent Kathryn Wolf published in the left-leaning Forward, whose audience the ADL cannot afford to ignore, laying out an instance where ADL erroneously warned of parents’ statements at school board meetings (on COVID measures and other irrelevances) to elicit a refutation by the ADL’s senior vice president for policy, Eileen Hershenov.
Ironically, every one of Hershenov’s responses lends credence to Wolf’s critiques.

In her letter to the Forward, Hershenov claims that Wolf distorts the ADL’s record, and that in fact the ADL is committed to an “unambiguously nonpartisan mission to fight antisemitism, regardless of whether the source is the political right or left — or anywhere else.”  She makes her case by listing the few instances where ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt “called out” Democratic Party politicians for anti-Zionist and antisemitic rhetoric.  She boasts that “in November 2021, Greenblatt issued a clarion call against antisemitism from the far left in his annual state of hate remarks.”  And she points all the way back to 2017 when he wrote “Anti-Semitism Is Creeping Into Progressivism” in TIME magazine.

This is meaningless.  The scandal that Wolf points to is ADL’s failure for almost 30 years to understand anti-Zionism as the “new antisemitism,” let alone to combat it.  A few tweets and long-overdue, yet toothless, statements just won’t do.

It was in 1989 that the ADL first turned down a key chance to address the issue of anti-Zionism.  That was the year we were involved in forming the Boston branch of CAMERA (the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis) as a grassroots effort to combat the mainstream media’s incessant assault on Israel.  We were surprised to learn that two of Boston’s establishment Jewish leaders — Lenny Zaikim, ADL’s chief in the Hub, and Steve Grossman, one time head of AIPAC — wanted the ADL and not CAMERA to spearhead the effort against media bias, arguing that ADL speaks in the voice of American Jews so we should “Let the ADL be the ADL for Israel.”

 

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