Former ADL head says anti-Semitism in US not at ‘crisis’ level
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Former ADL head says anti-Semitism in US not at ‘crisis’ level

Seemingly breaking with watchdog he headed for decades, Abraham Foxman accuses politicians of hijacking issue to attack Trump, downplays need for presidential condemnation

Jewish tombstones lay vandalized at Mount Carmel Cemetery February 27, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Mark Makela/Getty Images/AFP)
Jewish tombstones lay vandalized at Mount Carmel Cemetery February 27, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Mark Makela/Getty Images/AFP)

The former head of the Jewish hate-crime watchdog Anti-Defamation League said concerns over rising anti-Semitism in the US are being blown out of proportion by political operatives and that US President Donald Trump should not be pressured over the issue.

Abraham Foxman, who stepped down as ADL director in 2015 after nearly 30 years at the helm, told the Forward newspaper that the wave of bomb threats at Jewish institutions and vandalism at cemeteries are a far cry from deadly anti-Semitic incidents that have wracked the community in the past.

“I am not shocked that this is happening,” Foxman told the paper. “What we’re seeing now is serious, but it is not a crisis.”

He accused politicians of “hijacking” concerns over anti-Semitism to use as a cudgel against Trump.

“The whole issue has become a political football and that doesn’t serve us,” he told the Jewish newspaper.

Abraham Foxman (photo credit: David Karp/JTA)
Abraham Foxman (David Karp/JTA)

Jonathan Greenblatt, who took over the ADL from Foxman, has been at the forefront of condemning the bomb scares and cemetery attacks, calling for increased law enforcement and criticizing the Trump administration for failing to tackle the issue.

“The level of threats and incidents is astounding, and must not stand. We will do everything in our power to combat this wave of anti-Semitism,” Greenblatt said earlier this week, after the ADL’s San Francisco office was threatened along with some 20 other Jewish centers in a single day.

Jonathan A. Greenblatt, the National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, speaking at the ADL Annual Meeting in Los Angeles on November 6, 2014. (Courtesy ADL)
Jonathan A. Greenblatt, the National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, speaking at the ADL Annual Meeting in Los Angeles on November 6, 2014. (Courtesy ADL)

The ADL has also called on the Trump administration to adopt a plan to combat anti-Semitism and has demanded that Trump himself speak out firmly against anti-Semitism, as he finally did during an address to Congress Tuesday after a long silence.

But Foxman told the Forward that pressure on Trump to speak out was misguided, even though he himself had joined the calls last month.

“Does anyone think that had he condemned it earlier we wouldn’t have threats to 90 JCCs? I don’t think so. It would have made us feel better. But that’s all,” Foxman told the New York-based publication.

Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department K-9 officers search the Jewish Community Center of Southern Nevada after an employee received a suspicious phone call that led about 10 people to evacuate the building on February 27, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images/AFP)
Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department K-9 officers search the Jewish Community Center of Southern Nevada after an employee received a suspicious phone call that led about 10 people to evacuate the building on February 27, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images/AFP)

However, on February 17 Foxman, who currently heads the Center for the Study of anti-Semitism at the Museum of Jewish Heritage — A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in New York, criticized Trump for refusing to answer a Jewish reporter’s question on what the administration planned to do to tackle anti-Semitism.

President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in the East Room at the White House on February 16, 2017 in Washington, DC.  (Mark Wilson/Getty Images, via JTA)
President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in the East Room at the White House on February 16, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images, via JTA)

“Jews in more than 40 communities in the USA are anxious and in fear as a result of anti-Semitic threats. All they want is for the President to acknowledge that he is aware of fears – he knows, cares, is sensitive to their anxieties, and will instruct law enforcement to deal with these crimes,” he said in a statement.

During his 28 years as the head of the ADL, Foxman became one of the most powerful Jewish figures in the US leading the fight against hatred of Jews. Critics accused him of creating a bully pulpit to determine what was and wasn’t anti-Semitic, sometimes along partisan lines, and of using the group to stump for pro-Israel causes.

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