Commentary Magazine


Topic: Abe Foxman

Rereading the ADL’s Foolish Report on Rage

My article on the Anti-Defamation League’s report “Rage Grows in America: Anti-Government Conspiracies” ignited a debate about the group’s foolish attempt to link virtually everyone who has voiced criticisms of the Obama administration and its agenda with gun-toting paranoid extremists from the far Right.

The ADL’s response to its critics was typically high-handed and obtuse. In a Jewish Telegraphic Agency article about the controversy, ADL spokeswoman Myrna Shinbaum claimed: “The comments are coming from people who have not read the report. They’re reacting to the media spin and not its substance.”

As the person who helped kick off this fracas, let me assure Ms. Shinbaum and her boss Abe Foxman (in whose defense I have written when the Left had wrongly accused him of trying to suppress anti-Israel dissent) that it was precisely because I did read the report from start to finish that I chose to write about its egregious faults. If anything, I would say that, judging by some of the arguments put forth by the document’s defenders, it is far more likely that those who support the report, rather than its critics, have not read it.

As I wrote in COMMENTARY on Nov. 18:

For the ADL, the “rage” is the result of a three-headed monster: “mainstream political attacks,” “grass roots hostility,” and “anti-government extremists.”

The first of these threats to American democracy — the word “mainstream” appears in the report in quotes as if to disparage the notion that such opinions are widespread, while simultaneously paying lip service to the fact that strong criticism of Obama is entirely legitimate — is the result of “partisan attacks against the Obama administration by some conservative politicians and media figures. Upset and anxious about their loss of power following the 2008 elections, they seek primarily to energize their political base and to delegitimize the Obama administration at the same time.”

This passage ought to prompt disinterested readers to ask whether a defeated political party’s criticism of the opposition deserves mention in a report about extremism. After all, conservatives have attacked Obama on the issues not because they want to overthrow the government but because they disagree with him.

The mere mention of such Republican activities in this context, however, reinforces the very conclusion that the ADL claims it wishes to disavow. Indeed, the report then says, “One of the most important effects of these activists, however, is to help create a body of people who may be predisposed to believe the assertions and claims of more extreme individuals and groups.”

The ADL’s defenders claim that the group has made the proper distinctions between normal political activity and extremism. But if they read the report carefully, they will see that such distinctions were thrown to the winds in its introduction. Had the report stuck to its accounts of the more bizarre conspiracy theories circulating about Obama or of the activity of violent extremists, there would have been no reason to criticize it. But, instead, it linked the crackpots with legitimate public protests, conservative media figures, and even “mainstream” politicians pursuing the duties of an opposition party in a democracy.

One defender of the report, the editorial page of the New York Jewish Week, edited by the thoughtful and responsible Gary Rosenblatt, writes:

We recognize, as does the ADL, that the far left also reduces complex issues to simplistic, angry slogans that turn debate into meaningless shouting matches. The left, too, finds solace in broad-brush conspiracy theories. But in today’s America, it’s the other extreme, with its unparalleled access to new forms of media and which is sometimes legitimized by mainstream politicians eager to capitalize on the fears gripping the nation, that seems to be on the march.

But it is precisely the point that, earlier in this decade, when the Left was on the march, the ADL pointedly refused to link mainstream liberal politicians who bashed the Bush administration with radicals in the streets.

As I wrote: “Had the ADL issued a report a few years ago that began by accusing Democrats of creating resentment against Bush and then linked opposition to the GOP to extremists who supported Hamas or rationalized or even denied al-Qaeda’s role in 9/11, Democrats would have cried foul and been right to do so. That never happened.”

By painting its picture with such a broad brush, the anti-Semitism watchdog group lent its bully pulpit to the administration and its most partisan cheerleaders. Claiming that the tax protest “tea parties,” town-hall-meeting dissenters, and Glenn Beck’s broadcast broadsides are part of a structure that is threatening democracy or giving rise to anti-Semitism is absurd, but it does serve the partisan interests of the Left. That is not the proper function of the ADL.

My article on the Anti-Defamation League’s report “Rage Grows in America: Anti-Government Conspiracies” ignited a debate about the group’s foolish attempt to link virtually everyone who has voiced criticisms of the Obama administration and its agenda with gun-toting paranoid extremists from the far Right.

The ADL’s response to its critics was typically high-handed and obtuse. In a Jewish Telegraphic Agency article about the controversy, ADL spokeswoman Myrna Shinbaum claimed: “The comments are coming from people who have not read the report. They’re reacting to the media spin and not its substance.”

As the person who helped kick off this fracas, let me assure Ms. Shinbaum and her boss Abe Foxman (in whose defense I have written when the Left had wrongly accused him of trying to suppress anti-Israel dissent) that it was precisely because I did read the report from start to finish that I chose to write about its egregious faults. If anything, I would say that, judging by some of the arguments put forth by the document’s defenders, it is far more likely that those who support the report, rather than its critics, have not read it.

As I wrote in COMMENTARY on Nov. 18:

For the ADL, the “rage” is the result of a three-headed monster: “mainstream political attacks,” “grass roots hostility,” and “anti-government extremists.”

The first of these threats to American democracy — the word “mainstream” appears in the report in quotes as if to disparage the notion that such opinions are widespread, while simultaneously paying lip service to the fact that strong criticism of Obama is entirely legitimate — is the result of “partisan attacks against the Obama administration by some conservative politicians and media figures. Upset and anxious about their loss of power following the 2008 elections, they seek primarily to energize their political base and to delegitimize the Obama administration at the same time.”

This passage ought to prompt disinterested readers to ask whether a defeated political party’s criticism of the opposition deserves mention in a report about extremism. After all, conservatives have attacked Obama on the issues not because they want to overthrow the government but because they disagree with him.

The mere mention of such Republican activities in this context, however, reinforces the very conclusion that the ADL claims it wishes to disavow. Indeed, the report then says, “One of the most important effects of these activists, however, is to help create a body of people who may be predisposed to believe the assertions and claims of more extreme individuals and groups.”

The ADL’s defenders claim that the group has made the proper distinctions between normal political activity and extremism. But if they read the report carefully, they will see that such distinctions were thrown to the winds in its introduction. Had the report stuck to its accounts of the more bizarre conspiracy theories circulating about Obama or of the activity of violent extremists, there would have been no reason to criticize it. But, instead, it linked the crackpots with legitimate public protests, conservative media figures, and even “mainstream” politicians pursuing the duties of an opposition party in a democracy.

One defender of the report, the editorial page of the New York Jewish Week, edited by the thoughtful and responsible Gary Rosenblatt, writes:

We recognize, as does the ADL, that the far left also reduces complex issues to simplistic, angry slogans that turn debate into meaningless shouting matches. The left, too, finds solace in broad-brush conspiracy theories. But in today’s America, it’s the other extreme, with its unparalleled access to new forms of media and which is sometimes legitimized by mainstream politicians eager to capitalize on the fears gripping the nation, that seems to be on the march.

But it is precisely the point that, earlier in this decade, when the Left was on the march, the ADL pointedly refused to link mainstream liberal politicians who bashed the Bush administration with radicals in the streets.

As I wrote: “Had the ADL issued a report a few years ago that began by accusing Democrats of creating resentment against Bush and then linked opposition to the GOP to extremists who supported Hamas or rationalized or even denied al-Qaeda’s role in 9/11, Democrats would have cried foul and been right to do so. That never happened.”

By painting its picture with such a broad brush, the anti-Semitism watchdog group lent its bully pulpit to the administration and its most partisan cheerleaders. Claiming that the tax protest “tea parties,” town-hall-meeting dissenters, and Glenn Beck’s broadcast broadsides are part of a structure that is threatening democracy or giving rise to anti-Semitism is absurd, but it does serve the partisan interests of the Left. That is not the proper function of the ADL.

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Unloading the Arsenal of Adjectives on Sarah Palin

J Street’s condemnation of Sarah Palin for her position on Israeli settlements was predictable — it is what a pro-Obama, pro-Left organization would do. It is the vehemence of the attack on her that was perhaps noteworthy. J Street accused her of “pandering” with a “glaring ignorance” of facts and a “callous disregard” of U.S. policy on settlements.

Since J Street did not specify the nature of Palin’s “glaring” ignorance, nor explain why disagreement with the Obama administration’s obsession with settlements is “callous,” it is difficult to respond to its criticism on the merits. It may suffice to note that adjectives are not analysis.

But the adjectives were probably the point — which was to try to place Palin outside the pale of respectable thinking. This morning, in contrast, J Street responded to Abe Foxman’s strong criticism of its Palin pronouncement by issuing a “why-can’t-all-we-pro-Israel-organizations-just-get-along” type response.

In dealing with the ADL, J Street poses as just another pro-Israel organization; in dealing with Sarah Palin, it exposes its inner Robert Gibbs.

J Street’s condemnation of Sarah Palin for her position on Israeli settlements was predictable — it is what a pro-Obama, pro-Left organization would do. It is the vehemence of the attack on her that was perhaps noteworthy. J Street accused her of “pandering” with a “glaring ignorance” of facts and a “callous disregard” of U.S. policy on settlements.

Since J Street did not specify the nature of Palin’s “glaring” ignorance, nor explain why disagreement with the Obama administration’s obsession with settlements is “callous,” it is difficult to respond to its criticism on the merits. It may suffice to note that adjectives are not analysis.

But the adjectives were probably the point — which was to try to place Palin outside the pale of respectable thinking. This morning, in contrast, J Street responded to Abe Foxman’s strong criticism of its Palin pronouncement by issuing a “why-can’t-all-we-pro-Israel-organizations-just-get-along” type response.

In dealing with the ADL, J Street poses as just another pro-Israel organization; in dealing with Sarah Palin, it exposes its inner Robert Gibbs.

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Reversing Field, ADL Blasts J Street Over Palin

Days after the ADL pandered to its liberal adherents with a report that attempted in part to link mainstream conservative critics of the Obama administration with extremists, the venerable watchdog group tilted in the other direction with a blast aimed at J Street, the leftist lobby that seeks to undermine the pro-Israel consensus in Washington. According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, ADL national director Abe Foxman called up the wire service last night to condemn J Street for its attack on Sarah Palin’s recent statement opposing Obama’s stand on Jewish settlements. JTA’s Capital J blog said Foxman termed J Street’s statement “over the line” and wondered whether the group should be calling itself “pro-Israel.”

Palin had expressed support for the settlement movement in a Barbra Walters interview, though her explanation of the need for allowing existing settlements to expand was a bit off the mark. She said it was because “more and more Jewish people will be flocking to Israel in the days and weeks and months ahead.” That is more than anybody in Israel knows about the possibility of an increase in aliyah. The argument for settlement expansion has to do with Israel’s rights to the land and its security as well as the needs of the existing Jewish population. This is, alas, another example of the former vice-presidential candidate sometimes having a correct opinion but not knowing the right reason for having it. But in a week when Obama personally blasted Israel for building new apartments in the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo, this is not a moment to quibble about the statements of those who are trying to help Israel rather than cut it off at the knees, as the administration seems intent on doing.

Which is why Foxman was absolutely right to point out that J Street was way out of line. Capital J claims that Foxman asserted that J Street’s refusal to support Israel’s invasion of Gaza, its opposition to new Iran sanctions, its failure to support last month’s congressional resolution condemning the Goldstone Report, and the reaction to the Palin statement raise a “question mark” about the group’s own “pro-Israel” bona fides.

J Street’s willingness to use the settlements issue to jump on Palin, a popular liberal punching bag, illustrates again that its primary reason for being has nothing to do with a desire to back Israel or a peace process that is dead in the water due to a complete lack of interest in making peace on the part of the Palestinians. J Street’s only purpose is to pursue the political agenda of the Left with no concern for the need to maintain a bipartisan pro-Israel coalition. But as much as Foxman’s anger at J Street was on target, we’d have a little more respect for the ADL’s own judgment had the full force of its efforts not otherwise been similarly aimed at delegitimizing anti-Obama and largely pro-Israel conservatives earlier in the week.

Days after the ADL pandered to its liberal adherents with a report that attempted in part to link mainstream conservative critics of the Obama administration with extremists, the venerable watchdog group tilted in the other direction with a blast aimed at J Street, the leftist lobby that seeks to undermine the pro-Israel consensus in Washington. According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, ADL national director Abe Foxman called up the wire service last night to condemn J Street for its attack on Sarah Palin’s recent statement opposing Obama’s stand on Jewish settlements. JTA’s Capital J blog said Foxman termed J Street’s statement “over the line” and wondered whether the group should be calling itself “pro-Israel.”

Palin had expressed support for the settlement movement in a Barbra Walters interview, though her explanation of the need for allowing existing settlements to expand was a bit off the mark. She said it was because “more and more Jewish people will be flocking to Israel in the days and weeks and months ahead.” That is more than anybody in Israel knows about the possibility of an increase in aliyah. The argument for settlement expansion has to do with Israel’s rights to the land and its security as well as the needs of the existing Jewish population. This is, alas, another example of the former vice-presidential candidate sometimes having a correct opinion but not knowing the right reason for having it. But in a week when Obama personally blasted Israel for building new apartments in the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo, this is not a moment to quibble about the statements of those who are trying to help Israel rather than cut it off at the knees, as the administration seems intent on doing.

Which is why Foxman was absolutely right to point out that J Street was way out of line. Capital J claims that Foxman asserted that J Street’s refusal to support Israel’s invasion of Gaza, its opposition to new Iran sanctions, its failure to support last month’s congressional resolution condemning the Goldstone Report, and the reaction to the Palin statement raise a “question mark” about the group’s own “pro-Israel” bona fides.

J Street’s willingness to use the settlements issue to jump on Palin, a popular liberal punching bag, illustrates again that its primary reason for being has nothing to do with a desire to back Israel or a peace process that is dead in the water due to a complete lack of interest in making peace on the part of the Palestinians. J Street’s only purpose is to pursue the political agenda of the Left with no concern for the need to maintain a bipartisan pro-Israel coalition. But as much as Foxman’s anger at J Street was on target, we’d have a little more respect for the ADL’s own judgment had the full force of its efforts not otherwise been similarly aimed at delegitimizing anti-Obama and largely pro-Israel conservatives earlier in the week.

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Worrying . . .

This Los Angeles Times report concerning Barack Obama’s relationship with the U.S. Palestinian community and his long-time friendship with Palestinian activist Rashid Khalidi is worth a read.

Obama’s presence as a state senator at events in which Israel was denounced for practicing “terrorism” and his warm words of praise for Khalidi naturally left the Palestinian community believing he was sympathetic to their cause. Then came Obama’s emergence on the national stage, his presidential run and his efforts to assure the Jewish community and others that he is a stalwart defender of Israel. No more friendly meetings with Khalidi and Palestinian outreach events.

Campaign manager David Axelrod assures us that “in no way” have Obama’s private and public statements differed. But some are still concerned that his newly-expressed solicitude for Israel does not square with his associations or prior rhetoric (“nobody’s suffering more than the Palestinian people”). Somehow his hyperbole only increases my queasiness (h/t Instapundit).

Then there was Reverend Wright. As Abe Foxman of the ADL put it:

In the context of spending 20 years in a church where now it is clear the anti-Israel rhetoric was there, was repeated . . . that’s what makes his presence at an Arab American event with a Said a greater concern.

What to make of all this? Obama’s supporters will say this proves his ability to reach out to all sides. His critics will say this betrays a dangerous tendency to lead diametrically opposed camps to believe he is “with” each of them. Why dangerous? Because at some point, presidents must make their intentions and positions crystal clear and tell one side “no” or “yes” with total willingness to pay the costs inherent in any decision.

The worry here, I think, is that Obama believes geopolitics works like community activism. His lack of any foreign policy experience, combined with his track record of not standing up to anyone (including a ranting, race-baiting preacher), have given us plenty to worry about.

This Los Angeles Times report concerning Barack Obama’s relationship with the U.S. Palestinian community and his long-time friendship with Palestinian activist Rashid Khalidi is worth a read.

Obama’s presence as a state senator at events in which Israel was denounced for practicing “terrorism” and his warm words of praise for Khalidi naturally left the Palestinian community believing he was sympathetic to their cause. Then came Obama’s emergence on the national stage, his presidential run and his efforts to assure the Jewish community and others that he is a stalwart defender of Israel. No more friendly meetings with Khalidi and Palestinian outreach events.

Campaign manager David Axelrod assures us that “in no way” have Obama’s private and public statements differed. But some are still concerned that his newly-expressed solicitude for Israel does not square with his associations or prior rhetoric (“nobody’s suffering more than the Palestinian people”). Somehow his hyperbole only increases my queasiness (h/t Instapundit).

Then there was Reverend Wright. As Abe Foxman of the ADL put it:

In the context of spending 20 years in a church where now it is clear the anti-Israel rhetoric was there, was repeated . . . that’s what makes his presence at an Arab American event with a Said a greater concern.

What to make of all this? Obama’s supporters will say this proves his ability to reach out to all sides. His critics will say this betrays a dangerous tendency to lead diametrically opposed camps to believe he is “with” each of them. Why dangerous? Because at some point, presidents must make their intentions and positions crystal clear and tell one side “no” or “yes” with total willingness to pay the costs inherent in any decision.

The worry here, I think, is that Obama believes geopolitics works like community activism. His lack of any foreign policy experience, combined with his track record of not standing up to anyone (including a ranting, race-baiting preacher), have given us plenty to worry about.

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Netanyahu Embraces Evangelicals

On Sunday, Likud opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu described Christian Zionists as Israel’s best friends:

This is a friendship of the heart, a friendship of common roots, and a friendship of common civilization.

The comments came at an Evangelical event in Jerusalem organized by the San Antonio, Texas-based Christians United for Israel and led by evangelical Pastor John Hagee.

There’s always a lot of grumbling about the Jewish-Evangelical alliance in support of Israel. Many Jews have misgivings about the relationship for a number of reasons. Abe Foxman, for example, considers Evangelical support for Jews “openly arrogant,” in that it reflects a degree of condescension. This is a ridiculous posture that reveals a lack of confidence in identity: a people should be secure enough to acccept partnerships with others. Not doing so suggests that there’s a great deal still to prove.

Other American Jews fear that joining forces with Evangelicals means, in turn, lending support to the Evangelical “Christianizing” of the U.S. This is an overblown media phenomenon, often exploited to turn Jews against the Republican Party. American Evangelicals, in their millions, have never been able to establish a national Christian agenda to which top leaders are held accountable.

But the objection to Evangelical Zionists that gets the most attention has to do with the Evangelical conception of Armageddon. According to this, once Jews are safe and sound in Israel they will be converted to Christianity or killed upon Christ’s return. Scary stuff, indeed. But there is nothing in Evangelical eschatology that calls for the hastening of Armageddon. That is, aside from a handful of unhinged radicals, Evangelicals expect God to put an end to things in his own time. (As opposed to, for example, the sect of Shia Islam to which Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad belongs.) Now, I don’t believe personally in Evangelical eschatology. But, to amend Pascal’s wager, if Christ is coming back, and Jews must convert or die, then repudiating John Hagee’s support can’t do a thing about it. If not, then things proceed as normal for Jews—with the helpful addition of Evangelical friendship. Netanyahu is wise to avoid hysteria that can alienate important strategic friends.

On Sunday, Likud opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu described Christian Zionists as Israel’s best friends:

This is a friendship of the heart, a friendship of common roots, and a friendship of common civilization.

The comments came at an Evangelical event in Jerusalem organized by the San Antonio, Texas-based Christians United for Israel and led by evangelical Pastor John Hagee.

There’s always a lot of grumbling about the Jewish-Evangelical alliance in support of Israel. Many Jews have misgivings about the relationship for a number of reasons. Abe Foxman, for example, considers Evangelical support for Jews “openly arrogant,” in that it reflects a degree of condescension. This is a ridiculous posture that reveals a lack of confidence in identity: a people should be secure enough to acccept partnerships with others. Not doing so suggests that there’s a great deal still to prove.

Other American Jews fear that joining forces with Evangelicals means, in turn, lending support to the Evangelical “Christianizing” of the U.S. This is an overblown media phenomenon, often exploited to turn Jews against the Republican Party. American Evangelicals, in their millions, have never been able to establish a national Christian agenda to which top leaders are held accountable.

But the objection to Evangelical Zionists that gets the most attention has to do with the Evangelical conception of Armageddon. According to this, once Jews are safe and sound in Israel they will be converted to Christianity or killed upon Christ’s return. Scary stuff, indeed. But there is nothing in Evangelical eschatology that calls for the hastening of Armageddon. That is, aside from a handful of unhinged radicals, Evangelicals expect God to put an end to things in his own time. (As opposed to, for example, the sect of Shia Islam to which Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad belongs.) Now, I don’t believe personally in Evangelical eschatology. But, to amend Pascal’s wager, if Christ is coming back, and Jews must convert or die, then repudiating John Hagee’s support can’t do a thing about it. If not, then things proceed as normal for Jews—with the helpful addition of Evangelical friendship. Netanyahu is wise to avoid hysteria that can alienate important strategic friends.

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The Jewish Al Sharpton?

After a long absence from respectable circles, Jew-baiting is back.

When Patrick J. Buchanan denounced the 1991 U.S. military action to liberate Kuwait from Saddam Hussein, saying it had been cooked up by “Israel and its amen corner,” he largely sealed the doom of his political career. His remark, blaming the Jews for steering U.S. policy to actions that he alleged were in their own interest but not in America’s, made use of the classic anti-Semitic formula. Anti-Semitism, however, had been taboo in America for a generation or more, partly as a response to the Holocaust and partly due to the wider revulsion against bigotry occasioned by the civil-rights revolution. Commentators unloaded on Buchanan from many directions, led by the New York Times columnist A.M. Rosenthal.

Fifteen years later, however, anti-Semitism is becoming, more and more, an accepted part of national discourse. First, Harvard University published the fulminations of scholars John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt (dissected in the pages of COMMENTARY by Gabriel Schoenfeld) accusing the “amen corner,” or in their term “the Israel Lobby,” of distorting U.S. policy to serve Israel rather than America. Then came former President Jimmy Carter’s book, blaming the Arab-Israel conflict entirely on the Jews, and claiming that this information had been kept from the American people by the pervasive and intimidating influence of certain “religious groups,” i.e., the Jews. (See my piece about Carter in the February issue of COMMENTARY.) Next came Democratic presidential aspirant, Wesley Clark, who commented recently that pressure for U.S. action against Iran’s nuclear weapons program was coming primarily from “New York money people.” Can you guess which religious/ethnic group he might be referring to?

Enter the New York Times, a paper famously Jewish-owned and long edited by A.M. Rosenthal, and therefore the target of many anti-Semitic conspiracy theories of the kind once propounded by cranks (and now routinely put forth by the likes of Carter, Walt, and Mearsheimer).

The Times‘s Sunday magazine of January 14 carried James Traub’s astounding hatchet job on Abe Foxman. Foxman is head of the Anti-Defamation League, which in Traub’s view, should long ago “have moved away from its original mission [of combating anti-Semitism] in favor of either promoting tolerance and diversity or leading the nonsectarian fight against extremism.” Instead, Foxman, a “hectoring” man of “spleen” who is “domineering” and “brazen,” “an anachronism” who resembles “a Cadillac-driving ward-heeler” and “stages public rituals of accusation,” insists perversely on “dwell[ing] imaginatively in the Holocaust.”

“It is tempting,” writes Traub, “to compare Abe Foxman with Al Sharpton, another portly, bellicose, melodramatizing defender of ethnic ramparts.” Leave aside that Sharpton is a notorious fraud who gave America the Tawana Brawley farce. More to the point is that for all the publicity that he succeeds in garnering, Sharpton represents no one but himself. Foxman, in contrast, is the chief of one of the leading, if not the leading, organizations through which American Jews defend their civil rights. Traub’s complaint that Foxman is obsessive about anti-Semitism is akin to assailing the head of, say, the NAACP for being overly sensitive to racism. But that’s an exposé you won’t read in the Times any time soon.

Apparently for the likes of Walt and Mearsheimer to bait the Jews is all right: Traub gives them extremely respectful treatment. But for Jews to defend themselves is, it seems, disgusting.

After a long absence from respectable circles, Jew-baiting is back.

When Patrick J. Buchanan denounced the 1991 U.S. military action to liberate Kuwait from Saddam Hussein, saying it had been cooked up by “Israel and its amen corner,” he largely sealed the doom of his political career. His remark, blaming the Jews for steering U.S. policy to actions that he alleged were in their own interest but not in America’s, made use of the classic anti-Semitic formula. Anti-Semitism, however, had been taboo in America for a generation or more, partly as a response to the Holocaust and partly due to the wider revulsion against bigotry occasioned by the civil-rights revolution. Commentators unloaded on Buchanan from many directions, led by the New York Times columnist A.M. Rosenthal.

Fifteen years later, however, anti-Semitism is becoming, more and more, an accepted part of national discourse. First, Harvard University published the fulminations of scholars John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt (dissected in the pages of COMMENTARY by Gabriel Schoenfeld) accusing the “amen corner,” or in their term “the Israel Lobby,” of distorting U.S. policy to serve Israel rather than America. Then came former President Jimmy Carter’s book, blaming the Arab-Israel conflict entirely on the Jews, and claiming that this information had been kept from the American people by the pervasive and intimidating influence of certain “religious groups,” i.e., the Jews. (See my piece about Carter in the February issue of COMMENTARY.) Next came Democratic presidential aspirant, Wesley Clark, who commented recently that pressure for U.S. action against Iran’s nuclear weapons program was coming primarily from “New York money people.” Can you guess which religious/ethnic group he might be referring to?

Enter the New York Times, a paper famously Jewish-owned and long edited by A.M. Rosenthal, and therefore the target of many anti-Semitic conspiracy theories of the kind once propounded by cranks (and now routinely put forth by the likes of Carter, Walt, and Mearsheimer).

The Times‘s Sunday magazine of January 14 carried James Traub’s astounding hatchet job on Abe Foxman. Foxman is head of the Anti-Defamation League, which in Traub’s view, should long ago “have moved away from its original mission [of combating anti-Semitism] in favor of either promoting tolerance and diversity or leading the nonsectarian fight against extremism.” Instead, Foxman, a “hectoring” man of “spleen” who is “domineering” and “brazen,” “an anachronism” who resembles “a Cadillac-driving ward-heeler” and “stages public rituals of accusation,” insists perversely on “dwell[ing] imaginatively in the Holocaust.”

“It is tempting,” writes Traub, “to compare Abe Foxman with Al Sharpton, another portly, bellicose, melodramatizing defender of ethnic ramparts.” Leave aside that Sharpton is a notorious fraud who gave America the Tawana Brawley farce. More to the point is that for all the publicity that he succeeds in garnering, Sharpton represents no one but himself. Foxman, in contrast, is the chief of one of the leading, if not the leading, organizations through which American Jews defend their civil rights. Traub’s complaint that Foxman is obsessive about anti-Semitism is akin to assailing the head of, say, the NAACP for being overly sensitive to racism. But that’s an exposé you won’t read in the Times any time soon.

Apparently for the likes of Walt and Mearsheimer to bait the Jews is all right: Traub gives them extremely respectful treatment. But for Jews to defend themselves is, it seems, disgusting.

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