Reflecting on Two Years of Leading the Anti-Defamation League – Algemeiner

Posted By on July 27, 2017

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Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt. Photo: ADL.

Two years agofull of optimism and energy as I joined ADL as its new CEOI asked the question: Can a 100-Year-Old Change the Future?But it was a rhetorical question, because I believed that I knew the answer.

Isaid that ifwe remained true to our principles, invested in our people and modernized our systems, the ADL would be able to shape the future in a positive way, as it had done so many times in the past.

But as I looked back to the past to prepare for the future, I did not anticipate an incredibly volatile present.

July 27, 2017 12:52 pm

My start at the ADL coincided with two moments that scrambled the political order at home and abroad: the kickoff of the 2016 presidential campaign, and the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) also known as the Iran Deal. To most, these might seem like unrelated incidents. But I see them as evidence of disturbing trends that recommit me to the ADL mission.

First, theres the 2016 presidential campaign. Regardless of your political affiliation, its undeniable that Donald Trumps campaign changed the political landscape and the public conversation.

This had many implications, but at the ADL, we were focused on the fact that suddenly, the loose confederation of antisemites and white supremacists known asthe alt-rightfound themselves in the spotlight and, bafflingly, praised by many in the political world.

Their hateful rhetoric spread from fringe websites into the mainstream. Their conspiratorial fantasies about voter fraud and malevolent refugees seized the blogosphere and received significant national media coverage. And they demonstrated a mastery of social media,trolling Jewish journalists,prominent members of the Jewish communityand other perceived enemies with vile claims and vicious slander. So how did these extreme elements respond when challenged? We watched them relish in their victimhood and resort to cyberbullying and false outrage in an effort to delegitimize the messenger and divert attention from the message.

Andthis continues apace today.

Second, the start of my tenure also happened at the same time as the approval of the JCPOA. TheADL came out against the deal, not because of our deep expertise in the technical aspects of the arrangement, but because we felt strongly that it failed to address the core issues at hand with Iran: its unbridled belligerence andhostility to the US;its cruel mistreatment of its own minorities; and its unrelenting commitment to destroying the Jewish state throughstate-sponsored antisemitismand aworldwide campaign of terror. Some applauded my position on the deal, others disapproved of it.

I wish I could say that the antisemitic rejection of Jewish peoplehood in the form of denying Israels right to exist was limited to Tehran. But it isnt. Over the past two years, we also have seen these beliefs reinforced among a fringe we might describe as the radical Left here in the US.

We see it when Jews areexcludedfrom progressive circles because of their Zionism irrespective of their views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We see it when the Jewish state is delegitimized and demonized byactivistswith little knowledge of the conflict. And we see it when Israel is the only state in the worldsingled out by international bodies,even as they ignore the serial and vicious brutality of other states.

And this spectacle is not limited to the US. It is increasingly evident in Europe. Witness UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who takes issue with other forms of prejudice butexcuses antisemitism,even when his own partisans call it out.

And how do the extreme elements respond when challenged? Do they attempt to engage in reasoned discussion? Hardly. Instead, they shout down their critics,disrupt remarksandstand unwilling to hear their ideas.

It all reminds me of the horseshoe theory. This is the idea that we need to reimagine the political spectrum because it does not resemble a 180-degree line with opposing ends, but instead a horseshoe wherein the points at the far end actually converge around shared ideas and practices. Based on my observations, this seems like an accurate assessment of our current political predicament.

I have seen firsthand that the extreme right and radical left have more in common than they care to admit. Some of their common traits include a shared hatred of Jews, whether the people or the polity, and an intense distaste for facts that contradict their message, along witha tendency to attack the messenger. We can argue about which group is more extreme, who is closer to the center of power, or what poses the greater threat. But I firmly believe that extremism is dangerous in all forms, and that neither side of the spectrum is exempt from intolerance.

Facing these threats, I often renew my strength with the words of Dr. King: our work is not yet done.

As much as we have made progress in fighting antisemitism and all types of bigotry, the ADL isincreasing our emphasis on fighting the scourge of cyberhatethrough our new presence in Silicon Valleyand a series of new partnerships that we will announce later this year. We are expanding ourtraining for law enforcementto ensure that they are prepared to handle hate crimes and recognize extremist threats. We are partnering with other civil rights groups to push for strong hate crimes laws inall 50 states,and to protect immigrant families seeking refuge on our shores.

We are combating hate on college campuses, whether it stems from theextreme rightorradical left. We are bringing innovation to our work with educators to teach our children to reject bigotry from an early age. And we will continue to strive to ensure that our laws at all levels of government safeguard the gains that we have made to offer all Americans the basic rights enshrined in our Constitution.

We will double down on our commitment to ending hate with creativity, innovation, partnerships and a host of new strategies to complement our existing activities. We will remain rooted in principles, not politics. We will resist rhetoric with reason, and we will respond to fiction with facts.

And, above all else, we will remain true to the call that started this journey not two years ago with my tenure, but more than a century ago with Sig Livingston who founded the ADL: we will never cease working to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all. But we cannot do it alone. I would invite all of you to join us and helpfight the good fight.

This article was originally published in Medium.

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Reflecting on Two Years of Leading the Anti-Defamation League - Algemeiner

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