Todd L. Pittinsky
Todd L. Pittinsky

Its Time the ADL Be Wise in Deeds

Jonathan A. Greenblatt, CEO and National Director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is making ripples online, if not small waves, with a recently published piece: “It’s Time to Admit It: The Left Has an Antisemitism Problem.” Greenblatt would have been more precise and accurate, to call his piece, “I’m Finally Ready to Admit It.”

The “new” antisemitism in pockets of the Far Left that Greenblatt now “sees” is, of course, not new. He references current posters for the run-up to the 2021 Dyke March in Chicago reading “queers for Palestine” and “Zionism is queerphobic.” But it was back in the 2017 march that organizers of that same parade singled out three women carrying Jewish pride flags, questioned them on Zionism and Israel, and summarily kicked them out of the parade, insisting a rainbow flag with the Star of David “made people feel unsafe” and that the Dyke March was “pro-Palestinian and anti-Zionist.” All this was reported at the time. And the Washington D.C. “Dyke March” barred the same “Jewish pride flag” in 2019—the Star of David in the center of rainbow.

To suggest that antisemitism in pockets of the Far Left is new is an affront to the Jewish students at left-leaning colleges who have been harassed and attacked for years for identifying as Jewish and for supporting Israel’s right to exist, about which of course Mr. Greenblatt knows all too well—he’s been interviewed about them repeatedly.

And one of the most stunning incidents of antisemitism in pockets of the Far Left directly involved the ADL. In 2018, the ADL was kicked out of its role co-leading Starbucks’ diversity training following a campaign by Tamika Mallory (“progressive” activist, co-leader of the 2017 Women’s March, supporter of Louis Farrakhan) who publicly proclaimed Greenblatt’s organization was an organization dedicated to “constantly attacking black and brown people.” Greenblatt himself was removed as a co-leader of the initiative and the ADL became one of the “diverse array of organizations and civil rights experts” that would provide only “limited” consulting to Starbucks. In a face-saving tweet Greenblatt reasoned that it was a logical move, since the “training will focus specifically on race”—yet the ADL, as the CEO knows all too well, combats bigotry of all kinds, and in its own words fights “all forms of hate”.

It thus reflects curious judgment at best for Mr. Greenblatt to cast this particular moment as “the time”.

But let’s give Mr. Greenblatt the benefit of the doubt and assume that while it took time, he now sees it. Indeed, a Yiddish phrase astutely observes “go slow to get there faster”. He sees it now. If now is, in fact, his time “to admit it”—what will the ADL more do to combat it, and with the vigor it brings to fighting the antisemitism and array of hate in pockets of the Far Right?

What we most need to know from Mr. Greenblatt, given his venerable position as CEO of ADL, are two things, both missing from his piece.

First, why, over the last 10 to 20 years, has far left antisemitism been noted by the ADL but not prioritized? The ADL experienced a renaissance in visibility and fundraising power among liberals as it championed the fight against antisemitism and other forms of bigotry—on the far right. The ADL had spectacular fundraising success as Donald Trump took office and neo-Nazis marched in Charlottesville. The ADL’s recent fiscal well-being—and its influence and power—has largely come from combatting antisemitism in pickets of the Far Right. Did that affect ADL’s approach to recognizing and fighting antisemitism?

Second, now that he’s finally seeing we must “admit” there is antisemitism in pockets of the Far Left, what do he, and ADL plan to do about it? How will he heed the Jewish proverb: “Do not be wise in words—be wise in deeds.”

About the Author
Todd L. Pittinsky is a professor at Stony Brook University (SUNY) and a Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Holocaust Memorial & Tolerance Center of Nassau County. His most recent book is "Leaders Who Lust: Power, Money, Sex, Success, Legitimacy, Legacy" (with B. Kellerman, Cambridge University Press).
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