Anti-Defamation League

From Citizendium
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This article is developing and not approved.
Main Article
Related Articles  [?]
Bibliography  [?]
External Links  [?]
Citable Version  [?]
List of extremists [?]
This editable Main Article is under development and subject to a disclaimer.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is an interest group in the United States of America. Its goal is to "stop the defamation of the Jewish people…to secure justice and fair treatment to all", and indeed has been involved in efforts against defamation of certain non-Jewish groups.[1] It is a strong supporter of Zionism and the State of Israel. Current activities include:

  • scrutinizing and exposing extremists and hate groups, including monitoring hate on the Internet and analyzing its motivation; it maintains an active website and issues reports [2]
  • providing expertise on domestic and international terrorism
  • probing the roots of hatred
  • developing and delivering educational programs
  • fostering interfaith/intergroup relations
  • mobilizing communities to stand up against bigotry
  • defending the security of Israel and Jews worldwide

The National Chairman is Glen Lewy, and the National Director is Abraham H. Foxman. It has a four-star rating from Charity Navigator. [3] For the fiscal year ending in October 2007, it had income of $89,465,334, expenses of $82,522,604; and total assets of $185,665,385. Foxman was the most highly compensated employee, receiving $282,252.


It was founded in 1913 by a lawyer named Sigmund Livingston in his Chicago office. The founding of this group received funding from the Independent Order of B'nai B'rith. In its creation Sigmund Livingston created its mission statement:"to stop, by appeals to reason and conscience, and if necessary, by appeals to law, the defamation of the Jewish people. . . to secure justice and fair treatment to all citizens alike. . . put an end forever to unjust and unfair discrimination against and ridicule of any sect or body of citizens."[4]

Freedom of religion, defamation and diversity

The Anti-Defamation League started off their mission by taking on the endeavor to eradicate the negative images of Jews in the media. "Adolph S. Ochs, publisher of The New York Times and an ADL executive committee member, wrote a memo to newspaper editors nationwide discouraging the use of "objectionable and vulgar" references to Jews in the media. Within two years, Livingston reported "only 50 cases" of such objectionable references to Jews in the national press. By 1920, the practice had virtually stopped."[4]

The League challenged Henry Ford's circulation of the infamous anti-Semitic forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, in his newspaper, The Dearborn Independent. ADL conducted a publicity campaign against Ford, targeting his newspaper, The Dearborn Independent. The agency called on President Woodrow Wilson and former Presidents Taft and Roosevelt to denounce Ford's antisemitism. Ford eventually publicly apologized to the Jewish people. In a letter to The Anti-Defamation League's Sigmund Livingston, in this letter he expressed hope that "hatred of the Jews, commonly known as anti-Semitism, and hatred against any other racial or religious groups, shall cease for all times."[5]

The League, as well as the National Conference for Christians and Jews, had become generalized pro-tolerance organizations in the 1920s. They played a role in countering anti-Catholicism in the 1960 presidential campaign of John F. Kennedy. [6]


The Anti-Defamation League filed its first amicus curi brief in 1948 in McCollum v. Board of Education, where the Anti-Defamation League questioned the constitutionality of released time for religious instruction held in public school classrooms. It had filed an amicus curi brief in thet 1962 case of Engel v. Vitale, in which the Supreme Court held school prayer to be unconstitutional.

Tolerance education

In 1985, New England , ADL and WCVB-TV in Boston initiated the A World of Difference campaign to combat prejudice, promote democratic ideals and strengthen pluralism. The show won a 1986 Peabody Award.[7]

The New England Branch of the ADL created a interfaith camp called "The Interfaith Youth Leadership Program,". The Camp involves teens of Christian, Jewish and Islamic religions. The camp's goal is to create relationship and educate the teens of each others religion. [8]

Hate crimes

ADL has actively lobbied for hate crime legislation, and Foxman attended the signing ceremony for the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HCPA) in October 2009. [9]


The ADL unquestionably played an important role in reducing the danger of some hate groups, beginning with the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s. Today, ADL maintains lists and detailed documentation of domestic hate groups, as well as lists of organizations it considers anti-Israel.

Early initiatives

In the 1920s, it began taking on hate groups, starting with the Ku Klux Klan. In 1923, the KKK Imperial Wizard condemned Jews as "an unblendable element...alien and mad."

With the Great Depression, an array of antisemitic forces began emerging around world and in the United States. "Adolf Hitler's rise to power in Germany provided the impetus, and often the money, for a variety of American fascist groups. Bundists paraded swastikas and Nazi flags and ardently peddled their message of hate."[10]

Antisemitic propagandists included Fritz Kuhn of the German-American Bund and Father Charles Coughlin who spread his antisemitic views on hate radio and was leader of the pro-fascist Christian Front. "The Anti-Defamation League joined a coalition to produce a monograph which analyzed Coughlin's propaganda line and contained a thorough refutation of his anti-Semitic charges. Among other things, the monograph proved that one of Coughlin's articles was lifted verbatim from an earlier speech by Nazi leader Joseph Goebbels. This evidence of Coughlin's turning to Nazism helped discredit him in the eyes of many Americans."[10]

During World War II, Anti-Defamation League fought bigotry and fascist groups. One of these Pro-fascist organizations included included the German-American Bund.


It was the first Jewish organization to expose the menace of the right wing with the book Danger on the Right.[11] widely read Anti-Defamation League reports and publications revealed the dangerous ideas spread by intolerant groups such as the John Birch Society.

Current programs

"In 1997, ADL published Vigilante Justice: Militias and "Common Law Courts" reporting on militia violence, criminal activity, racism and anti-Semitism, conspiracies, use of the Internet, "Preparedness Expos" and political activity." [12]


Some believe that it, and other organizations tracking principally right-wing hate groups, exaggerate the danger of some much-diminished organizations, for reasons of public relations. Similar criticisms have, even more strongly, been directed at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which often works with the ADL.[13] Senior staff of both organizations are highly compensated.

Other American conservatives claim the ADL and SPLC go outside their mandate and label legitimate right-wing organizations, particularly with an anti-immigration position (e.g., Lou Dobbs), as hate groups. Dobbs called the ADL and SPLC as "absolute advocate groups for open borders and amnesty for illegal aliens" and said of the ADL, "They are a joke." [14]

It has also been suggested that the ADL will compromise on mentioning white nationalism if doing so would be against the interests of the State of Israel. One accusation is that the ADL refused to criticize the editor of Southern Partisan, Richard Quinn. Quinn was unusually pro-Israel among paleoconservatives and neo-Confederates are very critical of Israel. He was a Republican political consultant who worked for John McCain beginning in 2009.[15]

Zionism and Israel

ADL is a strongly Zionist organization, whose National Director, Abraham Foxman, has sometimes equated criticism of the State of Israel with antisemitism. He has asked “What does supporting Israel in matters related to biblical issues mean in today’s world? Does it mean [supporting Israel] on both banks of the Jordan River?” "Some Jewish communal leaders questioned how such an umbrella organization would respond to Israeli withdrawals from land in the West Bank that evangelicals believe was given by God to the Jewish people."[16]

It lobbied for passage of the 1977 Anti-Boycott Bill banning American participation in the Arab blacklist. [17]

The ADL supports the continued existence of a Jewish State and reject the sentiment put forth in the 1975 United Nations Resolution that equated Zionism to racism., as well as at the 2001 Durban Conference. [18] This equation continues to be a major issue for ADL. In 2009, Abraham Foxman criticized the awarding, by President Barack Obama, 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom to Mary Robinson "as an 'agent of change'.... While Mary Robinson may have accomplishments to her credit, she also, unfortunately, has an animus toward Israel as evidenced by her tenure as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Rather than be constructive and act objectively on Middle East issues, she became a lead cheerleader for the Palestinian narrative. Foxman criticized her both for blaming Israel for the second Intifada, and for allowing the "the delegitimizing of Israel and pronouncements of hateful anti-Jewish canards, such as 'Zionism is racism.'" at the 2001 U.N. World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa. [19]

Before the 2008 Presidential election, Foxman wrote an open letter, challenging Hannah Rosenthal's recollection, in New York Jewish Week, of the National Israel Solidarity Rally in Washington in 2002, while she was executive director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. "You recall a day of speeches in which you heard only the constant drumbeat of 'narrow, ultra-conservative views of what it means to be pro-Israel..." You found yourself asking, "Where was the pro-Israel, pro-peace message? Why was the voice of so many American Jews absent from this rally'" Foxman said he remembered many pro-peace messages. " I remember you introducing Hugh Price, then president of the National Urban League, and I remember Mr. Price closing his remarks with a call to world leaders 'to give lasting peace a chance in the Middle East.'"[20]

Policies and politics of the State of Israel

In 2005, ADL, with U.S. Jewish and Protestant groups spoke in favor of a two-state solution. The groups issuing the statement were: Alliance of Baptists, American Jewish Committee, American Jewish Congress, the Anti-Defamation League, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the U.S. Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, National Council of Churches of Christ, Presbyterian Church (USA), Religious Action Center of the Union of Reform Judaism, United Church of Christ, the United Methodist Church and United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.[21]

ADL criticism of extremism in Israel

Foxman, in 2009, said he saw right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party leader Avigdor Lieberman's comments directed at Arab Israeli Knesset who traveled to enemy states and Israeli Arabs who expressed solidarity with Hamas during the 2009 Gaza conflict. Foxman said “There were a lot of people who said, 'Hey, that's disloyal,' That's what he's talking about. He's not saying expel them. He's not saying punish them.” Foxman also said he would speak out against proposals that violated the tenets of Israeli democracy, pointing out that in 2006, the ADL announced it was “disturbed” by Lieberman's call for the execution of Arab legislators who met with Hamas leaders. Zionist Organization of America leader Morton Klein, however, agreed with Lieberman's proposal. [22]

To the views of the extreme Orthodox and hawkish Lubavitcher rabbi, Manis Friedman, who said, “The only way to fight a moral war is the Jewish way: Destroy their holy sites. Kill men, women and children (and cattle),” Foxman responded, “We are not immune to having these views. There are people in our community who have these bigoted, racist views.”[23]


Speaking to the ADL in 2009, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said the continued growth of Israeli settlements is not conducive to a two-state solution. He acknowledged the great concern of the ADL and others over the Goldstone Report.[24]

Responding to comments made by Vice President Joe Biden's public criticism, on a visit to Israel in March 2010, Foxman said

"We are shocked and stunned at the Administration's tone and public dressing down of Israel on the issue of future building in Jerusalem. We cannot remember an instance when such harsh language was directed at a friend and ally of the United States. One can only wonder how far the U.S. is prepared to go in distancing itself from Israel in order to placate the Palestinians in the hope they see it is in their interest to return to the negotiating table. [25]

Zionism and antisemitism

Another problematic area is that it treats those who do not support Zionism or the State of Israel as antisemitic, even in cases where its opponent has foreign policy reasons for limiting support of Israeli activities.

They describe Pat Buchanan as having racist, anti-Semitic, anti-Israel and anti-immigrant views. At one time an influential staff member in the Nixon and Reagan Administrations, Buchanan has gone on to write a number of books and articles that focus on the decline of Western civilization due to what he refers to as the “invasion” of non-European immigrants in the United States and Europe." [26] ADL also quotes Buchanan as saying "“They charge us with anti-Semitism…The truth is, those hurling these charges harbor a 'passionate attachment' to a nation not our own that causes them to subordinate the interests of their own country and to act on an assumption that, somehow, what's good for Israel is good for America.” [27]

In October 2010, Foxman published a list of the "The Top 10 Anti-Israel Groups, as identified by ADL", and cited others as lesser threats. [28] The ADL top ten, listed alphabetically, are:

  1. Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER)
  2. Al-Awda
  3. Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR)
  4. Friends of Sabeel-North America
  5. If Americans Knew
  6. International Solidarity Movement
  7. Jewish Voice for Peace
  8. Muslim American Society
  9. Students for Justice in Palestine
  10. US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation


did not make the above list. Many of these groups satisfy some but not all of the criteria. For example, there are groups that advance overt anti-Israel positions and organize events in their regions but do not have a national presence, such as Adalah-NY, Neturei Karta and the Middle East Children's Alliance. Similarly, while many individual chapters of the Muslim Student Association (a national organization founded by members of the Muslim Brotherhood) organize anti-Israel events, some of its chapters, as well as the national organization itself, are not primarily driven by an anti-Israel agenda. Other groups, like the Council for the National Interest (CNI), the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network and the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, have important roles in creating policy and setting anti-Israel agendas but do not organize a significant number of events. Still others have anti-Israel views but also focus on many other issues, such as the American Friends Service Committee, Code Pink, and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

Other reporting, however, described the list as "other American Jews who are not sufficiently blindly supportive of the nation of Israel".[29] Both Justin Elliott at Slate and Michelle Goldberg at the Daily Beast called, in particular, the criticism of Jewish Voice for Peace to be unreasonable. Goldberg said

No one has done better work investigating and exposing neo-Nazi and white Supremacist groups in the United States. I’ve spoken at several ADL meetings about my own reporting on Christian nationalism. But the ADL has also shown itself willing to smear human-rights activists when it thinks Israel’s interests demand it. It is in this context that the organization’s misguided new report on the “top 10 anti-Israel groups in America,” which includes Jewish Voice for Peace and the Council on American Islamic Relations, has to be understood...

She agreed that some of the groups listed are extreme."the anti-war group ANSWER, for example, has an awful record of conflating Zionism and Nazism, and of supporting the most reactionary forces in the Islamic world, from Saddam Hussein to Hezbollah."

But Jewish Voice for Peace? This is a group with a rabbinical council chaired by respected Jewish clergy and an advisory board that includes luminaries like award-winning author Adam Hochschild, playwright Tony Kushner and Democratic messaging guru George Lakoff. Oren Segal, the director of the ADL’s center on extremism, justifies the group’s inclusion partly on the grounds that it provides cover to other, anti-Zionist organizations. Jewish Voice for Peace, he says, has “propaganda value. Some of these other groups use the fact that they’re there to kind of shield themselves from criticism that they’re anti-Jewish.” This is clearly guilt by association[30]

Inappropriate use of Nazi references

ADL has a general policy of desiring references to Holocaust to be restricted to World War II events, and also discourages modern analogies to Adolf Hitler.

In 2009 the ADL singled out Glenn Beck of Fox News for comparing President Barack Obama to Hitler.[31]

Foxman, on 24 February 2003, denounced People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) for its "Holocaust on Your Plate" issued the following statement, after PETA asked the Jewish community to approve their appeal.

he effort by PETA to compare the deliberate systematic murder of millions of Jews to the issue of animal rights is abhorrent. PETA's effort to seek "approval" for their "Holocaust on Your Plate" campaign is outrageous, offensive and takes chutzpah to new heights. Rather than deepen our revulsion against what the Nazis did to the Jews, the project will undermine the struggle to understand the Holocaust and to find ways to make sure such catastrophes never happen again.Abusive treatment of animals should be opposed, but cannot and must not be compared to the Holocaust. The uniqueness of human life is the moral underpinning for those who resisted the hatred of Nazis and others ready to commit genocide even today.[32]

Foxman, in March 2009, met privately with officials of the University of California at Santa Barbara, urging them to investigate charges of anti-semitism against sociology professor William I. Robinson. Robinson [33] He had emailed, to a class on sociology of globalization, public materials that drew analogies between Israeli actions and Nazi atrocities. [34] It drew a complaint from the regional ADL director two weeks later. On June 15, the university dropped all charges, after a faculty committee, in May, had said "The Committee is “unanimous in finding that his sending the email is in accord with the principles of academic freedom, especially when teaching a class whose content is the sociology of globalization.” [35]

Research and formal education

In 1977, The Anti-Defamation League established one of the first formalized Holocaust programs in the world, the Braun Center for Holocaust Studies. The Center developed curricula for elementary and advanced students and organized teacher-training workshops and seminars on the Holocaust. Boasting a comprehensive collection of Holocaust-related materials, the Center, later renamed the Braun Holocaust Institute, also publishes the only general-interest magazine on the Holocaust, Dimensions: A Journal of Holocaust Studies. In 1979 relocated its Manhattan national headquarters to New York's United Nations Plaza.[36]

Social issues

"Post-war tensions pointed to the need for the enactment of civil rights laws. The League waged a campaign against discrimination in housing, employment and education and instituted a highly successful "crack the quota" campaign against anti-Jewish discrimination in college and university admissions.

The ADL actively worked for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 1968 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, three of the most important pieces of legislation in the history of the civil rights movement.

In 2006 The ADL took a stand on gay marriage supporting it and wrote letters to United States senators condemning them for their votes on the Marriage Protection Act Of 2004. [37] They have added the Westboro Baptist Church (Topeka, Kansas), a small but intensely anti-homosexual group, to their list of extremists. [38]


  1. About The Anti-Defamation League, Anti-Defamation League
  2. Extremism in America, Anti-Defamation League
  3. Anti-Defamation League, Charity Navigator
  4. 4.0 4.1
  6. Michael O'Brien (2006), John F. Kennedy: A Biography, Macmillan, ISBN 978-0312357450, p. 416
  7. A World of Difference (award to WCBV-TV), Peabody Awards, 1986
  8. Stephanie V. Siek (6 April 2006), A different kind of camp: 80 teens meet for a week to share faiths (full text for subscribers only), Boston Globe
  9. ADL Hails Long Overdue Enactment Of Federal Hate Crime Law As A "Monumental Achievement For America", Anti-Discrimination League, 28 October 2009
  10. 10.0 10.1
  11. Arnold Forster and Benjamin Epstein (1976), Danger on the Right Frequent, Greenwood Press Reprint, ISBN 978-0837181479
  12. Lori Linzer (1997), Vigilante Justice: Militias and Common Law Courts, Anti-Defamation League, ISBN 978-9998078031
  13. Ken Silverstein (November 2000), "The Church of Morris Dees", Harper's Magazine
  14. Confronted about using graphic from Council of Conservative Citizens, Dobbs asked: "Got anything a little more recent?", MediaMatters, 6 February 2008
  15. Max Blumenthal (9 August 2010), When The ADL Gave White Nationalism A Free Pass, Did “Pro-Israel” Politics Play A Role?
  16. Ori Nir (7 April 2006), "Christian Pro-Israel Lobby Gets a Boost", Jewish Daily Forward
  19. Statement on 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient Mary Robinson, Anti-Defamation League, 3 August 2009
  20. Abraham Foxman (1 May 2008), "An Open Letter To Hannah Rosenthal", New York Jewish Week
  21. Jewish and Christian Leaders Issue Statement on Mission of Peace to Jerusalem, Anti-Defamation League, 27 September 2005
  22. Ben Harris (10 February 2009), "(Avigdor) Lieberman loyalty proposal finds support in U.S.", Jewish Telegraph Agency
  23. Nathaniel Popper (3 June 2009), "Popular Rabbi’s Comments on Treatment of Arabs Show a Different Side of Chabad", Jewish Daily Forward
  24. Secretary-General Says United Nations, Anti-Defamation League Share Commitment to Justice, Human Rights, in New York Remarks, United Nations, 4 November 2009
  25. Bridget Johnson (13 March 2010), "ADL 'shocked,' 'stunned' at White House's 'public dressing down of Israel'", The Hill
  26. Pat Buchanan: In His Own Words, Anti-Defamation League
  27. Patrick Buchanan, Neo-Conned! Just War Principles: A Condemnation of War in Iraq, (2005) P.137, quoted by ADL in Buchanan article
  28. The Top Ten Anti-Israel Groups in America, Anti-Defamation League, 4 October 2010
  29. Justin Elliott (14 October 2010), "Anti-Defamation League beclowns itself, again", Slate
  30. Michelle Goldberg (15 October 2010), "A Jewish Group's Shameful Smear", Daily Beast
  31. "Anti-Defamation League singles out Glenn Beck in report on anti-government conspiracies", MediaMatters, 17 November 2009
  33. Daniel Olmos, Alba Peña-Leon (28 April 2009), Abraham Foxman pushed UC-Santa Barbara to investigate professor, Committee to Defend Academic Freedom at UCSB (CDAF-SB)
  34. The Original Course Material at Issue, Committee to Defend Academic Freedom at UCSB (CDAF-SB)
  35. UCSB terminates case against Professor, Committee to Defend Academic Freedom at UCSB (CDAF-SB), 24 June 2009
  37. ADL Criticizes House Approval of ‘Marriage Protection Act Of 2004', Anti-Defamation League
  38. Westboro Baptist Church--In Their Own Words: On Jews, Anti-Defamation League