The Antidefamation League Makes Common Cause with a Notorious Anti-Semite

July 7, 2020 | Jonathan Tobin
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Last week, Jonathan Greenblatt, the director of the Antidefamation League (ADL) appeared on Al Sharpton’s political talk show to promote its participation in an initiative to ban “hate speech” from Facebook and other platforms. Sharpton, who is spearheading the initiative, has a long history of indulging in anti-Semitic rhetoric, and in the 1990s instigated acts of anti-Jewish violence that left several dead. To Jonathan Tobin, the campaign for social-media censorship is merely wrongheaded, but the embrace of Sharpton makes a mockery of the ADL’s mission:

Greenblatt’s predecessor Abe Foxman was a child survivor of the Holocaust, and he took the job of granting absolution to those who were guilty of anti-Semitism in the past seriously. . . . Greenblatt, however, hasn’t required Sharpton to confess his role as a race-baiting inciter of anti-Semitic violence. Instead, he treats Sharpton as a valuable political ally whose support for ADL’s ventures is a gift for which he is truly grateful.

To be fair to Greenblatt, he’s not alone in this respect. Last year, the Union of Reform Judaism played the same game with Sharpton when its Religious Action Center granted its seal of approval to him. That was particularly painful for many in Crown Heights and the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, whose adherents were the victims of [the 1991 Crown Heights] pogrom that Sharpton helped start. In that case, as with this one, both groups judged politics—in the form of an anti-Trump alliance—as having far greater importance than holding Sharpton accountable for his past.

Greenblatt, a veteran of the last two Democratic administrations, moved the group away from its nonpartisan stance into one in which it has become a faithful auxiliary of the Democratic party. That has been made painfully obvious repeatedly as Greenblatt has taken openly partisan stances on issues like Supreme Court nominations. . . . Greenblatt has already so trashed ADL’s reputation . . . that it may be hard to gin up much outrage about his embrace of a figure as disreputable as Sharpton. But it is no less outrageous for being so predictable and servile.

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