May 9, 2023
I just finished watching ADL CEO Jonathon Greenblatt’s keynote address to his organization’s recent National Leadership Conference.
If you’ve got 30 minutes to invest, I strongly recommend you see and hear it for yourself. It is a textbook example of ADL’s awesome propaganda machine at work. It effectively illustrates how far this organization, which I once respected, has fallen. If, at one time, its mission was to fight hate and bias in all of its forms, ADL has, as demonstrated in just 30 minutes, that it has become an organization more committed to a “pro-Israel at any cost” agenda.
Greenblatt begins by noting that Israel is celebrating its 75th anniversary. He sees it as a time to celebrate the Jewish people bringing a barren desert to the pinnacle of developed nations. He ignores that at the moment the state was created its founding fathers and mothers were also in the process of expelling hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes in order to tip the demographic scales. For him, the ongoing conflict between Jewish Israelis and Palestinians over land and history has no importance; for him, the human pain and suffering that is the outcome of these 75 years is not even worth a mention.
He extolls Israel’s democracy, totally ignoring the reality that millions of Palestinians live under Israeli control without the right of citizenship. He ignores Israel’s Palestinian citizenry, numbering about 20% of the total population, the best they can hope for is a kind of 2nd class citizenship in which they are tolerated but are not equal.
But that is just his introduction to an even more egregious attack on Palestinians and those who dare to stand with them. And it is here that Greenblatt undermines his organization’s claim to be the nation’s go-to place for combatting bias of all kinds. He ignores the data his own organization gathers chronicling antisemitism in order to fulfill his pro-Israel purpose and to stand with an Israeli government that its own citizens have called an apartheid regime.
Greenblatt glosses over the broader issues of antisemitism in our country and around the world in order to use the fear that he can evoke to punish voices that support Palestinian lives and rights. He uses the recently released dataset, the 2022 Audit of Antisemitic Incidents & the State of Antisemitism in the U.S,, as his reference point and then ignores what it found to focus his audience on what he wants them to see as the real threats to Jewish life in America.
This study found a frightening jump in the number of antisemitic incidents, reaching. “…the highest levels ever recorded by ADL in the United States in 2022, with a total of 3,697 incidents of assault, harassment and vandalism.”
For Greenblatt, the fear that headline is designed to produce becomes just a tool to move his audience to look away from the broad context of why this is happening, who are the perpetrators, and what should be done to combat it. Rather, his desire to be seen as a major supporter of Israel pushes him to Jewish fear as a motivator to focus on voices that speak up for Palestinians. As I noted two months ago when the 2022 study was first published the ADL’s data showed that even through ADL’s biased eyes, antisemitic incidents related to Israel/Palestinian were not the cause of the rise in antisemitism.
As I wrote when the ADL first releasced their 2022 antisemitism data:
“Here’s the story that the ADL’s own data tells us.
“On the home page of the ADL website, the headline reads ‘Antisemitic Incidents Surge in 2022’ With an aura of fear and anxiety, they report that for all of 2022, that they “…tabulated 3,697 antisemitic incidents throughout the United States. This is a 36% increase from the 2,717 incidents tabulated in 2021 and the highest number on record since ADL began tracking antisemitic incidents in 1979. This is the third time in the past five years that the year-end total has been the highest number ever recorded.”
“Of the 3,697 antisemitic acts, a number that was described as disturbingly high, only 241 related to incidents that referenced Israel and Zionism! That’s only 6.5% of the total! And, according to the report itself, this was ‘a decline from 345 such incidents in 2021, which was an unusually high year due to antisemitic reactions to the May 2021 military conflict between Israel and Hamas. This number is still 35% higher than the number of Israel/Zionism-related incidents in 2020. Of 2022’s 241 anti-Zionist/anti-Israel-related incidents, 70 incidents could be identified as having been perpetrated by individuals associated with hostile anti-Zionist activist groups, most commonly Witness for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine and its affiliates. Forty-six incidents took the form of white supremacist groups’ efforts to foment anti-Israel and antisemitic beliefs…’
“In case you missed what the ADL had actually found, the total Israel-related acts they defined as antisemitic was less than in 2021. And of that number only a portion, 70 (less than 2%), related to those protesting for Palestinian rights and against the idea of Israel as a Jewish state, that is one in which are given a privileged status by law.”
Yet Greenblatt, ignoring this, used his national stage and the credibility of his organization to turn away from the real threats to the Jewish Community. He just wanted to reinforce his key message, even if it moves away from combating antisemitism in America. He uses the fear he can evoke to support his motto, “anti-Zionism is antisemitism.”
Haaretz in its reporting of Greenblatt’s speech noted that it “was remarkable for barely mentioning what has, for years, been the group’s focus: the threat from the far right, spurred in part by Trump’s ascendance.” Rather Greenblatt wants his audience to see the world as if ““that…those who self-style as ‘anti-Zionists’ — Israel’s Independence Day is a day to redouble their efforts to make sure it is Israel’s last Independence Day …To underscore what I said at this event last year: Anti-Zionism is antisemitism. Full stop.”
The data was clear that the largest threat was not coming from pro-Palestinian voices, it was coming from the neo-conservative-neo-fascists that make up the underbelly of the MAGA world. As ADL’s own report told us, “organized efforts by white supremacists to share antisemitic propaganda, mostly through distributing fliers with antisemitic messages, accounted for 852 incidents in 2022, up from 422 in 2021.”
I can respect that Greenblatt and I see the issues in Israel/Palestine differently. I can understand if his political assessment is not mine. But I cannot respect his ongoing attempt to end any debate by yelling “antisemite” in a crowded room.
If you revere ADL, if you support ADL, you deserve better.
If you agree with me, I urge you to join me in telling the organization’s leadership “shame”!