How the ADL Erased Al Sharpton’s History of Anti-Jewish Agitation

August 26, 2020 | Liel Leibovitz
About the author: Liel Leibovitz, a journalist, media critic, and video-game scholar, is a senior writer for the online magazine Tablet.

In 1991, Al Sharpton instigated a three-day pogrom against the ḥasidic residents of Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood, in which a Jewish student was killed. A few years later, the reverend organized protests against a Jewish-owned business in Harlem, inspiring one protestor to attack the store, killing seven. Liel Leibovitz explains how mainstream Jewish organization willfully forgot all this:

This past weekend, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, an umbrella group uniting 125 local Jewish communities and seventeen national Jewish organizations, sent an email to its followers proudly announcing that it has signed on as a partner in the Virtual March on Washington this week, an event organized by Al Sharpton.

[L]ast week also marked the 29th anniversary of the Crown Heights riots. . . . When [the neighborhood’s] residents rioted in the streets, chanting “death to the Jews!” as well as looting stores, attacking anyone who was visibly Jewish, and ripping m’zuzot off of door posts. Sharpton was quick to arrive on the scene, leading a march in which participants burned an Israeli flag and called to kill all Jews. At the funeral a few days later of the young boy [whose accidental death sparked the riots], Sharpton delivered a eulogy that borrowed heavily from The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, saying that the Jewish residents of the neighborhood practiced “apartheid” and were there only to further the Jewish global grip on money and power. He ended by ominously shouting: “pay for your deeds.”

As the years went by, Sharpton was given ample opportunity to apologize for his prominent role in this modern-day anti-Semitic bloodletting. He never did. . . . Why, barely a year after a spree in which visibly observant Jews were violently attacked in record numbers, are Jewish organizations sidling up to kiss Sharpton’s ring?

Leibovitz places the blame on the Antidefamation League and its CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, who led the way in partnering with Sharpton:

[H]aving made his odious moral decision, [Greenblatt] then refused even to seek out the most minor price from Sharpton for bringing him back into the fold of acceptability—not even a simple apology that would at least telegraph a distaste for anti-Semitism to Sharpton’s many followers. Greenblatt couldn’t even muster that small gesture.

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