No Comment — August 24, 2010, 10:31 am

Crazy Like a Foxman

Perhaps you understood that the Anti-Defamation League exists to promote tolerance. According to its website, the ADL “fights anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry in the U.S. and abroad through information, education, legislation, and advocacy.” Its mission statement, adopted in 1913 in the anxious months following the scapegoating of Leo Frank, states that “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.” The ADL has had a long and noble history of championing justice and equality before the law in America. But it’s becoming increasingly difficult to reconcile the ADL’s lofty goals and proud history with the conduct of its long-serving national director, Abe Foxman. Echoing the language used by opponents of the Civil Rights movement in the early sixties, he recently spoke against the proposal to establish an Islamic cultural center at 51 Park Row, on the site of a Burlington Coat factory. Survivors of the events of 9/11, Foxman argued, are entitled “to positions that others would categorize as irrational or bigoted.” So Foxman placed himself—and the ADL—firmly on the side of bigotry and intolerance.

Now Salon’s Justin Elliott takes a look at another of Foxman’s recent antics.

Earlier this month eight American imams and Muslim leaders took a trip to the Dachau and Auschwitz concentration camps accompanied by the Obama Administration’s envoy to combat anti-Semitism, Hannah Rosenthal, and its official representative to the Muslim world, Rashad Hussein. At the end of the emotional trip, the imams released a joint statement condemning Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism. It all seemed like a perfectly good idea, which is why some were surprised that Abe Foxman, the head of the Anti-Defamation League–which counts Holocaust education and battling anti-Semitism as core missions–actually lobbied against the participation of U.S. officials in the trip.

It turns out that Foxman not only pressed the State Department envoy and the White House to cancel the trip, he actually contacted a rabbi in Poland asking him to shun the delegation. When asked for an explanation by Laura Rozen, Foxman would not reply. Later the ADL issued a statement explaining that its opposition had only to do with the mission of the envoy to combat anti-Semitism, which it feels should be engaged government-to-government and not with private groups. But that sounds only marginally credible. The real question is why would Abe Foxman be so troubled by the prospect of a group of prominent American imams bearing witness to the Holocaust and declaring that Holocaust-deniers violate the Islamic code of ethics? Does it get in the way of Foxman’s larger current agenda?

But viewing these events in the context of Foxman’s position on the Park51 project indeed suggests that interfaith harmony has been replaced with a different agenda. In remarks published yesterday, Republican congressman Ron Paul looks at the entire controversy surrounding the proposed cultural center and provides a brutally honest analysis:

The fact that so much attention has been given the mosque debate raises the question of just why and driven by whom? In my opinion it has come from the neo-conservatives who demand continual war in the Middle East and Central Asia and are compelled to constantly justify it. They never miss a chance to use hatred toward Muslims to rally support for the ill conceived preventative wars. A select quote from soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq expressing concern over the mosque is pure propaganda and an affront to their bravery and sacrifice…

Many fellow conservatives say they understand the property rights and 1st Amendment issues and don’t want a legal ban on building the mosque. They just want everybody to be “sensitive” and force, through public pressure, cancellation of the mosque construction. This sentiment seems to confirm that Islam itself is to be made the issue, and radical religious Islamic views were the only reasons for 9/11. If it became known that 9/11 resulted in part from a desire to retaliate against what many Muslims saw as American aggression and occupation, the need to demonize Islam would be difficult if not impossible…

This is all about hate and Islamaphobia.

The ADL should, according to its own charter, be a powerful voice against religiously or ethnically motivated hatred. But Abe Foxman has a different vision.

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Ashley arrived for her prenatal appointment at Black Hills Obstetrics and Gynecology, in Rapid City, South Dakota, wearing a black zip-up hoodie and Converse sneakers.1 To explain her absence from work that morning — a Tuesday in April 2015 — she had told a co-worker that she was having “female issues.” She was twenty-five years old and eight weeks pregnant. She had been separated from her husband, with whom she had a five-year-old son, for the better part of a year. The guy who’d gotten her pregnant was someone she’d met at the gym, and he’d made it abundantly clear that he wanted nothing more to do with her. Ashley found herself hoping that the doctor would discover some kind of fetal defect, so that her decision would be easier. She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. “Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.”

In the exam room, she perched on the table with her feet crossed at the ankles, her blond hair brushing the back of her pink hospital gown. “I don’t know what’s available for me here,” she told her doctor, Katherine Degen, who sat facing her on a stool. “I figured nothing.”

 Some names and identifying details have been changed. 

“Big, fat zero, unfortunately,” Degen said, making a 0 with her fingers. The last doctor who provided abortions in Rapid City retired in 1986, three years before Ashley was born.

The baby was due in November, when Ashley, who was a nurse, hoped to be enrolled in a graduate program to become a nurse practitioner. Getting pregnant as a teenager had forced her to put that dream on hold, but she had thought that she was finally ready; she had even submitted her application shortly before the March 15 deadline. For the first time in her adult life, Ashley felt as if her plans were coming together. Then she missed her period.

It would be too difficult to attend school as a single mother of two, Ashley knew. She had made an appointment for three weeks from now at the nearest abortion clinic, in Billings, Montana, 318 miles away. But just a week and a half ago, her husband had said he wanted to get back together and offered to raise the child as his own. Was it a sign that she was meant to continue the pregnancy? As a rule, Ashley approached her problems with resolve. She was capable and tough; she liked shooting guns and lifting weights. She kept track of her stats and checked off her goals as she achieved them one by one. Yet the dilemma before her had shaken her confidence. She leaned back and turned to watch the ultrasound screen. The black-and-white image danced. A sharp, fast thumping emerged from the machine. As Degen removed the wand, Ashley wiped the corner of her eye.

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Ashley arrived for her prenatal appointment at Black Hills Obstetrics and Gynecology, in Rapid City, South Dakota, wearing a black zip-up hoodie and Converse sneakers.1 To explain her absence from work that morning — a Tuesday in April 2015 — she had told a co-worker that she was having “female issues.” She was twenty-five years old and eight weeks pregnant. She had been separated from her husband, with whom she had a five-year-old son, for the better part of a year. The guy who’d gotten her pregnant was someone she’d met at the gym, and he’d made it abundantly clear that he wanted nothing more to do with her. Ashley found herself hoping that the doctor would discover some kind of fetal defect, so that her decision would be easier. She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. “Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.”

In the exam room, she perched on the table with her feet crossed at the ankles, her blond hair brushing the back of her pink hospital gown. “I don’t know what’s available for me here,” she told her doctor, Katherine Degen, who sat facing her on a stool. “I figured nothing.”

 Some names and identifying details have been changed. 

“Big, fat zero, unfortunately,” Degen said, making a 0 with her fingers. The last doctor who provided abortions in Rapid City retired in 1986, three years before Ashley was born.

The baby was due in November, when Ashley, who was a nurse, hoped to be enrolled in a graduate program to become a nurse practitioner. Getting pregnant as a teenager had forced her to put that dream on hold, but she had thought that she was finally ready; she had even submitted her application shortly before the March 15 deadline. For the first time in her adult life, Ashley felt as if her plans were coming together. Then she missed her period.

It would be too difficult to attend school as a single mother of two, Ashley knew. She had made an appointment for three weeks from now at the nearest abortion clinic, in Billings, Montana, 318 miles away. But just a week and a half ago, her husband had said he wanted to get back together and offered to raise the child as his own. Was it a sign that she was meant to continue the pregnancy? As a rule, Ashley approached her problems with resolve. She was capable and tough; she liked shooting guns and lifting weights. She kept track of her stats and checked off her goals as she achieved them one by one. Yet the dilemma before her had shaken her confidence. She leaned back and turned to watch the ultrasound screen. The black-and-white image danced. A sharp, fast thumping emerged from the machine. As Degen removed the wand, Ashley wiped the corner of her eye.

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