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ADL in the Wilderness

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For the second time in two weeks the name of Abraham Foxman, the long-serving director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has surfaced in the news in a way that discredits the organization. The first appearance was in connection with an effort to block Professors Mearsheimer and Walt from speaking at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs; the second and still more grim appearance is in connection with ADL’s firing of its New England director over his support for recognition of the Armenian genocide of 1914-15. Foxman issued a statement last week in which he essentially said that the Armenians and Turks have a historical problem, and that Jews should keep out in order to preserve Turkish-Israeli relations. In response to a storm of indignant reaction within the Jewish and Armenian communities. Foxman has changed course. His change looks every bit as opportunistic and insincere as his initial stance.

The ADL has a very long and noble tradition, starting with the traumatic case of Leo Frank in Atlanta between 1913-15—a case which ended with Frank being lynched. ADL’s involvement in the civil rights movement in the United States was a glorious moment, and ADL’s battle against anti-semitism, especially abroad, has been important.

I frankly have difficulty understanding what has happened to this organization and to Mr. Foxman. Instead of standing for principle, ADL seems now beholden to an increasingly crass political calculus. The fact that Foxman would compromise on a matter as important as the twentieth century’s first genocide because he feels raising his and his organization’s voice might interfere with Turkish-Israeli relations speaks volumes, and not to his or his organization’s credit. The only solution would appear to be a complete restructuring of the ADL’s leadership, introducing new voices with moral stature and credibility.

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