The ADL gives Jews a bad name
By Brian Camenker
The Jewish Advocate, Boston Massachusetts
Thursday August 30, 2007
The recent outrage against the Anti-Defamation League may be the beginning of a lot more. This time they offended a group - the Armenian community - that isn't intimidated by their wealth and power. Others may take notice.
Formally recognizing the Armenian genocide of 1915 posed a political problem for the ADL, so they chose to ignore it. It was an interesting dance for an organization that sells itself as a defender of human rights. The Armenian community finally got very angry and vocal, and forced the town of Watertown to boot the ADL out. After much waffling, the ADL was forced to back down. But it wasn't about principle. It was shameful political calculus.
At the center of things is the ADL's local "No Place For Hate" program, started in 1999 and now in dozens of towns across Massachusetts. It's a brilliant scheme. The ADL and local liberals persuade a town that it needs to be "certified" to be hate-free by bringing the ADL's anti-hate programs, particularly in the schools, and posting the ADL's slogans and logo.
To many citizens, it's quite insulting that an outside group determines that their community is (unbeknownst to its residents) such incubators of bigotry and hatred that they and their children need special training. It becomes laughable in towns like Newton.
But what's really offensive is that what's being marketed as "anti-hate" is actually a radical left-wing agenda: a saturation of anti-traditional values - militantly pro-homosexual, and fiercely anti-Christian - with a heavy dose of intimidation against anyone who disagrees.
School students sit through endless ADL diversity assemblies that drone on, pushing all the propaganda. Most kids find it boring, actually. Parents simply endure it.
Even more obnoxious is that the program's local web of committees serves as yet another springboard for left-wing political activism (usually against local conservatives).
It's a great racket. You get to use "hate" to push left-wing politics. Dopey town politicians get roped into sanctioning it. And it's a fundraising vehicle for raking pin-headed limousine liberals who want to feel good.
But there is an enormous undercurrent of resentment and anger of having "hate" hijacked for a political agenda. Religious people and others are tired of groups of secular Jews defining what "bigotry" is - or isn't. It was only a matter of time before a group like the Armenians had enough of it. And there will be more.
The ADL's positions on social legislation have become sadly predictable. For example, in the 1980s, the ADL opposed the repeal of the bigoted, anti-Catholic Know-Nothing Amendment passed back in the 1840s. Today the ADL fights for homosexual marriage, and is even a member of MassEquality's coalition of pro-homosexual organizations, whose message is that only "bigots" don't support gay marriage.
I don't think many Jews realize how despised and feared the ADL is by many around the country. I believe the ADL causes far more anti-Semitism than it cures. Moreover, religious Jews constantly have to explain to Christians that the ADL does not represent all Jews. It's quite humiliating, believe me.
It wasn't always that way. Founded in 1913 to fight the then-rampant anti-Semitism in America, the ADL was a legitimate organization for most of its lifetime. It did good and honorable work. That reputation still endures in the Jewish community. But in fact, as anti-Semitism waned in America the ADL drifted leftward and became radicalized.
Starting in the 1980s, the now-sainted Lenny Zakim transformed the New England chapter into something sinister. His handbook was the ADL's poisonous book "The Religious Right: The Assault on Tolerance and Pluralism in America," published in the 1990s, that horribly demonizes prominent Christian organizations and their leaders. It's an ironic publication from a group claiming to fight religious defamation. (I got my copy from Lenny personally.) After all these years, it's still scary. Unfortunately, that set the tone for the ADL today, and the people hired to work there.
To his credit, Lenny had phenomenal organizational and political abilities, and everyone from the Governor to the Cardinal paid homage to him. But at some point substance will always trump style. Lenny's premature death only hastened that.
A prominent Boston rabbi has often observed that these days the ADL, American Jewish Committee, and their ilk exist mostly to employ otherwise unemployable people. There's a lot of truth to that. Maybe the ADL needs to reexamine its mission, its size and its role in the Jewish community.
Brian Camenker lives in Newton and is president of MassResistance, a political action group that defends religious freedom.