The Troubling Record of ADL Leader Jonathan Greenblatt
by Isi Leibler
Jonathan Greenblatt’s response to my criticism of his embrace of J Street, alleging that I distorted his message, is disingenuous and reaffirms my original assessment.
Invoking clichés “that there are steps Israel can take to ensure the viability of a two-state solution” are ill-becoming the head of a major Jewish organization whose contact with Israel has been minimal. It only serves to encourage US President Barack Obama and the heads of other governments to intensify pressure against us. Greenblatt is surely aware that there is a consensus in Israel supporting immediate separation from the Palestinians, but also a recognition that further unilateral concessions in the absence of a genuine peace partner would endanger our security.
Greenblatt explicitly condemned Jews who deny the rights of “marginalized Palestinians” and fail to recognize the legitimacy of “the Palestinian narrative.” When he condemned “those who place blame on one side instead of putting forward solutions that acknowledge the role and responsibility of both sides,” he provided grist for the propaganda mills of those applying moral equivalence to Israelis and the Palestinians sanctifying terrorism and bent on our destruction. Greenblatt now reiterates (as I initially stated) that in his address to J Street, he also made remarks supporting Israel and condemning antisemitism. So what?
Jewish communists, the antecedents of J Street, also described themselves as “pro-peace” and defended Soviet antisemitism while portraying themselves as “pro-Jewish.” Likewise, J Street claims to be “pro-Israel” despite raising funds to support anti-Israeli congressional candidates, lobbying the Obama administration to exert further pressure on Israel, accepting generous funding from George Soros to support the government’s appeasement of Iran, and constantly condemning the security policies of the Israeli government.
Greenblatt cannot refute this. Does he really believe that Jews whose principal objective is to undermine and demonize Israel and encourage foreign intervention should still be considered members of the mainstream of the Jewish community and included in the big tent? Would the ADL seek to address and engage in dialogue with Jews promoting racism or homophobia?
The ADL national director goes further. He endorses the Black Lives Matter movement despite its open hostility to Israel. He also laments that the viciously anti-Israeli fringe group If Not Now is denied “safe space” for discourse and has informed them that the ADL “shares your commitment to change.”
Likewise, Greenblatt claims that the J Street group he addressed comprised “deeply thoughtful college students whose commitment to Israel is genuine and whose passion on the issue is impressive.” His objective is to maintain “a true sense of community and inclusion” with them.
Setting aside the legitimacy provided to J Street when endorsed by the head of a major Jewish body, one would have expected Greenblatt to spell out realities to these youngsters rather than praising them and engaging in kumbaya. He should surely have admonished them and explained why it is utterly immoral for Diaspora Jews to publicly campaign against security-related policies with life-and-death implications endorsed by the vast majority of Israelis.
Furthermore, as head of the organization whose principal mandate is to combat antisemitism, Greenblatt should have focused his address on emphasizing how despicable it was for students to demonize Israel while their Jewish student peers at many campuses were subjected to unprecedented waves of anti-Israeli incitement and antisemitism.
Instead, Greenblatt nonsensically justifies his position, stating that “disagreement and dissent are not Jewish ideas — they are Jewish ideals.” In other words, Jews who defame Israel and canvas foreign governments to intensify pressure on the Jewish state should be welcomed.
He goes one step further and says, “Whether Leibler likes it or not, these are the future leaders in our community and country.” Well, like any committed Jew, I certainly would not “like it.” And if Greenblatt endorses people sharing the views of J Street heading our community, the ADL Board would be well advised to have a serious chat with him.
With the current surge of violent global antisemitism which has already impacted on Jewish students at many American campuses, there is an urgent need for a powerful Jewish body dedicated to fighting antisemitism.
The ADL’s task is not to provide advice to Israel on security issues. Nor should it purport to speak on behalf of the Jewish community on broad social issues concerning which Jews share different opinions. It should concentrate more on Islamic terrorism rather than highlighting so-called Islamophobia, which poses far less of a problem than antisemitism. While it should broadly condemn all forms of discrimination, its principal role today must be to concentrate on its primary mandate, which is to combat antisemitism.
Isi Leibler may be contacted at [email protected] This article was originally published by Israel Hayom and the Jerusalem Post.