The ADL purports to respond again

Abraham Foxman sends a letter which, once again, raises more questions than it answers.

Published October 8, 2007 7:28PM (EDT)

(updated below - Update II)

Last week, I wrote about the Anti-Defamation League's conspicuous refusal to condemn various Fox News personalities and other neoconservative pundits for their reckless and frivolous spewing of "Nazi" and "Hitler" insults against their political opponents, including such mainstream groups and individuals which could not have anything less to do with actual Nazism, such as Daily Kos, Media Matters, Jane Hamsher and The ADL's Abraham Foxman responded here, and I wrote one post in response here, and raised an additional fact here (see Item 2).

Today, I received the following e-mail letter from the ADL's Foxman which is not yet up on their website. The letter purports to respond to the points I raised earlier this week, but in actuality Foxman's letter does nothing but recite one trite, melodramatic outrage-platitude after the next and is completely bereft of anything substantive -- serving only further to highlight the ADL's now-intransigent and increasingly mysterious refusal to condemn the prominent right-wing individuals cited in my original post:

October 8, 2007

Glenn Greenwald

Dear Mr. Greenwald,

In your follow-up post of October 5, you raise more questions about the Anti-Defamation League's practice of speaking out against inappropriate analogies to the Holocaust and Nazis. While we had thought that our first letter in response to you was more than sufficient, we are profoundly disturbed by your continuing efforts to smear ADL as being "extremely reluctant" to condemn Nazi/Hitler attacks emanating from the political right. We were especially troubled by the suggestion of one of your readers, as highlighted in your post, that we might be "pro-Iran-war coalition partners" with Rupert Murdoch and Fox News. That is an outrageous attack on our credibility and independence as an institution, and must not go unanswered.

Again, there is nothing in our record of speaking out against Holocaust analogies to suggest that we have "remained silent" on this issue. There is no hidden agenda. As we explained in our earlier missive, ADL remains committed to speaking out against abuses of the memory of the victims of the Holocaust regardless of who is making the analogy, or at whom it is aimed.

As a Holocaust survivor, saved in my childhood by a courageous Polish Catholic woman who hid me from the Nazis, and as one who lost nearly all of his family to the Nazi gas chambers, the suggestion that I or ADL would suddenly hold back such criticism due to political or other considerations is personally hurtful and deeply offensive. ADL reserves the right to speak out as it deems necessary, and each decision is made on a case by case basis by our professional staff. Their decisions, and mine, are never colored by politics, or pressure from the outside.

In answer to your questions about Fox News: ADL's relationship with Fox News is no different than its relationships with any of the national news media. We have spoken out many times in the past when we were unhappy with Fox's coverage of our issues, just as we have spoken out when we were displeased with coverage on CNN, CBS, NBC, ABC, NPR, and many others. Our spokespeople have appeared on each of these networks numerous times on this and other issues of importance to our mission, as is not unusual for a large and reputable 94-year-old civil rights organization.

In 1991, in an effort to sustain the memory and to teach the lessons of the Holocaust for future generations, ADL established the Hidden Child Foundation/ADL with a mission to educate all people about the consequences of bigotry and hatred so that never again will anyone suffer the atrocity, the injustice and the agony of the Holocaust. ADL educates about the memory and lessons of the Holocaust through its Braun Holocaust Center. And working in conjunction with Yad Vashem and the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education, ADL released Echoes & Reflections, a groundbreaking multimedia Holocaust curriculum that is being implemented in schools across the country. As an organization committed to honoring the memory of all those who perished in the Holocaust, ADL would never allow this issue to become politicized or to be used for political gain for any reason.

Your blogs on this issue have woefully misrepresented our motivations, have attempted to draw conclusions without any real evidence, have misinterpreted the facts and are clearly politically motivated.


Abraham H. Foxman

National Director

Anti-Defamation League

Foxman covers every issue in his letter except for the ones that have been actually raised in my posts questioning why the ADL has been so silent in the face of the neoconservative Right adopting "Hitler" and "Nazi" name-calling insults as their routine "political argument."

As a result, I sent Foxman the following e-mail in reply, which essentially re-iterates the same questions I have been asking from the beginning which the ADL has simply refused to address, even as they issue extremely long, self-justifying responses to what I have written:

Thank you for sending this. Could you answer a few questions for a follow-up piece I will write -

(1) Are Rupert Murdoch and/or News Corp. financial contributors to the ADL?

(2) Does Murdoch have any current relationship with the ADL? Has he had any in the past?

(3) What accounts for the ADL's willingness to condemn -- on two separate occasions -- anonymous contributors of content to a website while it refuses to condemn the multiple instances of "offensive" and "repugnant" comments made by Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, the highest-rated cable news host on television?

(4) Mr. Foxman indicated in his first letter to me that "many of the examples [I] cite are deeply offensive and equally repugnant, and certainly worthy of condemnation." About that acknowledgment -

(a) Which examples specifically that I cited are "offensive," "repugnant" and "worthy of condemnation"?

(b) Since they are "worthy of condemnation," does the ADL plan to condemn them?

(5) Jonah Goldberg has a forthcoming book to be published by Doubleday that shows on the cover a picture of a yellow smiling happy face wearing a Hitler moustache. According to the publisher, the book argues "that liberals from Woodrow Wilson to FDR to Hillary Clinton have advocated policies and principles remarkably similar to those of Hitler's National Socialism and Mussolini's Fascism."

Does that trivialize Nazism and the Holocaust? What is the ADL's view of that cover? Does it plan to condemn that?

Thank you in advance for your time addressing these matters -

Glenn Greenwald

I'm not pursuing this matter because I think it is important that the ADL apply its purported standards equally and apolitically, although I do think that. I'm pursuing it because -- particularly as the "debate" over whether we ought to have a new war against Iran heats up -- accusing political opponents of "anti-semitism" and freely insinuating similarities between mainstream liberal and anti-war groups with Nazis has become the standard rhetorical tactic of the war-hungry Right.

One would expect that a group like the ADL, which has long claimed to oppose the use of such tactics, would be at the forefront of objecting to this development, as they have done on far less significant occasions in the past. Yet the opposite is true: they are silent, missing in action, even once these incidents have been documented and brought to their attention. The fact that the current purveyors of these tactic share what has now become the formal position of the ADL -- namely, a bellicose foreign policy towards Iran -- obviously raises the question of whether the ADL is applying its outrage practices selectively and politically.

It is the ADL -- and only the ADL -- that could easily clear up its real motives here, either by condemning what it implied (but refused to state outright) are a series of "repugnant" statements by the likes of Bill O'Reilly, Mark Levin, Tammy Bruce and Jonah Goldberg, or by actually addressing the questions about why it refuses to do so. Politically exploitive accusations of anti-semitism as a tool for advancing a political agenda are incomparably toxic, and it becomes even more toxic when one of the leading groups which claims to be the arbiter of such accusations itself appears to be using that accusation for improper political ends.

UPDATE: In Comments, Zack says, quoting Foxman's letter:

we are profoundly disturbed by your continuing efforts to smear ADL as being "extremely reluctant" to condemn Nazi/Hitler attacks emanating from the political right.

If they are so "profoundly disturbed" by the accusation, then why do they remain "extremely reluctant" to condemn these attacks?

Although this really goes without saying, I'm going to say it: it would be extremely easy for them to end this controversy by simply coming out and condemning O'Reilly for his repeated Nazi/Hitler attacks.

It would be much simpler, in fact, than responding the way they did to Glenn, which only serves to keep the controversy alive while simultaneously underscoring and reinforcing Glenn's point.

That they go to such lengths to avoid a single criticism of Mr. O'Reilly while being extremely quick to condemn Move On (for a comparison not sanctioned by them and immediately removed) speaks volumes on this issue.

O'Reilly is perfectly safe from criticism from ADL for his continued use of Nazi/Hitler comparisons -- and he knows it. That is the underlying (if not intentional) message that their response to Glenn gives him and others on the right who support a war against Iran.

I think O'Reilly is only but one example here -- the most egregious and prolific one, but highly representative of a clear and growing trend on the pro-war Right. Still, it is hard to refute any of Zack's points here.

And as several commenters pointed out the other day, the ADL's modus operandi here seems driven not only by its refusal to condemn pro-war neoconservative commentators, but also (at least as much) by its unwillingness to condemn Nazi and Hitler insults when hurled against anti-war groups and pundits. The ADL itself has heralded its "public awareness and advocacy campaign aimed at focusing attention on the gathering threat of a nuclear-armed Iran to Israel, the Middle East and the world" and the last thing it seems to want to do is condemn those who support that political goal and defend from scurrilous "Nazi-trivializing" attacks those who oppose it.

UPDATE II: In Comments, Kovie -- an Israeli-American and frequent commenter here -- writes about a recent appearance by Abraham Foxman on C-SPAN and more generally about the manipulation of anti-semitism accusations for political gain. I would excerpt the key parts, but the entire comment is superb and I would not want to discourage anyone from reading it in its entirety.

By Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

MORE FROM Glenn Greenwald

Related Topics ------------------------------------------