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Crazy Like a Foxman

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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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