Pandering by the ADL

By Stephen Steinlight on May 15, 2009

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is making news again, or, to put it less dramatically, it's garnered a few headlines in Jewish weeklies, some coverage in papers in south Florida, a piece in JTA, angry disbelief on anti-Islamist websites (see, for instance, here and here), and from Jewish bloggers, and an accolade in the on-line publication of the leading Muslim/Islamist organization in the United States, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). CAIR is nothing short of flabbergasted if understandably pleased by the ADL's latest loopy escapade. Though Abe Foxman, ADL National Director, would prefer if all the press his organization receives these days focused on his pontifications about the Pontiff, the little news story that doesn't want to go away is decidedly messier, more problematic, and deserves to be widely known because it's a bellwether for Jewish Establishment behavior on a variety of issues, including immigration.

This time the news isn't about the ADL's predatory take on the Armenian Genocide. The organization whose putative mission is not only to "stop the defamation of the Jewish people" but also to "secure justice and fair treatment for all" was finally forced to sever its ties to the Armenian Genocide Denial movement because outraged board members threatened to resign and take their contributions with them. However, the recent press it's received for yet another noisome, controversial action suggests it's learned little from that episode. If it continues playing it cards this poorly and does not recant once more, it will likely find itself embroiled in yet another discreditable media spectacle.

Notwithstanding the most incontrovertible survey data – findings so solid, consistent, and devastating not even the most naïve multicultural Pollyanna can be in denial regarding the fanatical anti-Semitism pervasive among the world's 1.3 billion Muslims – the ADL continues incomprehensible efforts to curry favor with Islam. It has done it in the past by falsifying the historical record (see the Armenians), permitting non-experts in its employ to make intellectually vacuous, sophomoric distinctions about Islam and Jihadism, and seeking publicity by attacking one of the few European politicians with the courage to speak out about the impact of mass Muslim immigration to Europe (more of which later) that will in the course of uprooting Western civilization in its heartland, inevitably bring an end to the Western European chapter of Jewish history within a few decades. For Islamic organizations to have the lead "attack dog" in the American-Jewish Establishment go after one of its mortal enemies was an unexpected, unalloyed pleasure.

Whatever expletives others have used to characterize its action, what the ADL has done isn't an aberration. It flows from deeply rooted predilections: unconditional commitment to open-borders immigration and its mission as a professional "tolerance promoter" to promote tolerance even for the least tolerant (with some exceptions, of course). When this American Jew was being defamed by the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) using inaccurate, scurrilous, politically motivated "research" provided by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) claiming I'm a "white supremacist" seeking to "penetrate" the Jewish community (they smeared me because they disagree with me on immigration policy), I didn't find an ally in the ADL. Rather, having done no research of its own and having made no effort to contact me to ascertain my views, the ADL backed my accusers. Interviewed in the JTA article about HIAS's McCarthyism, Deborah Lauter, ADL's civil rights director, said "the community should be 'wary' of Steinlight." The revealing little drama summarizes the ADL in 2009: be wary of opponents on immigration policy but protective of Islam! Commonsensical American Jews should pay close attention.

Its current gambit is in the service of the only other domestic policy it advocates as passionately as it does illegal and massive immigration: passing "anti-hate crimes" legislation which represents an immediate danger to freedom of expression and a slippery slope that threatens other constitutional liberties. Its fervor to see "hate crimes" legislation enacted is disturbingly reminiscent of and congruent with one of the most extreme demands made by the Muslims nations in Geneva at Durban II – that criticism of Islam be made a crime everywhere in the world. This is identical to UN Resolution 62/154 on "Combating Defamation of Religions" that demands that Islam, through the agency of the UN, be shielded from all hostile criticism. It seems almost beyond belief that the ADL is prepared to carry the water for the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

Of course this must appear counterintuitive to observers of an organization whose primary reason for being is supposedly fighting anti-Semitism and which will go to great lengths to keep American Jews traumatized by the fear of it, even if that means occasionally resorting to counting swastikas on the walls of middle-school washrooms when nothing genuinely sinister is happening. Keeping Jewish anxiety high over anti-Semitism requires ingenuity in the U.S., as it is currently constituted, considering the Pew Global Attitudes Project finds only 7% of Americans are anti-Semitic, the lowest percentage in the world, making it a marginal, fringe phenomenon. It's getting tough to stay in business fighting anti-Semitism in a country where Jews are fully at home, perfectly acculturated, successful, and safe. Under these challenging circumstances, counting swastikas in the washroom must cede pride of place to defending Islam or, rather, making sure we all tolerate it. But the line between "fighting hate" and validating the hateful thinking can quickly become invisible. In any event, if the immigration policies the ADL advocates become law, the anti-Semitism fighting industry will make a major comeback.

Before setting aside ADL's debacle over the Armenian Genocide – it's directly related to what makes ADL's actions newsworthy once more and provides a segue – it's worth pointing out exactly what was achieved by trivializing the enormity inflicted on the Armenian people by the Ottomans and their Kurdish henchmen. Apart from the irreparable damage ADL did to its own reputation – it lost an enormous share of its moral capital – it's worth pointing out just how much it accomplished by way of improving Turkish-Israeli or Turkish-Jewish relations. That a Jewish organization was prepared to equivocate about another people's genocide in exchange for what it perceived as immediate Jewish self-interest – to toss the murder of over a million Armenians under the bus was so monstrous and revolting – if there is a cardinal sin a Jewish organization can commit this is it – the fact that its intentions have backfired appears Providential (though there is of course no causal connection).

Israeli-Turkish relations have seriously deteriorated. The "moderate" Islamist Turkish Prime Minister, Recip Tyyip Erdogan, stormed out of the World Economic Forum in Davos after having lost his self-control in the midst of the staid assemblage and "went native," scathingly attacking Shimon Peres for Israel's military operation in Gaza against Hamas. Erdogan's reward for this tantrum was a hero's welcome back home. In addition, the Turkish and Syrian armies have been conducting joint military exercises lately. To top it off, the same Pew Global Attitudes Project survey finds positive feelings among Turks towards Jews in the single digits, just as in other Muslim societies it studied (Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan, Turkey). The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is a best-seller in Turkey and the most popular and expensive Turkish TV series of all time, "The Valley of the Wolves," was a recent multi-part dramatization worthy of Julius Streicher which is employs the notorious blood libel and myths of Jewish world conspiracy and combines anti-Semitic with anti-American themes. Anti-Semitism exists within Turkey, long characterized as the most Western nation in the Muslim world, and supposedly deserving EU membership for that very reason, at levels that prevailed in Nazi Germany.

If I sold t-shirts for a living, my fantasy would be to create one for Abe Foxman, ADL's longtime leader, with a logo of the Star of David, an X superimposed on it, with the words "I denied the Armenian genocide and all I got was this lousy t-shirt!" If Foxman had a shred of decency, he would have resigned long ago for heaping such shame on all Americans who are Jews, let alone his own organization. The ADL has done good work in the past, and so occasionally has Foxman; there have been times when his tough-guy persona permitted him to be the one American-Jewish leader who, to use the cliche, "spoke truth to power." But genocide denial is unforgivable: one cannot come back after that. It is still not too late for his board to demand his resignation, though I'm under no illusions about how much backbone it possesses. The truth is without Foxman there is no ADL; at this stage, however, whether that would represent a loss is an open question.

The ADL's recent, newsworthy gambit was to play the role of "convenient idiot" in the human relations world for the growing alliance in Europe and the U.S. between the (intolerant) left and (intolerant) Muslims. Its contribution to the cause was joining a chorus of other politically correct sorts in branding Geert Wilders, the Dutch parliamentarian who's been risking his life trying to awaken a dormant, supine Europe to the future that awaits it as a product of its low fertility and mass Muslim immigration, as an agent of "Islamophobia" – the clever epithet de jour for individuals who recognize the danger Islam represents to West values. As Christopher Hitchens points out, what this usage has slyly accomplished is conflating "racism" – the ultimate contemporary taboo – with one's attitude toward a particular religion, and the combination has made it a powerful tool of intellectual blackmail. That this conflation is ridiculous -- one of Islam's largest boasts is that it is a universal faith with no racial base -- doesn't matter.

The Florida area director of the ADL, one Andrew Rosenkranz, attacked Wilders who has been speaking at synagogues across Florida. Rosenkranz condemned Wilders' alleged "message of hate" which refuses to distinguish between the religion of Islam and Jihadism. A great many scholars of Islam would not affirm Mr. Rosenkranz's simplistic bifurcation (however civic-minded). Making that distinction is, in fact, a far more difficult intellectual and theological undertaking than he recognizes. While in a narrow sense Islamism with a capital "I" is a recent historical development – we associate the derivation of the term with the birth of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in 1928 under the leadership of Hasan al-Banna – Islamism/Jihadism has been a foundation stone of Islam from its inception, and any close reading of the Qur'an, the Hadith, or familiarity with the Sunnah or the four schools of Islamic jurisprudence makes the point incontestable.

Rather than sanctimoniously condemn Wilders' view of the Qur'an and Islam as a religion with insufficient knowledge and understanding, perhaps Mr. Rosenkranz should actually read it (making a special point to peruse those sections dealing with Mohammed's wars of extermination against the Jewish tribes of the Arabian Peninsula and the multiple of profoundly ugly and violent commentaries on Jews). He can also save himself the trouble by reading or even just dipping into Dr. Andrew Bostom's two thick tomes The Legacy of Jihad and The Legacy of Islamic Anti-Semitism, which offer a compilation of chapter and verse (mountains of chapter and verse) from the Qur'an and other primary Muslim sources that reveal the huge quotient of theological anti-Semitism in Islam's holy books as well as the Machiavellian statecraft fundamental to what is not only a religion – perhaps not even primarily one as we understand it in the Judeo-Christian world – but a minutely detailed system of governance, with an overlay of religion, that seeks world domination. That it has been an imperial project from its birth no historian would deny.

It is critical to bear in mind that Muslims cannot view the Qur'an as Westerners do their Holy Scripture as a smorgasbord from which to pick and choose in the interest of the most humane exegesis. In Islam, one cannot retain the nice bits and leave out the nasty ones. That's because there's no parallel between the status of the Qur'an in Islam and that of the Hebrew Bible in Judaism or the New Testament in Christianity. The great majority of Jews and Christians (excluding the relative handful of true literalists in both faiths) understand scripture as the divinely inspired words of human beings who were children of their time, whose values were historically conditioned. If an ancient text has become an ethical anachronism (such as passages in Leviticus recommending stoning homosexuals or adulterers) we no longer consider them binding. But Muslim believers see the Qur'an in very different terms. It is the literal word of God transmitted whole and perfect – perfect for all time – to Mohammed by the Angel Gabriel. It is thus an extension of God himself; the analogy would not be the Hebrew Bible or New Testament but rather to the Christian Eucharist. No human being can change what is written or reinterpret it in light of contemporary understanding. It is neither historically nor socially conditioned. What was true when the revelation was allegedly made to Mohammed in the seventh century is equally true now. Passages that strike a modern Western ear as utterly barbarous and malevolent – because they are – retain all their sanctity for an authority over believers.

It's doubtful many Americans have yet arrived at the point of embracing the immigration-related policy recommendation to which Wilders' refusal to accept Islam as a religion is meant to lead: banning Muslim immigration on the grounds that Islam is a totalitarian ideology rather than primarily a religion. During the Cold War, America employed ideological exclusion to ban communists – the McCarran-Walter Act of 1952 is the prime example – though the Act was also used to bar others deemed undesirable. Though Congress eventually repealed it, ideological exclusion persists today in the Patriot Act, which bars from the U.S. any one involved in "a position of prominence within any country to endorse or espouse terrorist activity." (See discussions of exclusion in the Patriot Act in Vernon M. Briggs' Mass Immigration and the National Interest and Amitai Etzioni's How Patriotic Is the Patriot Act?: Freedom Versus Security in an Age of Terrorism.)

My own indecision on this question has more to do with current facts on the ground – the comparatively low level of Muslim immigration to America, the far greater historical ability the United States has demonstrated to integrate immigrants than European societies, and the perhaps futile hope that Islam will undergo a Reformation of sorts under American pluralistic influences – than with any fundamental disagreement with Wilders' view of Islam and his concerns about its malign influence. Should the number of Muslim immigrants grow precipitously, acculturation be demonstrably unsuccessful, Islam remain unchanged despite its encounter with American values, or should more than minimal numbers of American-born Muslims identity with or become involved with global Jihadism, my attitude would quickly change. If I were a European lawmaker with Wilders' understanding of the demographic trends showing Europe will be 20% Muslim by 2050 and almost certainly majority Muslim by the end of the century, I would become an ally overnight.

Finally, Rosenkranz's uninformed defense of the indefensible and embarrassingly sophomoric interjection of a Jewish organization that exists to fight anti-Semitism into this battle on Islam's side recalls Robert Frost's definition of a liberal as someone who cannot take his own side in an argument. That Muslims hate Jews is no mystery; it is thoroughly, exhaustively documented. That Islamic anti-Semitism is theologically as well as politically based is news to no one familiar with Islamic history and scripture. That Muslim Jew-hatred preceded the advent of Zionism by a thousand years is simple fact. That the handful of Jews left in Muslim societies exist, as did Jews for hundreds of years before them, under a regime of dhimmitude as barely tolerated third-class human beings who live a life of constant humiliation, expropriation, and ceaseless threat is also acknowledged by every expert and impartial journalist who has spent time across the Muslim patrimony. Yet the ADL is dedicated to "tolerance" even for the intolerant. That Panglossian faith trumps every other reality, including the most worrying developments on the horizon, and every other allegiance.

When it comes to immigration policy, the ADL is dedicated to open-borders even if the price is the guaranteed importation of several million more Muslims with astronomical levels of anti-Semitism to America – who will in only a few decades exceed the number of American Jews – as well as tens of millions of foreign-born Hispanics with the second highest level of anti-Semitism in the world. But the ADL is in the tolerance business – rather like the capitalist in the rope business in Lenin's famous parable that sells the rope with which he will be hanged. It also pushes "hate speech" legislation that will fulfill the dreams of the Muslim states that gathered in Geneva at Durban II: it will make criticism of anti-Semitic, anti-Western Islam against the law.

American Jews who believe they know what the ADL is all about or who have supported it in the past because they thought it was a good insurance policy against the revival of anti-Semitism should open their eyes. They need to reconsider exactly what they're supporting. In an America in which anti-Semitism barely exists the ADL is an anachronism. But much worse than being superfluous, it is actively supporting policies that will generate the rebirth of anti-Semitism. If you buy their ticket, be prepared to take this ride. Is there a better way to defend a pluralistic America dedicated to individual liberty in which Jewish life can flourish? Reject the Jewish Establishment's suicidal advocacy of open-borders immigration and oppose the ADL in its effort to legitimate Islamism and to tamper with one of our most fundamental rights: freedom of expression.