The Anti-Defamation League’s Destructive New Partisanship

October 22, 2018 | Seth Mandel
About the author: Seth Mandel is the executive editor of the Washington Examiner magazine.

In 2015, Abe Foxman retired as the longtime director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and was replaced by Jonathan Greenblatt, who had previously worked as director of the Obama administration’s Office of Social Innovation. Since then, the organization—which has long been respected for its nonpartisanship and willingness to criticize anti-Semitism of both the far left and the far right—has increasingly acted like an extension of the Democratic party. Seth Mandel writes:

Greenblatt took three hallmarks of team Obama with him when he left [the White House]: a belief that liberalism and morality are synonymous; an obsession with Benjamin Netanyahu; and a rivalrous antagonism toward anyone to his right who called out anti-Semitism.

The liberalism part of that isn’t unique to Greenblatt—the ADL has long supported abortion rights, which is not a “Jewish issue” in any way. But there are two puzzling aspects to Greenblatt’s behavior. First, he makes it personal. Immediately after President Trump announced he would nominate to the Supreme Court Brett Kavanaugh, [and before any accusations of sexual misconduct emerged], Greenblatt went on the attack, tweeting that Kavanaugh’s record “does not reflect the demonstrated independence and commitment to fair treatment for all that is necessary to merit a seat on our nation’s highest court.” Slandering a respected judge is so far beneath the ADL that Greenblatt’s behavior should’ve been a gut check for the group’s leadership. . . .

The second difference is an overt hostility to religious liberty—an absolutely dangerous gamble for a Jewish-rights group. [For instance], Greenblatt publicly lamented June’s Supreme Court ruling in favor of a Christian baker’s First Amendment rights. . . .

Greenblatt’s antipathy toward the elected Israeli government is perhaps even more [inappropriate]. In 2016, Prime Minister Netanyahu confronted the Palestinian demand that no Jews remain in a future Palestinian state, calling it “ethnic cleansing.” This is quite literally the definition of the phrase. But Greenblatt—again, it bears repeating, as the director of the Anti-Defamation League—took a long swing at Netanyahu with a full column in Foreign Policy magazine. Greenblatt wrote: “Like the term ‘genocide,’ the term ‘ethnic cleansing’ should be restricted to actually describing the atrocity it suggests—rather than distorted to suit political ends.” This is nonsensical. . . .

Every so often, Greenblatt’s ADL will rap a Democrat on the knuckles and claim partisan evenhandedness. But the larger problem is that Greenblatt sees right-wing bigotry as a crucial element of conservative ideology, while viewing any such transgressions on the left as isolated anomalies. But the mainstream Democratic party’s overt embrace of its left flank, which is the source of the nation’s most explicit anti-Israel rhetoric and ideas, has made such assumptions naïve to the point of professional malpractice for someone like Greenblatt.

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