This week, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is hosting an event tacking the problem of anti-Semitism. It is entitled, “Never is Now” and features several speakers including Vice President Kamala Harris. The New York-based web outlet, Algemeiner, has obtained an advance copy of ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt’s speech, which it has discussed in the linked article.
If that is the theme of Greenblatt’s theme, I hope it represents a shift in the position of the ADL regarding anti-Semitism. Greenblatt is on the left of the political spectrum, but even under the ADL’s previous CEO, Abraham Foxman, the organization tended to focus on anti-Semitism coming from radical white quarters while largely ignoring anti-Semitism from the left, particularly from Muslim quarters. It is precisely the latter form of anti-Semitism that has been running rampant on North American university campuses, sparked by the pro-Palestinian movement, that has dominated campus discourse for over two decades, and which has directly led to harassment of Jews on campus. The problem has now metastasized into society at large with Jews now being attacked on our city streets. In my view, the overwhelming majority of these attacks come from those we would normally identify with the left.
If that is the thesis of Greenblatt’s speech this week, then he should follow that up with greater attention being paid to the campus problem. The ADL should devote more attention to groups like Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and the various chapters of the Muslim Student Association, many of whom use SJP as their action arm when it comes to disrupting Jewish events on campus.
I have said this many times, and it bears repeating. In the years I was actively involved in this issue while teaching part-time at the University of California at Irvine, the ADL was missing in action when it came to the annual anti-Israel week of events every May. Yes, their local representive(s) would be there watching, but they never became involved in challenging the vicious rhetoric coming out of the mouths of invited speakers for the SJP and/or the Muslim Student Union. Foxman once addressed a Jewish group in Newport Beach and denied there was a problem on the UCI campus. I was not present myself, but a close friend of mine was. It was he who asked Foxman to comment on the issue. Foxman stated that the Jewish students and the university administration had it all under control. They clearly did not.
I also question the invitation to Vice President Harris to speak. While it is nice to have any vice president address your group, Harris has questionable credentials when it comes to this issue. Her words as quoted in the Algemeiner article are fine, but why didn’t she say something like that when she visited a college campus recently (George Mason University) and listened to a student accuse Israel of genocide? Instead, she mumbled something about how it was so important for “your truth to be heard”. Harris would be a more appropriate speaker for a group hosted by someone like Ilhan Omar or Rashida Tlaib, not the ADL.
To the extent that anti-Semitism is coming from those on the right, or by neo-Nazis, or KKK types, they are to be condemned. It is my position, however, that the greater problem is coming from the left, as most of the attacks would indicate. That includes the opponents of Israel and the pro-Palestinian activists, who hold sway on our campuses. Jews are now the most vulnerable group in the US-and the world. The problem cannot be effectively addressed unless we are prepared to name ALL perpetrators and identity the greatest threat. The words of Greenblatt this week are welcome, but words must be followed by action.