The shame of this essay in Commentary magazine is that the author repeatedly calls the Mearsheimer/Walt book The Israel Lobby “shoddy” but never presents any examples of the alleged shoddiness. Pathetic. Those who can, do, and those who can’t, yell names.
That two highly respected elite political scientist would suddenly produce “shoddy” work in a charged issue that would hurt their lives and careers is absurd.
And just at the moment that one of the twin pillars of American anti-Semitism was being laundered through the Democratic Party, Jonathan Greenblatt left the administration that enabled this bigotry to take the helm of the Anti-Defamation League.
Greenblatt took three hallmarks of Team Obama with him when he left: a belief that liberalism and modern morality were synonymous; an obsession with Benjamin Netanyahu; and a rivalrous antagonism toward anyone to his right who called out anti-Semitism.
The liberalism part of that isn’t unique to Greenblatt—the ADL has long supported abortion rights, which is not a “Jewish issue” in any way. But there are two puzzling aspects to Greenblatt’s behavior. First, he makes it personal. Immediately after Trump announced he would nominate to the Supreme Court Brett Kavanaugh, Greenblatt went on the attack, tweeting that Kavanaugh’s record “does not reflect the demonstrated independence and commitment to fair treatment for all that is necessary to merit a seat on our nation’s highest court.”
Slandering a respected judge is so far beneath the ADL that Greenblatt’s behavior should’ve been a gut check for the group’s leadership. Additionally, as Jonathan Tobin pointed out at National Review, “the group’s haste showed that it had planned to oppose anyone nominated by Trump,” thereby making a leap into blind partisanship.
The second difference is an overt hostility to religious liberty—an absolutely dangerous gamble for a Jewish-rights group. It isn’t merely that Greenblatt publicly lamented June’s Supreme Court ruling in favor of a Christian baker’s First Amendment rights. It’s also the way the organization has embraced liberalism as a form of religion in itself. Thus the ADL in 2016 called opposition to abortion a “right-wing assault on religious diversity in reproductive freedom,” an Orwellian mangling of language and faith.
Greenblatt’s antipathy toward the elected Israeli government is perhaps even more out of character. In 2016, Netanyahu confronted the Palestinian demand that no Jews remain in a future Palestinian state, calling it “ethnic cleansing.” This is quite literally the definition of the phrase. But Greenblatt—again, it bears repeating, as the director of the Anti-Defamation League—took a long swing at Netanyahu with a full column in Foreign Policy magazine. Greenblatt wrote: “Like the term ‘genocide,’ the term ‘ethnic cleansing’ should be restricted to actually describing the atrocity it suggests—rather than distorted to suit political ends.”
This is nonsensical, but it’s worth pointing out the hypocrisy here as well. In late July, Greenblatt tweeted out an ADL video of two Holocaust survivors describing the trauma of being separated from their families by the Nazis. Greenblatt’s point was to draw a parallel to the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant children from the adults who had carried them across the border. Greenblatt tweeted: “Miriam & Astrid were separated from their parents during the Holocaust. They know the trauma this causes. 38,000+ people signed the petition we delivered to @DHSgov & @TheJusticeDept demanding an end to zero tolerance & to reunite families they tore apart.”
As the Jewish activist Noah Pollak responded to Greenblatt: “ADL spent decades successfully shaming people who appropriated the Holocaust to serve contemporary political agendas,” yet it is now a “leading perpetrator” of this trope. In this case, the analogy is not only false, it is dangerously irresponsible, tying the president of the United States explicitly to Hitler—all after kicking sand at the Israeli prime minister for correctly calling a policy of the expulsion of all Jews from a state “ethnic cleansing.”
This pathological distaste for Netanyahu has proved problematic for the supposed anti-Semitism watchdog. On May 1, Netanyahu gave a televised presentation of Iranian deception regarding its nuclear program, thanks to intel gleaned from a mind-boggling Mossad operation in which agents broke into secret vaults in Tehran, evaded detection, and fled the country with “some 50,000 pages and 163 compact discs” covering “years of work on atomic weapons, warhead designs and production plans,” according to the New York Times.
Tommy Vietor, Obama’s National Security Council spokesman, went so far as to accuse the Jewish state of fabricating intelligence to satisfy its bloodlust, tweeting that “Trump is now cooking up intel with the Israelis to push us closer to a conflict with Iran. A scandal hiding in plain sight.” These horrifying words, retweeted nearly 2,500 times, would have been met with thunder by Foxman’s ADL. Greenblatt’s ADL remained silent. And the poison spreads.