Anti-Defamation League Adapts to Challenges as It Turns 100

Abraham Foxman Embraces Role as Anti-Semitism Arbiter

Happy Birthday Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, gets hug from Vice President Joe Biden at the group’s centennial celebration.
david karp
Happy Birthday Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, gets hug from Vice President Joe Biden at the group’s centennial celebration.

By Nathan Guttman

Published May 01, 2013, issue of May 10, 2013.
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Hilary Shelton, Washington bureau director and senior vice president for advocacy and policy of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, pronounced himself “a little taken aback” by Foxman’s comments.

“I’m not sure where this is coming from,” he said in response. Shelton said he did not come across anti-Semitic incidents in his community, and that his organization and others speak out frequently against “anything that is disrespectful toward Jews.”

Foxman pointed to the continuing attraction exerted by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, with his long record of anti-Semitic remarks, over large numbers of blacks. “I don’t know of any other African-American leader who can gather a crowd of 20,000,” he said. “Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton — they are not there on this issue.”

The ADL’s second front on battling anti-Semitism is the Internet, which Foxman terms a “godsend for the bigots.” It is also the topic of a new book Foxman co-authored, “Viral Hate,” scheduled for publication in June. The ADL views the Internet as its major challenge for the next 20 to 30 years and is focusing much of its effort on exposing and confronting those spreading hatred under the mask of anonymity provided by the Web. It is this anonymity, the ADL believes, that allows racists to disseminate their views without paying the societal price for bigotry.

The ADL’s domestic civil rights advocacy, including its support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights; its anti-bullying activity, and its sensitivity training sessions for ethnic and religious diversity, may take up the lion’s share of its budget and time. But increasingly, it is the group’s outspoken support for Israel that draws public attention.

Foxman is willing to address some of Israel’s domestic inequalities, including its lack of religious pluralism for Jewish denominations. But he has consistently refused to discuss Israel’s human rights record when it comes to the Jewish state’s treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank.

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