Under his leadership, the ADL has failed in its responsibility to protect the American Jewish community.
By Morton A. Klein and Liz Berney, Esq.
(SEPTEMBER 14, 2022 / JNS) A recent Fox News investigation found that the Anti-Defamation League’s educational and “anti-bias” programs, which influence millions of American children, educators and officials, promote far-left and critical race theory concepts including “white privilege” and “systemic racism.”
The materials also promote groups such as the Women’s March and Black Lives Matter, despite the fact that these organizations and their leaders often take virulent Jew- and Israel-hating positions, and express support for the antisemitic Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.
ADL programs call denying white privilege a “biased attitude,” encourage white children to view themselves as “oppressors” and include an article indicating that white women are “justly seen as oppressive” and “enjoy unearned skin privilege,” among other egregious claims.
This is a longstanding problem. Six years ago, our group, the Zionist Organization of America, documented that multiple ADL lesson plans encouraged students to join BLM protests in Ferguson, Missouri. At these same protests, calls were made for ending Israel’s existence, calling it an apartheid, genocidal state. The ADL further promoted BLM while ignoring the BLM/Movement for Black Lives organizations’ antisemitism and antisemitic platform.
JNS Editor-in-Chief Jonathan Tobin pointed out that the ADL’s announcement following the Fox investigation that it would review educational content “misaligned” with ADL’s values was “blatantly dishonest.” This was the case because the ADL’s woke leftist educational materials are, in fact, aligned with ADL’s woke far-left values, promoted under ADL CEO and national director Jonathan Greenblatt.
Tobin noted that the ADL publicly endorsed BLM and its racist “equity” agenda, defended antisemitic congresswomen Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), downplayed left-wing antisemitism, hired an outreach director who calls Jews racists and worked with tech firms to promote internet censorship.
Tobin concluded, “If the ADL is to retain even a sliver of credibility, it will require more than a pro forma ‘review’ about ‘misaligned’ lesson plans. It’s going to need a complete overhaul and a purge of the Woke leftism and one-sidedness that now permeates almost everything it says and does. The only way to begin that effort is to fire Jonathan Greenblatt. Anything less than that will be a further betrayal of the organization’s responsibilities to speak up for its founding principles and mission.” ZOA concurs.
A few weeks later, at a Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations meeting, ZOA president Morton Klein politely reminded Greenblatt that he owed Ms. Berney an apology. Greenblatt shook his clenched fist within an inch of Mr. Klein’s face while screaming, “If you want shalom bayit [‘household peace’] in the Conference of Presidents, you must throw Klein and ZOA out of the Conference.”
Greenblatt threatened Klein so uncontrollably that an ADL official dragged Greenblatt out of the room. He has still not apologized. Those outrageous incidents alone should have prompted the ADL to terminate Greenblatt.
ZOA and others have criticized the ADL on many issues, including:
- The ADL sought to defund and remove the tax exemptions from three pro-Israel organizations, including prominent Christian Zionist group Proclaiming Justice to the Nations.
- The ADL hired an outreach director who justified anti-Israel terrorism; said Jews need to “repent for Gaza’s dead”; and, after black extremists murdered innocent Jews in Jersey City, blamed black antisemitism on “Jewish landlords and pawnbrokers and small merchants,” as well as “systemic racism” against blacks.
- The ADL condemned U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the U.S. State Department’s appropriate plans to label three organizations that libel Israel—Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Oxfam—as antisemitic.
- ADL’s Black History Month celebration featured an Israel-hating BDS activist.
- The ADL’s report on terror attacks during the years 2002-2018 undercounted Islamist migrants’ terror attacks. It also omitted Islamist terrorist murders of Jews at the Los Angeles El Al counter and Seattle Jewish Federation, claiming that these murders were not Islamist terrorism. It ignored Islamist terror allegedly unconnected to specific terrorist organizations. In addition, it limited the period examined in order to omit the 9/11 attacks. The ADL then misleadingly claimed that the number of plots “motivated by right-wing extremism” exceeded plots motivated by Islamist extremism.
- After Rep. Ilhan Omar tweeted, “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel” and gave an insulting non-apology, claiming she was reacting to Israeli “oppression,” Greenblatt praised Omar, saying, “Hats off to Rep. Omar for her honest apology and commitment to a more just world.”
- The ADL’s spokesperson stated in 2021, “Anti-Israel activism in and of itself is not antisemitism” and “a BDS resolution alone would not count as antisemitism,” but “might” be antisemitism if Jewish students were excluded from a debate on the resolution.
- During his 2016 speech to the left-wing lobby J Street, Greenblatt called BLM, refugee and LGBT rights “the struggles of our time.” Greenblatt ignored BLM’s rampant anti-Israel libels and BDS promotion. At the moment, Jews are being slaughtered, attacked, boycotted and defamed the world over. Thus, the real struggle of our time for the ADL should be to see to it that Jewish lives matter.
- Greenblatt’s J Street speech falsely accused fellow Jews of “exhibit[ing] Islamophobia,” denying “marginalized Palestinians” their rights and failing to recognize the legitimacy of the “Palestinian narrative,” which is a lie that denies Jewish history and Israel’s right to exist. He also wrongly blamed both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to make peace.
- The ADL and Greenblatt falsely condemn as “antisemitic” people who criticize George Soros’s extremist activities, including sending millions of dollars to anti-Israel NGOs, as well as Soros’s admission on “60 Minutes” that he feels no guilt about helping his godfather confiscate Jewish property. Notably, Greenblatt previously worked for the Soros-funded Aspen Institute.
- The ADL’s 2021 “Never Is Now” conference featured speakers hostile to Israel. In the past, these speakers had falsely accused Israel of perpetrating “ethnic cleansing” and “daily” human rights violations. They called for U.S. President Joe Biden to use “sticks” against Israeli “settlements.” They also outrageously downplayed the PFLP terrorist organization’s brutal meat-cleaver massacre of five innocent Jewish worshipers and a security guard at a Jerusalem synagogue; claiming it was a “lone wolf attack by two cousins.”
- In May 2021, while Hamas launched 4,369 rockets at Israel and Israeli Arabs attacked their Jewish neighbors and burnt and looted Jewish homes, synagogues and cars, ADL issued a statement that wrongly cast blame on Israelis by accusing “extremists, including far-right Jewish nationalists” of “exacerbating tensions.”
- The ADL defended the Soros-funded Tides Foundation and its former chairman. Tides openly supports and funds leading antisemitic, anti-Israel and BDS groups, including the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC), Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), Code Pink, Bend the Arc, Adalah Justice Project, Solidaire Network, IfNotNow, J Street and more.
- The ADL has opposed anti-BDS laws, even though such laws are highly effective at combatting the antisemitic movement. The ADL actively lobbied against a federal anti-BDS law and state anti-BDS laws in Maryland, South Carolina, Illinois and New York. ZOA’s legal experts and others have demonstrated that anti-BDS laws are legal and condemned the ADL’s opposition. The ADL’s current BDS position statements say nothing about anti-BDS laws.
- The ADL opposed an Israeli law that bans BDS activists from entering the country, which was upheld by Israel’s courts. Furthermore, in 2018, the ADL said that Israel should allow antisemitic boycott activist, terror supporter and president of the hate group Students for Justice in Palestine Lara Alqasem to enter Israel.
- In a letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the ADL and Greenblatt falsely accused pro-Israel Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (and associated pro-Israel groups) of Islamophobia, in an attempt to block Pompeo’s confirmation. ZOA wrote to the Senate committee countering the ADL’s false “Islamophobia” claims.
- In September 2020, the ADL co-signed a full-page New York Times advertisement promoting BLM. The ADL signed the ad just four months after BLM burned, defaced and looted Los Angeles Jewish synagogues, schools and businesses. BLM also falsely accused Israel of genocide, ethnic cleansing and training U.S. police to murder blacks, among other slanders.
- The ADL repeatedly co-signed joint letters with extreme Israel-hating groups, including 29 joint letters (opposing events sponsored by a pro-Israel group) co-signed with the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), which called Israelis “the worst terrorists in the world,” defends Hezbollah and said Israel should not exist and ought to be suspected of perpetrating 9/11. Co-singers also included four JVP groups; CAIR; the Islamic Society of North America, named an unindicted co-conspirator in funneling money to Hamas; the Iranian regime proxy the National Iranian American Council (NIAC); Bend the Arc; and BDS promoters the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and Presbyterian Church USA.
- Greenblatt attacked former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for calling out the Palestinian Authority’s advocacy of the ethnic cleansing of Jews.
- The ADL focuses on white supremacy while often ignoring and downplaying Islamist and black supremacist terrorism. The ADL’s 2019 “Antisemitism Summit” announcement stated it would focus on “extremism, white supremacy, cyber hate, campus activism and free speech,” but did not mention Islamic antisemitism. It did not do so despite imams in certain U.S. mosques calling for killing Jews; Islamist attacks targeting Jews, including outside a U.S. synagogue; Muslim plots to blow up American synagogues; and more.
- Greenblatt praised antisemitic former congressman Keith Ellison as an “important ally in the fight against antisemitism” and “on record in support of Israel” when Ellison ran for Democratic National Committee chair. It did so despite Ellison’s long record of Israel-bashing; antisemitism; attempting to insert anti-Israel planks and remove pro-Israel planks from the Democratic Party platform; blaming a non-existent Israeli “occupation” for inadequate electricity in Gaza, which is actually due to Hamas’s diversion of electricity to terror tunnels and operations; voting against Iron Dome funding; speaking at and receiving contributions and travel funds from Muslim Brotherhood affiliates; and a decade as spokesperson for Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam.
ADL clearly needs a complete overhaul, starting with Greenblatt’s removal.
Morton A. Klein is the national president of the Zionist Organization of America. Elizabeth A. Berney is ZOA’s director of research & special projects.
This op-ed was originally published in JNS and can be viewed here.