Anti-Defamation League

Anti-Defamation League
Anti-Defamation League

Logo of the Anti-Defamation League
Motto To stop the defamation of the Jewish people…to secure justice and fair treatment to all.
Formation 1913
Type Civil rights law
Headquarters New York, NY
Director Abraham Foxman
Key people Robert Sugarman— Chairman

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is an international non-governmental organization based in the United States. Describing itself as "the nation's premier civil rights/human relations agency", the ADL states that it "fights anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry, defends democratic ideals and protects civil rights for all" while it "[advocates] for Israel [...] with policymakers, the media and the public" and "defends the security of Israel and Jews worldwide".[1][2]

Founded in 1913 by The Independent Order of B'nai B'rith, a Jewish service organization in the United States, its original mission statement was "to stop, by appeals to reason and conscience and, if necessary, by appeals to law, the defamation of the Jewish people. Its ultimate purpose is to secure justice and fair treatment to all citizens alike and to put an end forever to unjust and unfair discrimination against and ridicule of any sect or body of citizens."[1] The ADL has 29 offices in the United States and three offices in other countries, with its headquarters located in New York City. Since 1987, Abraham Foxman has been the national director in the United States. The national chairman in the United States is Robert Sugarman.



Founded in October 1913 by Sigmund Livingston, the ADL's charter states,

"The immediate object of the League is to stop, by appeals to reason and conscience and, if necessary, by appeals to law, the defamation of the Jewish people. Its ultimate purpose is to secure justice and fair treatment to all citizens alike and to put an end forever to unjust and unfair discrimination against and ridicule of any sect or body of citizens."[1]

Livingston established the ADL in direct response to the 1913 trial of Leo Frank, a Jewish factory manager in Georgia accused of murdering a young female employee.


Fighting anti-Semitism, bigotry, and racism

The stated purpose of the ADL is to fight "Anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry (in the United States) and abroad, combat international terrorism, probe the roots of hatred, advocate before the United States Congress, come to the aid of victims of bigotry, develop educational programs, and serve as a public resource for government, media, law enforcement, and the public, all towards the goal of countering and reducing hatred."

Historically, the ADL has opposed groups and individuals it considered to be anti-Semitic and/or racist, including: Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, Henry Ford, Father Charles Coughlin (leader of the Christian Front), the Christian Identity movement, the German-American Bund, neo-Nazis, the American militia movement and white power skinheads (although the ADL acknowledges that there are also non-racist skinheads).[3][4] The ADL publishes reports on a variety of countries, regarding alleged incidents of anti-Jewish attacks and propaganda.

The ADL maintains that some forms of Anti-Zionism and criticism of Israel are actually anti-Semitism. The Anti-Defamation League states:

"Criticism of particular Israeli actions or policies in and of itself does not constitute anti-Semitism. Certainly the sovereign State of Israel can be legitimately criticized just like any other country in the world. However, it is undeniable that there are those whose criticism of Israel or of "Zionism" is used to mask anti-Semitism."[5]

The ADL gives out its Courage to Care Award to honor rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust era.

The ADL publishes a list of the "ten leading organizations responsible for maligning Israel in the US", which have included a group calling for the United States to "stop funding Israeli apartheid".[6][7]

In October 2010, the ADL condemned remarks by Haham Ovadia Yosef that the sole purpose of non-Jews was to serve the people of Israel.[8]

Separation of church and state

One of the ADL's major focuses is religious freedom for people of all faiths.[9] In the context of public schools, the ADL has taken the position that because creationism and intelligent design are religious beliefs, and the government is prohibited from endorsing the beliefs of any particular religion, they should not be taught in science classrooms: "The U.S. Constitution guarantees the rights of Americans to believe the religious theories of creation (as well as other theories) but it does not permit them to be taught in public school science classes."[10] Similarly, the ADL supports the legal precedent that it is unconstitutional for the government to post the Ten Commandments in courthouses, schools, and other public places: "True religious liberty means freedom from having the government impose the religion of the majority on all citizens."[11] The ADL has also condemned the public school Bible curriculum published by the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, saying that it raises "serious constitutional problems" and "advocates the acceptance of one faith tradition's interpretation of the Bible over another."[12] The ADL opposed Proposition 8 and supported the Matthew Shepard Act.

Defending other religions

Stating that its one of its goals is to defend not only Jews, but also "all citizens alike and to put an end forever to unjust and unfair discrimination against and ridicule of any sect or body of citizens," the ADL has periodically made statements against misrepresentations of other faiths. For example, when the anti-Mormon film "The God Makers" was produced, Rhonda M. Abrams, Central Pacific (San Francisco) Regional Director for the ADL wrote a critical review, including the following statement:

Had a similar movie been made with either Judaism or Catholicism as its target, it would be immediately denounced for the scurrilous piece that it is. I sincerely hope that people of all faiths will similarly repudiate "The Godmakers" as defamatory and untrue, and recognize it for what it truly represents—a challenge to the religious liberty of all.[13]

Tracking "extremists"

The ADL keeps track of the activities of various "extremist" groups and movements.[14] According to ADL Director Abe Foxman, "Our mission is to monitor and expose those who are anti-Jewish, racist, anti-democratic, and violence-prone, and we monitor them primarily by reading publications and attending public meetings …. Because extremist organizations are highly secretive, sometimes ADL can learn of their activities only by using undercover sources … [who] function in a manner directly analogous to investigative journalists. Some have performed great service to the American people—for example, by uncovering the existence of right-wing extremist paramilitary training camps—with no recognition and at considerable personal risk."[15] A person apprehended in connection to the 2002 white supremacist terror plot had drawn a cartoon of himself blowing up the Boston offices of the ADL.[16]

The ADL regularly releases reports on anti-Semitism and extremist activities on the far left and the far right. For instance, as part of its Law Enforcement Agency Resource Network (L.E.A.R.N.), the ADL has published information about the Militia Movement[17] in America and a guide for law enforcement officials titled Officer Safety and Extremists.[18] An archive of "The Militia Watchdog" research on U.S. right-wing extremism (including groups not specifically cited as anti-Semitic) from 1995 to 2000 is also available on the ADL website.[17]

In the 1990s, some details of the ADL's monitoring activities became public and controversial, including the fact that the ADL had gathered information about some non-extremist groups.

Role in arrest of potential assassins of Barack Obama

In October 2008 the ADL reportedly assisted the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) by providing, on request, information on Daniel Cowart and Paul Schlesselman and their associates and contacts, and on their ties to the Supreme White Alliance. Shortly thereafter the two men were arrested on charges of plotting to murder dozens of African Americans and plotting to assassinate US President-elect Barack Obama.[19][20]

Holocaust awareness

The ADL holds that it is important to remember the Holocaust, in order to prevent such an event from ever coming to pass again. Along with sponsoring events and fighting Holocaust deniers and revisionists, the ADL has been active in urging action to stop modern-day "ethnic cleansing" and genocide in places such as Bosnia and Darfur, Sudan.

The ADL spoke out against an advertising campaign by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) beginning in 2003 that equated meat-eating with the Holocaust. A press release from the ADL stated that "PETA's effort to seek 'approval' for their 'Holocaust on Your Plate' campaign is outrageous, offensive and takes chutzpah to new heights. Rather than deepen our revulsion against what the Nazis did to the Jews, the project will undermine the struggle to understand the Holocaust and to find ways to make sure such catastrophes never happen again."[21] On May 5, 2005, PETA issued an apology for comparing the treatment of farm animals to the victims of the Nazi concentration camps. PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said she realized that the campaign had caused pain: "This was never our intention, and we are deeply sorry."

The ADL has for many years refused to acknowledge that the Armenian genocide constituted a genocide. The ADL has actively engaged in efforts to oppose Congressional affirmation of the Armenian Genocide. Under pressure to do so, the national ADL issued a "Statement on the Armenian Genocide" on August 21, 2007. The statement declared, "The consequences of those actions were indeed tantamount to genocide." Activists felt that the statement was not a full, unequivocal acknowledgment of the Armenian genocide, because the use of the qualifier "tantamount" was seen as inappropriate, and the use of the word "consequences" was seen as an attempt to circumvent the international legal definition of genocide by avoiding any language that would imply intent, a crucial aspect of the 1948 UN Genocide Convention definition. The ADL convened its national meeting in New York City in early November at which time the issue of the Armenian Genocide was discussed. Upon conclusion, a one sentence press statement was issued that "The National Commission of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today, at its annual meeting, decided to take no further action on the issue of the Armenian genocide."[22]

Political positions

The ADL supports the Jewish state and has vociferously opposed resolutions such as the 1975 United Nations resolution (revoked in 1991) that had equated Zionism and racism,[23] and attempts to revive that formulation at the 2001 U.N. World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa.[24]

The ADL honors individuals throughout the year for various reasons. On September 23, 2003, at its Tribute to Italy Dinner, the ADL awarded Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi the ADL's distinguished statesman award, an honor "conferred on world leaders who exhibit a commitment to furthering the achievement of regional and world peace, and who possess a special commitment to promoting human and civil rights."[25] Berlusconi is also known for his staunch pro-Israel stance.[26][27]

The ADL has spoken out against red-baiting and McCarthyism.[citation needed]

In 2006 the ADL condemned Senate Republicans in the United States for attempting to ban same-sex marriage with the Federal Marriage Amendment and praised its demise, calling it "discrimination".[28] That same year the ADL warned that the debate over illegal immigration was drawing neo-nazis and anti-Semites into the ranks of the Minutemen Project.

In 1974 ADL national leaders Arnold Forster and Benjamin R. Epstein published a book called The New Anti-Semitism (New York, 1974), arguing that a new kind of anti-Semitism is on the rise. In 1982, ADL national leader Nathan Perlmutter and his wife, Ruth Ann Perlmutter, released a book entitled The Real Anti-Semitism in America (New York, 1982). In 2003, ADL's national director Abraham Foxman published Never Again? The Threat of the New Anti-Semitism (San Francisco, 2003), where on page 4 he states: "We currently face as great a threat to the safety and security of the Jewish people as the one we faced in the 1930s—if not a greater one."[29]

In 2010, during a hearing for Florida House Bill 11 (Crimes Against Homeless Persons) which was to revise the list of offenses judged to be hate crimes in Florida by adding a person's homeless status,[30] the League lobbied against the bill, which subsequently passed in the House by a vote of 80 to 28 and was sent to the Senate,[31] taking the position that adding more categories to the list would dilute the effectiveness of the law, which already includes race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, and age.[32]

Interfaith camp

ADL's New England Regional Office has also established a faith-based initiative called "The Interfaith Youth Leadership Program," better known as "Camp If," or Camp Interfaith. Involving teenagers of the Christian, Jewish, and Islamic faiths, the camp brings the teens together for a week at camp where the teens bond and learn about each other's cultures. The camp has emerged as a new attempt to foster good relations between younger members of the Abrahamic faiths.[33]

Relations with ethnic groups

Relations with Arabs and Muslims

ADL publications on condemning bigotry towards Arabs, Muslims, Blacks and members of other minorities have often been used in synagogue adult education programs, and as part of Jewish-Christian and Jewish-Muslim inter-faith dialogue.

The ADL is sometimes at odds with Arab and Muslim groups, particularly over issues involving Israel and antisemitism. For instance, the ADL regularly publishes updates to its web site reviewing and cataloguing negative portrayals of Jews in Arab nations' media.[34]

Arab and Muslim groups are often critical of the ADL as well. After the ADL became involved in a dispute between two New Jersey mayoral candidates, one of whom had made a campaign speech at a meeting of an organisation whose president had called for "armed resistance" against Israel, asking the candidates to calm down, the group accused the ADL of "anti-Muslim McCarthyism".[35][36]

On June 18, 2004 the ADL issued a news release[37] about the University of California, Irvine (UCI) Muslim Students Union in which the ADL alleged that the student group had invited speakers to campus who "made public declarations of support for Hamas, advocated suicide bombings and called for the destruction of Israel." For graduation Group members chose to wear green (the traditional colour of Islam) graduation stoles bearing the Shahada, the Islamic declaration of faith. The ADL's press release described the Shahada as "a declaration of faith that has been closely identified with Palestinian terrorists," and claimed that suicide bombers connected to the Palestinian group Hamas wear green armbands and headbands inscribed with the Shahada as a symbol of their movement, and further stated, "We are troubled that members of the (UCI) Muslim Students Union have chosen to display symbolism that is closely identified with Palestinian terrorist groups and that can be especially offensive to Jewish students."

A news release from the Council on American-Islamic Relations denied that the stoles were expressions of support for terrorism, called the ADL's comments "bigoted statements", and demanded an apology; the organization's communications director Sabiha Khan said: "The ADL's hate-filled Islamophobic rhetoric labels all Muslims as terrorists, because every Muslim believes in the declaration of faith as the essence of Islam."[38] The ADL released a clarifying statement saying the ADL has nothing against the Muslim statement of faith and that, "It was never our intent to offend anyone and we apologize to those who took offense."[39]

Relations with African-Americans

The ADL has worked to combat racism against all racial groups, including racism against blacks. In 1997, the National Center for Black-Jewish Relations of Dillard University, a historically black university in New Orleans awarded the director of the ADL, Abraham H. Foxman, with the first Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. – Donald R. Mintz Freedom and Justice Award.

In 2004, the ADL became the lead partner in the Peace and Diversity Academy, a new New York City public high school with predominantly black and Hispanic students.

In celebration of Black History Month, the ADL created and distributed lesson plans to middle and high school teachers about Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to the US Congress, and an important civil rights leader.

The ADL has also publicly charged certain African Americans with anti-Semitism:

  • The ADL has catalogued a three-decade history of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan espousing anti-Semitic rhetoric such as claims that certain Jews are "not real Jews" and are "wicked deceivers of the American people" who "sucked [Americans'] blood," and that powerful Jews promote homosexuality and control black leadership.[40] Farrakhan first attracted the attention of the ADL with comments in a March 11, 1984 radio broadcast saying that "Hitler was a very great man,".[41] Farrakhan insists he was using the word 'great' in the sense of 'Great Depression' or 'great white shark'.[42] and on June 24, 1984 describing the Jewish state as "structured on injustice, thievery, lying and deceit and using the name of God to shield your dirty religion under His holy and righteous name."[41] The ADL has urged various groups including the NAACP (whose leader Benjamin Chavis developed a working relationship with Farrakhan in 1994) to dissociate themselves from Farrakhan and his views.[43]
  • In 1984 The Boston Globe reported that then ADL national director, Nathan Perlmutter, said Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. was anti-Semitic, after Jackson referred to New York City as "Hymietown".[44][45] However, the ADL later reconciled with Jackson and has worked with him on the issue of the Iranian Jewish community.[46]
  • Film Director Spike Lee was criticized by the Anti-Defamation League for his portrayal of Jewish nightclub owners Moe and Josh Flatbush in his 1990 film Mo' Better Blues. The Anti-Defamation League claimed that the characterizations of the nightclub owners "dredge up an age-old and highly dangerous form of anti-Semitic stereotyping," and "...disappointed that Spike Lee – whose success is largely due to his efforts to break down racial stereotypes and prejudice – has employed the same kind of tactics that he supposedly deplores."[47] Lee's portrayal also angered the B'Nai Brith and other such Jewish organizations causing Lee to apologize via an Opinion-Editorial article in The New York Times.[48]
  • During the 2002 election cycle, the ADL, in a letter to The New York Times, harshly criticized Congressional Black Caucus member Cynthia McKinney of Georgia for launching attacks perceived as racial against her Jewish opponent. According to an August 19, 2002 article in The New York Times ADL Director Abraham Foxman said, "it made sense that Jewish Americans would want to contribute to efforts to replace Ms. McKinney."
  • In February 2005, ADL National Director Abraham Foxman called it hypocritical for hip-hop producer Russell Simmons to lead an ad campaign against anti-Semitism while also, according to Foxman's view, defending or excusing Louis Farrakhan's anti-Semitic statements.[49] Later that year the ADL urged prominent black leaders including Simmons to reconsider their support for Farrakhan and Malik Zulu Shabazz organizing the Millions More Movement and to "stand up" against black anti-Semitism.[50] Simmons, responding to ADL Director Abraham Foxman, said "simply put, you are misguided, arrogant, and very disrespectful of African Americans and most importantly your statements will unintentionally or intentionally lead to a negative impression of Jews in the minds of millions of African Americans." [51] Foxman replied, "If there were a Jewish event which was led by an out-and-out racist, I would expect Black leaders to say to me that ADL should have nothing to do with it. And I would agree with them, rather than condemn them for their action."[52]

The ADL files controversy

Since the 1930s the ADL has been gathering information and publishing reports on anti-Semitism, racism and prejudice, and on anti-Jewish, anti-Israel, racist, anti-democratic, violent, and extremist individuals and groups. As a result, the organization has amassed what it once called a "famous storehouse of accurate, detailed, unassailable information on extremist individuals and organizations."[53] Over the decades the ADL has assembled thousands of files.

One of its sources was Roy Bullock, a person who collected information and provided it to the ADL as a secretly paid independent contractor over 32 years. Bullock often wrote letters to various groups and forwarded copies of their replies to the ADL, clipped articles from newspapers and magazines, and maintained files on his computer. He also used less orthodox, and possibly illegal, methods such as combing through trash and tapping into the White Aryan Resistance's phone message system to find evidence of hate crimes. Some of the information he obtained and then passed on to the ADL came from confidential documents (including intelligence files on various Nazi groups and driver's license records and other personal information on nearly 1,400 people) that were given to him by San Francisco police officer Tom Gerard.[54]

On April 8, 1993, police seized Bullock's computer and raided the ADL offices in San Francisco and Los Angeles, California. A search of Bullock's computer revealed he had compiled files on 9,876 individuals and more than 950 groups across the political spectrum. Many of Bullock's files concerned groups that did not fit the mold of extremist groups, hate groups, and organizations hostile to Jews or Israel that the ADL would usually be interested in. Along with files on the Ku Klux Klan, White Aryan Resistance, Islamic Jihad and Jewish Defense League were data on the NAACP, the African National Congress (ANC), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the United Auto Workers, the AIDS activist group ACT UP, Mother Jones magazine, the TASS Soviet/Russian news agency, Greenpeace, Jews for Jesus and the National Lawyers Guild; there were also files on politicians including Democratic U.S. Representative Nancy Pelosi, former Republican U.S. Representative Pete McCloskey, and activist Lyndon LaRouche.[54][55] Bullock told investigators that many of those were his own private files, not information he was passing on to the ADL. An attorney for the ADL stated that "We knew nothing about the vast extent of the files. Those are not ADL's files. … That is all [Bullock's] doing."[56] As for its own records, the ADL indicated that just because it had a file on a group did not indicate opposition to the group. The San Francisco district attorney at the time accused the ADL of conducting a national "spy network", but dropped all accusations a few months later.[57]

In the weeks following the raids, twelve civil rights groups led by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and the National Lawyers Guild, filed a lawsuit demanding ADL release its survellance information and end its investigations, as well as be ordered to pay punitive damages.[58] The plaintiffs' attorney, former Representative McCloskey, claimed that information the ADL gathered constituted an invasion of privacy. The ADL, while distancing itself from Bullock, countered that it is entitled like any researcher or journalist to research organizations and individuals. Richard Cohen, legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama, stated that like journalists, the ADL's researchers "gather information however they can" and welcome disclosures from confidential sources, saying "they probably rely on their sources to draw the line" on how much can legally be divulged. Bullock admitted that he was overzealous, and that some of the ways he gathered information may have been illegal.[56]

The lawsuit was settled out of court in 1999. The ADL agreed to pay $175,000 for the court costs of the groups that sued it, promised that it would not seek information from sources it knew could not legally disclose such information, consented to remove sensitive information like criminal records or Social Security numbers from its files, and spent $25,000 to further relations between the Jewish, Arab and black communities. When the case was settled, Hussein Ibish, director of communications for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), claimed that the ADL had gathered data "systematically in a program whose clear intent was to undermine civil rights and Arab-American organizations". ADL national director Abraham Foxman called the ADC's claims "absolutely untrue," saying that "if it were true, they would have won their case" and noting that no court found the ADL guilty of any wrongdoing. The ADL released a statement saying that the settlement "explicitly recognizes ADL's right to gather information in any lawful and constitutionally protected manner, which we have always done and will continue to do."[57]

James Rosenberg

A case which has been compared to the Bullock case was that of James Mitchell Rosenberg, AKA Jim Anderson. Rosenberg/Anderson was an undercover operative of the ADL who acted as an agent provocateur, posing as a racist right-wing paramilitary extremist. He appeared in this role as part of a TV documentary entitled "Armies of the Right" which premiered in 1981. Rosenberg was arrested that same year in New York for carrying an unregistered firearm in public view. In 1984, ADL fact-finding director Irwin Suall identified Rosenberg as an ADL operative in a court deposition.[59]

Armenian Genocide controversy

In 2007, Abraham Foxman came under criticism for his stance on the Armenian Genocide. The ADL had previously described it as a "massacre" and "atrocity", but not a "genocide".[60] Foxman had earlier opposed calls for the U.S. Government to recognise it as a "genocide".[61] "I don't think congressional action will help reconcile the issue. The resolution takes a position; it comes to a judgment," said Foxman in a statement issued to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “The Turks and Armenians need to revisit their past. The Jewish community shouldn't be the arbiter of that history, nor should the U.S. Congress, and "a Congressional resolution on such matters is a counterproductive diversion and will not foster reconciliation between Turks and Armenians and may put at risk the Turkish Jewish community and the important multilateral relationship between Turkey, Israel and the United States."

In early August 2007, complaints about the Anti-Defamation League's refusal to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide led to the Watertown, Massachusetts unanimous town council decision to end their participation in the ADL "No Place for Hate" campaign. Also in August 2007, an editorial in The Boston Globe criticized the ADL saying that "as an organization concerned about human rights, it ought to acknowledge the genocide against the Armenian people during World War I, and criticize Turkish attempts to repress the memory of this historical reality."[62] Then on 17 August 2007, the ADL fired its regional New England director, Andrew H. Tarsy, for breaking ranks with the main organization and saying the ADL should recognize the genocide.[63] In a 21 August 2007 press release, the ADL changed its position to one of acknowledging the genocide but maintained its opposition to congressional resolutions aimed at recognizing it.[60] Foxman wrote, "the consequences of those actions," by the Ottoman Empire against Armenians, "were indeed tantamount to genocide."[64] The Turkish government condemned the league's statement.[65] Andrew H. Tarsy was rehired by the league on 27 August,[66] though he has since chosen to step down from his position.[67]

The ADL was criticized by many in the Armenian community including The Armenian Weekly newspaper, in which writer Michael Mensoian stated:

The belated backtracking of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in acknowledging the planned, systematic massacre of 1,500,000 Armenian men, women and children as "…tantamount to genocide…" is discouraging. Tantamount means something is equivalent. If it’s equivalent, why avoid using the term? For the ADL to justify its newly adopted statement because the word genocide did not exist at the time indicates a halfhearted attempt to placate Armenians while not offending Turkey. Historians use the term genocide simply because it is the proper term to describe the horrific events that the Ottoman Turkish government unleashed on the Armenian people.[68]

After Foxman's capitulation, the New England ADL pressed the organization's national leadership to support a congressional resolution acknowledging the genocide.[69] After hours of closed-door debate at the annual national meeting in New York, the proposal was ultimately withdrawn.[69] The organization issued a statement saying it would "take no further action on the issue of the Armenian genocide." The ADL had earlier received direct pressure from the Turkish Foreign ministry.[70] Tarsy submitted his resignation on December 4.[69]

Since August, some human rights commissions in other Massachusetts communities decided to follow Watertown's lead and withdraw from the ADL's No Place for Hate anti-discrimination program.[69]



The ADL has drawn criticism from the Council on American-Islamic Relations[71] and from the Nation of Islam.[72]


Linguist and activist Noam Chomsky has characterized ADL as having lost entirely its focus on civil rights issues to become solely an advocate for Israeli policy; he holds that ADL casts all left-wing opposition to Israeli interests as antisemitism.[73] Michael Lerner, a prominent left-wing rabbi, has criticized the ADL on similar grounds.[74] Other critics include Norman G. Finkelstein,[75] Matt Isaacs,[76] Jude Wanniski,[77] Jeffrey Blankfort, Anne Poirier and Steve Zeltzer.[78]

In 2003, journalist John Gorenfeld criticized the ADL in an article in Salon Magazine for its silence on alleged antisemitic statements by members of the Unification Church, in contrast to its outspoken criticism of the Nation of Islam and other groups.[79]

Role in cancellation of speech by Tony Judt at Polish Consulate

The ADL, in addition to the American Jewish Committee, was criticized by academic Tony Judt for allegedly pressuring the Polish Consul General in New York to cancel a scheduled appearance by Judt at a non-profit organization that rents space from the consulate. In an interview with the New York Sun, Foxman claimed that the group "had nothing to do with the cancellation",[80] insisting that the ADL only called to ask if the event was being sponsored by the Polish government.[81] Polish Consul General Krzysztof Kasprzyk suggested in an interview with The Washington Post that calls by the ADL and the American Jewish Committee were "exercising a delicate pressure".[82] In reference to the role of the ADL and American Jewish Committee in organizing the cancellations, Judt told The Washington Post: "This is serious and frightening, and only in America—not in Israel—is this a problem. These are Jewish organizations that believe they should keep people who disagree with them on the Middle East away from anyone who might listen."[82] The ADL denied the charges. According to Foxman, "I think they made the right decision... He's taken the position that Israel shouldn't exist. That puts him on our radar."[82]

Denver defamation suit

According to an April 13, 2001 article in The Forward, a federal judge "lambasted the organization for labeling a nasty neighborhood feud as an anti-Semitic event" and upheld most of William and Dorothy Quigley's $10 million lawsuit for defamation. In 1994, Candace and Mitchell Aronson, Jewish next door neighbors of the Quigleys, contacted the Denver ADL office, reporting overheard cordless phone conversations of the Quigleys discussing putting pictures of oven doors on the Aronsons' home (a reference to the Holocaust), burning the Aronson children and wishing the Aronsons had been killed in a suicide bombing. (The Quigleys later indicated that these remarks had been intended to be humorous.)[83] The Quigleys and the Aronsons had been engaged in an escalating series of petty disputes prior to this incident. The ADL also labelled the Quigleys as anti-Semites in a press conference which led to felony federal charges being filed against them.

Judge Edward W. Nottingham of the United States District Court for the District of Colorado wrote "it is not unreasonable to infer that public charges of anti-Semitism leveled by the ADL will be taken seriously and assumed by many to be true without question. In that respect, the ADL is in a unique position of being able to cause substantial harm to individuals when it lends its backing to allegations of anti-Semitism." The judge concluded that the ADL supported the Aronsons' accusations without investigating the case, or weighing of the consequences.[84]

New antisemitism controversy

In 1974, ADL national leaders Arnold Forster and Benjamin R. Epstein published a book called The New Anti-Semitism (New York, 1974), arguing that a new kind of anti-Semitism is on the rise. In 1982, ADL national leader Nathan Perlmutter and his wife, Ruth Ann Perlmutter, released a book entitled The Real Anti-Semitism in America (New York, 1982). In 2003, ADL's national director Abraham Foxman published Never Again? The Threat of the New Anti-Semitism (San Francisco, 2003), where on page 4 he states: "We currently face as great a threat to the safety and security of the Jewish people as the one we faced in the 1930s—if not a greater one."[29]

In 2005, Norman G. Finkelstein published Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History which devotes Part 1 to "The Not-So-New 'New Anti-Semitism'." In a 2006 appearance on Amy Goodman's Democracy Now!, Finkelstein denied there was any evidence for a rise of a new anti-Semitism in either Europe or North America. He continued, "Every time Israel comes under international pressure, as it did recently because of the war crimes committed in Lebanon, it steps up the claim of anti-Semitism, and all of Israel's critics are anti-Semitic." According to Finkelstein, the ADL and Foxman, its president, have advanced this "preposterous" deception.[85]

Conflict with Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership

ADL is an advocate for gun control legislation.[86] The ADL supported the District of Columbia before the US Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller which argued that the city's ban on the possession of handguns and any functional firearms, even for self-defense in the home is not prohibited by the Second Amendment.[87] The League urged the Court to ensure that states retain the ability to keep guns out of the hands of "violent bigots."

Gun rights group Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership (JPFO) has been highly critical of the Anti-Defamation League. In pamphlets such as "Why Does the ADL Support Nazi-Based Laws?"[88] and "JPFO Facts vs. ADL Lies,"[89] the JPFO has accused the ADL of undermining the welfare of the Jewish people by promoting gun control. In a 2007 handbill the JPFO accused Director Abraham Foxman of knowingly supporting the "use of Nazi gun control laws in America."[90] Foxman has written about the JPFO: "Anti-Semitism has a long and painful history, and the linkage to gun control is a tactic by Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership to manipulate the fear of anti-Semitism toward their own end."[91]

Community Center controversy

On July 28, 2010 the ADL issued a statement in which it expressed opposition to the Park51 Community Center, which sponsors planned to build near Ground Zero in New York. The ADL stated, "The controversy which has emerged regarding the building of a Community Center at this location is counterproductive to the healing process. Therefore, under these unique circumstances, we believe the City of New York would be better served if an alternative location could be found."[92] The ADL denounced what it saw as bigoted attacks on the project. Foxman opined that some of those who oppose the mosque are "bigots", and that the plan's proponents may have every right to build the mosque at that location. Nevertheless, he appealed to the builders to consider the sensitivities of the victims' families, saying that building the mosque at that site would unnecessarily cause more pain for families of some victims of 9/11.[93][94][92][95]

This opposition to the Community Center led to criticism of the statement from various parties, including one ADL board member, the American Jewish Committee, the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, Rabbi Irwin Kula, columnists Jeffrey Goldberg and Peter Beinart, the Interfaith Alliance,[96] and the Shalom Center.[97] In an interview with the New York Times Abe Foxman published a statement in reaction to criticism.[98] In protest of ADL’s stance, CNN host Fareed Zakaria returned the Hubert H. Humphrey First Amendment Freedoms Prize the ADL awarded him in 2005.[99] ADL chair Robert G. Sugarman responded to a critical New York Times editorial[100] writing "we have publicly taken on those who criticized the mosque in ways that reflected anti-Muslim bigotry or used the controversy for that purpose" and noted that the ADL has combatted "Islamophobia."[101]

See also


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