By Rabbi Yaakov Menken, Washington Examiner
Since the Anti-Defamation League’s founding in 1913, its declared mission has been “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people.” Thus, many were concerned when Jonathan Greenblatt took over as CEO of the esteemed organization in 2015: While his resume was long on efforts for social good, including a stint in former President Barack Obama’s Office of Social Innovation, it conspicuously lacked positions combating antisemitism or serving a Jewish cause. Most of all, they worried that Greenblatt would fail to check his well-established liberal political leanings at the door of the nonpartisan organization and, in turn, inadequately address the new wave of Jew-hatred growing on the Left.
It took little time for Greenblatt to prove his skeptics correct; it took much longer for the crisis to reach the point at which his silence was no longer tenable. Writing in Newsweek earlier this month, Greenblatt finally conceded what should have been among his first priorities, saying that it’s “time to admit” that the Left has an antisemitism problem. His real admission was that he had been reluctant, and thus inexcusably tardy, to recognize what was already obvious to everyone not compromised by ideological blinders.
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Under Greenblatt’s leadership, the ADL has grievously harmed its own image, employing a clear double standard on hate. Greenblatt, for example, recently used a gross distortion of Tucker Carlson’s remarks to demand that Fox News fire him. The attack seemed less focused upon any genuine bigotry on Carlson’s part than that he’s conservative — and popular to boot. By comparison, Greenblatt had no comment when a Michigan Democrat, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, echoing lies about Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and access to COVID-19 vaccines, called the world’s only Jewish state a “racist country.”
Greenblatt rushed to call for Georgia Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s removal from her committee assignments, repeating the false claim that she had referred to “Jewish space lasers.” Yet, he has never made any such demand regarding Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, who has dispensed classically antisemitic themes and tropes since at least 2012 and continues to do so in Congress. On the contrary, the ADL swiftly accepted Omar’s halfhearted apology for blatantly antisemitic remarks in 2019, and Greenblatt even lauded her “commitment to a more just world.” It is clear that party affiliation, rather than poisonous expression, has driven Greenblatt’s determination of whose rhetoric endangers Jews.
Only now, in 2021, does Greenblatt finally acknowledge that it is Omar’s bigoted speech, rather than Greene’s nonsensical meanderings, that directly feeds the “anti-Israel animus” that has led to attacks upon Jews on campus and in major cities. Let’s be clear: Omar espoused Jew-hatred in Congress from the day she was elected and has done so without consequence — and the ADL’s ideologically motivated paralysis has allowed this hate to fester, endangering Jews across America.
In his Newsweek op-ed, Greenblatt tacitly acknowledges that overlooking left-wing antisemitism has been a long-term failing. He described the tone of this year’s Chicago Dyke March, which included “queers for Palestine” flags featuring machine guns, as a sign of “dangerous” bias. Yet the same rally ejected marchers carrying Star of David flags four years ago, in 2017, and the ADL said nothing.
In his op-ed, Greenblatt condemns Minnesota Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum’s current false assertion that Israel is “bombing Gaza into oblivion.” Yet he was silent when she offered up a depiction of AIPAC’s “agenda” a bit over a year ago that, as the Coalition for Jewish Values immediately averred, was “antisemitic rhetoric cloaked in ‘Palestinian rights’ advocacy.”
The ADL has even spent its energies assailing clear allies of the Jewish people, including, but not limited to, the Zionist Organization of America, ACT! for America, and Proclaiming Justice to the Nations. It is not as if our enemies need the ADL’s help.
But now, after confessing that he failed to pursue his organization’s mission for years, Greenblatt offers no road map for rectifying the problems that he overlooked and allowed to incubate. Other CEOs have tendered their resignations for far less serious shortcomings.
Without a plan, there is no indication that Greenblatt’s admission will lead to true change at the ADL. Just last week, Ben and Jerry’s, a unit of Unilever — which does business in Northern Cyprus, China, and Crimea, among other locations of occupation, dispossession, and persecution — announced that it would boycott Jews who returned after 1967 to lands from which they were ethnically cleansed at gunpoint in 1948. For this blatantly antisemitic action, every kosher supermarket in the country immediately pulled Ben and Jerry’s ice cream from its freezers, while the ADL said merely that it was “disappointed” before turning to the burning question of “gender-affirming” surgery in Arkansas. How is the ADL going to halt “defamation of the Jewish people” if it does less to combat it than a grocery store?
The ADL must begin issuing statements and making demands that are both focused upon antisemitism and devoid of political bias. For example, having already demanded that Greene be removed from her committee assignments for mostly incoherent ramblings, the ADL must join our call, now signed by more than 300 traditional, observant rabbis, that Omar face at least the same consequence for consistent demonstrations of Jew-hatred.
Left-wing antisemitism has gone unchallenged for too long and is spreading too quickly for Greenblatt not to pair his changed attitude with a change of direction at the ADL. Let us all hope he and the ADL have sufficient courage.
Rabbi Yaakov Menken is the managing director of the Coalition for Jewish Values.