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November 18, 2016 5:22 am

Does the ADL Have a Political Agenda?

avatar by Deborah Jacobi

Email a copy of "Does the ADL Have a Political Agenda?" to a friend
Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO Jonathan Greenblatt. Photo: ADL.

Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO Jonathan Greenblatt. Photo: ADL.

After the appointment of Steve Bannon to the Trump White House this week, he was attacked by the media on charges of antisemitism.

It was good to see so many in the media and elsewhere eager to protect the Jewish minority. This is the same group whose voices have been so tepid throughout the antisemitic BDS uprisings on campus, and who remained silent when free speech was abandoned in the face of anti-Israel violence at universities.

Does this mean that left-leaning progressives have reformed their view of Israel and Jews who live there?

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I don’t think so.

I will not assess Bannon’s racial standing based on the media’s reporting. Ben Shapiro, who worked alongside Bannon and notably called him a bully, stated in The Daily Wire, “I have no evidence that Bannon’s a racist or that he’s an antisemite.” Shapiro said that although there are some troubling articles on Bannon’s news website Breitbart, “I have no evidence Bannon believes them personally. But he’s happy to pander to those people.” Joel Pollak, an Orthodox Jew and former editor-in-chief at Breitbart, also strongly denies the charges of antisemitism.

I am not writing this article to prosecute or defend Breitbart. I will leave that for the few remaining responsible reporters who properly investigate such matters. I am only addressing the slippery antisemitic allegations made by the left-leaning media. Allegations of racism are serious and damning and should never be lobbed unless the accusations are absolute.

If Bannon is negatively influencing Trump to have sympathies for the Right-wing supremacist world, then we need to be informed and the evidence should be forthcoming.

It’s still unclear to me what exactly the antisemitic hollering is all about. The term “Jewish renegade” — found in a Breitbart headline — was unnecessary and may well have offended some. But I believe the phrase is a far cry from the blatant antisemitic rhetoric of “Jewing down,” “Hymie Town” or “dirty Jew.” I also don’t trust the hearsay source of these allegations about Bannon’s personal views, given that they come from a divorce proceeding and if true were said privately.

And what of the Anti-Defamation League, which was quick to jump on the bandwagon and condemn Bannon? CEO Jonathan Greenblatt seems to selectively point fingers at questionable Republicans and refrains from commenting on anti-Israel and antisemitic rhetoric from moguls who are Democrats. George Soros was previously taken to task by former ADL director Abraham Foxman, yet is quietly ignored by Greenblatt.

Greenblatt held a significant position in Obama’s administration as his special assistant and director of the Office of Social Innovation. He also worked on Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign in 1992, was an aide in that White House and served in the administration’s Department of Commerce. Greenblatt’s personal political leanings should be irrelevant to his ADL post. He is expected to put aside his own political preference while vigilantly pursuing acts of antisemitism.

Can Greenblatt align himself with the Left and remain neutral? Especially when many in that group support BDS and other anti-Israel measures? Perhaps Greenblatt’s rush to judgment can be examined more closely to ensure the ADL is not becoming just another partisan political tool.

It is imperative that the ADL remains impartial and confronts antisemitism wherever it occurs and with due diligence. Otherwise it not only tarnishes the reputation of the wrongly accused, but also its own.

A version of this article was originally published by The Times of Israel.

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