Left-wing groups’ call to boycott ADL ignores its purpose

Two weeks ago, more than 150 progressive groups signed an open letter urging progressive movements to exclude the Anti-Defamation League “as a partner in social justice work.”
The call for a boycott is named “DropTheADL” and deplores the organization’s work with police departments in America and its support for Israel. The letter also wrongly asserts that the ADL “has a history and ongoing pattern of attacking social justice movements led by communities of color, queer people, immigrants, Muslims, Arabs and other marginalized groups while aligning itself with police, right-wing leaders and perpetrators of state violence.” The signatories assert that the ADL has launched “attacks (against these groups) under the banner of ‘civil rights.’”
Interestingly, the charges were leveled at the ADL in the wake of its widely publicized advertising boycott of Facebook. The ADL sponsored the boycott in coordination with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Color of Change, Common Sense, Free Press and other civil rights groups.
The organizations decried examples of Facebook’s repeated instances of failing to halt hateful, incendiary and discriminatory content on its platform. The campaign enlisted more than 1,000 companies to stop advertising on Facebook for at least one month.
After partnering with leading civil rights groups, the ADL is now the target of an unbridled attack by a bevy of progressive groups that include Democratic Socialists of America, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights, the Movement for Black Lives — not to be confused with Black Lives Matter — 10 Jewish Voice for Peace and Jews for Racial and Economic Justice. At least two of the groups, the Council on American-Islamic Relations and Jewish Voice for Peace, have been previously named by the ADL as among the 10 most influential anti-Israel groups in America.
Ironically, the move to vilify the ADL ignores both its purpose and its history. The ADL was founded in late September 1913 by B’nai B’rith International through the leadership of Sigmund Livingston, a Chicago lawyer. That same year, America’s Jewish community was roiled by the conviction and death sentence of Leo Frank, an Atlanta factory superintendent for the murder of Mary Phagan, a 13-year-old worker. Frank’s trial was characterized by virulent antisemitism. In 1915, Frank was lynched, after Georgia Governor John M. Slaton commuted his death sentence to life imprisonment.
The Frank case galvanized the growth of the ADL, which started out with a $200 budget and was managed from a desk in Sigmund Livingston’s law office. The organization’s mission was “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people, to secure justice and fair treatment for all.”
Historically, the ADL has opposed groups and individuals it has deemed as anti-Semitic, racist or discriminatory. These have included coordinated campaigns against the bigotry of the Ku Klux Klan, Henry Ford; Father Charles Coughlin, whose blatantly antisemitic broadcasts blamed the Jewish people for the scourge of Nazism and the onset of World War II; neo-Nazi skinheads; Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan; the American militia movement; and cyberhate.
In response to the call to boycott it, the ADL published a statement on its website that declared: “Today, the ADL continues to fight all forms of hate with the same vigor and passion [it was founded upon). ADL is a global leader in exposing extremism and delivering anti-bias education], and is a leading organization in training law enforcement…ADL’s ultimate goal is a world in which no group or individual suffers bias, discrimination or hate.”
An alliance of Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist Jewish organizations put out a joint statement last week in support of the ADL:
“We vehemently reject efforts to silence or shun the ADL,” the statement read.
“Many of the criticisms that have been made are unjust or distort the ADL’s long record of commitment to civil rights and its successful efforts in legislatures, courts, schools, and communities to fight discrimination and hate. We remain committed to work in our vital coalitions in close partnership with the ADL and our shared desire to fight bigotry, wherever it may be found.”
Mark Hetfield, CEO of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, “This smear campaign takes us in the opposite direction of where we need to go. HIAS has been working closely with ADL for over 100 years and we look forward to working with them for the next 100 years fighting hate and welcoming refugees.”
As Elie Wiesel said, “The opposite of love is not hate, but indifference. Indifference creates evil. Hatred is evil itself. Indifference is what allows evil to be strong, what gives it power.”
The attack on the ADL is a thinly veiled attempt to silence and intimidate the leading proponent of anti-discrimination and anti-hate efforts in America. Now is the time for the Jewish community to rally in its support of the ADL — by speaking out and by supporting it financially. The ADL boycotters must not be answered with indifference.
This editorial appeared in the Aug. 27 issue of the Jewish Herald Voice and is reprinted with permission.

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