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|Type||Civil rights law|
|Legal status||501(c)(3) organization|
|Headquarters||New York City, New York, US|
|Esta Gordon Epstein|
|Expenses (2019)||$82.4 million|
|Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith|
|Part of a series on|
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), formerly known as the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, is an international Jewish non-governmental organization based in the United States. It was founded in late September 1913 by the Independent Order of B'nai B'rith, a Jewish service organization, in the wake of the contentious conviction for murder of Leo Frank. ADL subsequently split from B'nai B'rith and continued as an independent US section 501(c)(3) nonprofit. ADL states that its mission is twofold: "To stop the defamation of the Jewish people, and to secure justice and fair treatment to all," via the development of "new programs, policies and skills to expose and combat whatever holds us back." With a focus on combating antisemitism and other forms of hate, and fighting domestic extremism both online and off, ADL describes its "ultimate goal" as "a world in which no group or individual suffers from bias, discrimination or hate." In 2018, ADL rebranded as an "anti-hate" organization, adopting the motto "Fighting Hate for Good".
Jonathan Greenblatt, a former Silicon Valley tech executive and former Obama administration official, succeeded Abraham Foxman as national director in July 2015. Foxman had served in the role since 1987.
ADL headquarters are located in New York City. The ADL has 25 regional offices in the United States including a Government Relations Office in Washington, DC, as well as an office in Israel and staff in Europe. In its 2019 annual information Form 990, ADL reported total revenues of $92 million, the vast majority from contributions and grants. Its total operating revenue is reported at $80.9 million.
The immediate object of the League is to stop, by appeals to reason and conscience and, if necessary, by appeals to law, the defamation of the Jewish people. Its ultimate purpose is to secure justice and fair treatment to all citizens alike and to put an end forever to unjust and unfair discrimination against and ridicule of any sect or body of citizens.
The Anti-Defamation League was founded by B'nai B'rith as a response to attacks on Jews; the then recent contentious conviction of Leo Frank was mentioned by Adolf Kraus when he announced the creation of ADL. Livingston served as the ADL's chairman until his death in 1946.
One of the ADL's early campaigns occurred in the 1920s when it organized a media effort and consumer boycott against The Dearborn Independent, a publication published by American automobile industrialist Henry Ford. The publication contained virulently antisemitic articles and commented heavily on The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The ADL and allied organizations pressured Ford until he issued an apology in 1927.
During the 1930s, ADL, along with the American Jewish Committee, coordinated American Jewish groups across the country in monitoring the activities of the German-American Bund and its pro-Nazi, nativist allies in the United States. In many instances, these community-based defense organizations paid informants to infiltrate these groups and report on what they discovered. The longest-lived and most effective of these American Jewish resistance organizations was the Los Angeles Jewish Community Committee (LAJCC), which was backed financially by the Jewish leaders of the motion picture industry. The day-to-day operations of the LAJCC were supervised by a Jewish attorney, Leon L. Lewis. Lewis was uniquely qualified to combat the rise of Nazism in Los Angeles, having served as the first national secretary of the Anti-Defamation League in Chicago from 1925 to 1931. From 1934 to 1941, the LAJCC maintained its undercover surveillance of the German-American Bund, the Silver Shirts and dozens of other pro-Nazi, nativist groups that operated in Los Angeles. Partnering with the American Legion in Los Angeles, the LAJCC channeled eyewitness accounts of sedition onto federal authorities. Working with the ADL, Leon Lewis and the LAJCC played a strategic role in counseling the McCormack-Dickstein Committee investigation of Nazi propaganda activities in the United States (1934) and the Dies Committee investigation of "un-American activities" (1938-1940). In their final reports to Congress, both Committees found that the sudden rise in political antisemitism in the United States during the decade was due, in part, to the German government's support of these domestic groups.
Paralleling its infiltration efforts, the ADL continued its attempts to reduce antisemitic caricatures in the media. Much like the NAACP, it chose a non-confrontational approach, attempting to build long-lasting relationships and avoid backlash. The ADL requested its members avoid public confrontation, instead directing them to send letters to the media and advertising companies that included antisemitic or racist references in screening copies of their books and movies. This strategy kept the campaigns out of the public eye and instead emphasized the development of a relationship with companies.
In 1973, Nathan Perlmutter took the role of national director, serving until his death in 1987. Under the tenure of Perlmutter and his 1978-1983 co-director of interreligious affairs Yechiel Eckstein, the ADL shifted its approach to the evangelical Christian movement. Through the 60s and early 70s, the ADL had conflicted with the American Jewish Congress over their collaborations with evangelicals. Perlmutter and Eckstein changed this orientation, increasing collaborations and developing long-lasting lines of communication between the ADL and evangelical groups. This collaboration continued under the Foxman administration.
The ADL released a 1991 report observing an increase in the use of public access television stations by extremist groups. The report came in the wake of the trial of Tom Metzger, a white supremacist leader found guilty of inciting a murder via his public access TV station.
In 1996, ADL settled a federal civil lawsuit filed by groups representing African Americans and Arab Americans that alleged that the ADL hired agents with police ties to gather information. ADL did not admit any wrongdoing but agreed to a restraining injunction barring ADL from obtaining information from state employees forbidden by law to divulge such information. ADL agreed to contribute $25,000 to a fund that funds inter-community relationship projects, and cover the plaintiffs' legal costs of $175,000.
In 2003, the ADL opposed an advertising campaign by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) called "Holocaust on Your Plate" that compared animals killed in the meat industry to victims of the Holocaust. In 2005, PETA apologized for causing distress to the Jewish community through the campaign.
As of 2007, the ADL said it was archiving MySpace pages associated with white supremacists as part of its effort to track extremism.
The ADL opposed 2008 California Proposition 8, a ballot successful initiative that banned same-sex marriage. It did so alongside Jewish organizations, including the National Council of Jewish Women and the Progressive Jewish Alliance. The ADL filed amicus briefs urging the Supreme Court of California, Ninth Circuit, and the Supreme Court to invalidate Prop 8. In 2015, the ADL opposed the State Religious Freedom Restoration Acts, state laws that used the United States Supreme Court decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.] recognizing a for-profit corporation's claim of religious belief. The ADL opposed these laws out of concern they largely targeted LGBT people or denied access to contraceptives to employees of religiously-owned businesses.
2010s to present
In November 2014, the organization announced that Jonathan Greenblatt, a former Silicon Valley tech executive and former Obama administration official who had not operated within the Jewish communal organization world prior to his hiring, would succeed Abraham Foxman as national director in July 2015. Foxman had served as national director since 1987. The ADL board of directors renewed Greenblatt's contract as CEO and national director in fall 2020 for a second five-year term. The national chair of the governing board of directors is Esta Gordon Epstein; elected in late 2018 for a three-year term, she is the second woman to hold the organization's top volunteer leadership post.
ADL repeatedly accused Donald Trump, when he was a presidential candidate in 2016, of making use of antisemitic tropes or otherwise exploiting divisive and bigoted rhetoric during the 2016 presidential election campaign. The organization continued to call out President Trump for comments and actions that appeared to give voice or support to extremists such as white supremacists, for politicizing charges of antisemitism for partisan purposes and for continued use of antisemitic tropes.
In mid-2018, ADL raised concerns over President Donald Trump's nomination of then-DC Circuit Court of Appeals judge Brett Kavanaugh as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Although ADL had for many years submitted questions to the Senate Judiciary Committee for Supreme Court and other key government nominations, the organization and CEO Jonathan Greenblatt were harshly criticized by many on the right for raising concerns in this instance, particularly with regard to abortion. Subsequently, in another move that enraged many on the right, ADL called for the resignation or firing of Trump administration official Stephen Miller, the architect of the administration's immigration policy, on the basis of his association with white supremacists.
The ADL says it has participated in YouTube's Trusted Flagger program and has encouraged YouTube to remove videos that they flag as hate speech, citing the need to "fight against terrorist use of online resources and cyberhate." The ADL's Center on Technology and Society launched a survey in 2019 exploring online harassment in video games. It found that the majority of surveyed players experienced severe harassment of some kind, and the ADL recommended increased content moderation from game companies and governments. On the other hand, the survey found that over half of players experienced some form of positive community in video games. A separate, earlier survey of the general population found that around a third of people have experienced some form of online harassment.
In 2020, ADL joined with the NAACP, Color of Change, LULAC, Free Press, the National Hispanic Media Coalition and other organizations in the Stop Hate For Profit campaign. The campaign targeted online hate on Facebook, with over 1000 businesses pausing their ad buys on Facebook for a month. Subsequently, in September 2020, the campaign organized high-profile athletes, actors and musicians, including Sacha Baron Cohen, Kate Hudson, Kim Kardashian, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, James Corden, Jamie Foxx, Katy Perry, Naomi Campbell, Chris Paul, and many others to post Stop Hate for Profit messages targeting Facebook on their social media and to freeze all posts on Instagram for a day.[better source needed]
In July 2017, ADL announced that they would be developing profiles on 36 alt-right and alt-lite leaders. In 2019 and 2020 ADL executives and staff testified multiple times in front of Congressional committees concerning the dangers of right-wing domestic extremists, noting that the large majority of extremist murders in the United States over the past decade had been committed by white supremacists.[failed verification]
In early January 2021, the ADL called for the removal of Donald Trump as President and described the relationship of the storming of the United States Capitol to the far-right and antisemitic groups. This came in the wake of the violent attack on the United States Capitol by rioters seeking to stop the certification of the election of President-elect Joe Biden.
In April 2021, Jonathan Greenblatt released a letter calling on the right-wing American network Fox News to drop commentator Tucker Carlson from its lineup, saying that Carlson had espoused the white genocide conspiracy theory on his show. This call appeared shortly after research indicating that many who participated in the 2021 storming of the United States Capitol had been influenced by this conspiracy theory. The ADL again called for Carlson to be fired in September 2021 following Carlson expressing support for the great replacement theory. Carlson responded, saying "Fuck them" regarding the ADL, describing the ADL's call as politically motivated, and defending his statements.
The ADL says it supports Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. The organization says it supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, negotiated by the parties. The organization opposed the 1975 United Nations resolution (revoked in 1991) which stated in the resolution that "Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination", and attempts to revive that formulation at the 2001 U.N. World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa. ADL expressed concern over Israeli legislative proposals requiring that NGOs publicize if they receive funding primarily from non-Israeli governments, a bill mostly opposed by centrist and left-wing and supported by right-wing Jewish American groups.[non-primary source needed]
ADL supports Comprehensive and DREAM Act legislation that would provide conditional permanent residency to certain undocumented immigrants of good moral character who graduate from US high schools, arrived in the United States as minors, and lived in the country continuously for at least five years prior to the bill's enactment.
The ADL supported some moves of the Trump administration and criticized others. The organization welcomed President Trump moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem. ADL CEO and National Director Jonathan Greenblatt traveled to Israel to join Trump administration officials at the official opening ceremony of the embassy in Jerusalem. The ADL repeatedly criticized Trump for using antisemitic tropes or seeming to apologize for white supremacists. Alongside at least eight other Jewish advocacy organizations, dozens of civil rights organizations, and more than one hundred members of congress, ADL called on the Trump administration to fire administration executive Stephen Miller, the architect of the Trump administration policies on immigration, condemning Miller as a white supremacist.
Israel boycotts and BDS
While ADL was a lead supporter of Congressional legislation prohibiting US individuals and businesses from joining "unsanctioned boycotts" such as the 1970s Arab League Boycott against Israel, it has taken a different, case-by-case approach to state anti-BDS laws more recently enacted in response to the BDS movement. Several of these laws, which seek to prohibit State agencies and instrumentalities from investing in companies that boycott Israel and from entering into contracts with entities that boycott Israel, have been successfully challenged in the courts. The legal challenges have primarily been brought by the ACLU and CAIR on First Amendment constitutional grounds. ADL generally has not publicly supported laws it felt were constitutionally suspect under the First Amendment, both for legal reasons and because the organization believed that such laws, even if what ADL describes as "well-intentioned", were not an effective means of combating the BDS movement. However, as a general matter the organization also has not publicly opposed such state laws, preferring to work behind the scenes to try to make such laws less infirm under the Constitution or to propose non-binding resolutions opposing BDS. A possible division of internal views in ADL was disclosed when the liberal Jewish publication, The Forward, published ostensibly leaked internal ADL staff memos dating from 2016 that opposed the anti-boycott laws. ADL did not comment directly on the leaked memos, but the statement it issued in response appeared to acknowledge both that there were sharply divided views within the organization and that the organization did not try to suppress internal robust discussion.
In 2010, ADL published a list of the "ten leading organizations responsible for maligning Israel in the US," which has included ANSWER, the International Solidarity Movement, and Jewish Voice for Peace for its call for BDS. The ADL published a similar list in 2013.
Alongside similar statements from StandWithUs and American Jewish Committee representatives, the ADL's Greenblatt condemned the United Nations Human Rights Council's (UNHRC) list of companies doing business with Jewish settlements in Israeli-run territories (West Bank, East Jerusalem, Golan Heights), issued in February 2020, calling it a "blacklist."
ADL has opposed efforts in the U.S. and in Europe to ban circumcision of minors on the grounds of parental and religious freedom, citing the importance of circumcision in Judaism and Islam. ADL has also criticized specific instances of anti-circumcision imagery, such as an anti-circumcision cartoon in the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet and the comic book Foreskin Man - regarding the latter, Associate Regional Director Nancy Appel stated that while good people could disagree on the issue of circumcision, it was unacceptable to use antisemitic imagery within the debate. ADL also criticized an anti-circumcision resolution by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, describing it as "leading Europe in a horrific direction toward the forced exclusion of Jewish citizens." In 2018, ADL's Jonathan Greenblatt sent Iceland's Parliament a letter regarding a proposed infant circumcision ban in that country, arguing that the ban should be rejected due to circumcision's religious significance and health benefits. Greenblatt also said that if the ban passed, ADL would report on any celebration by antisemites and other extremists, asserting that this would deter tourism and harm Iceland's economy. The Reykjavík Grapevine described this letter as a threat.
Federal and state hate crimes legislation
ADL was among the lead organizations campaigning for thirteen years, ultimately successfully, for the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The hold-up in passing that law focused on the inclusion of the term "sexual orientation" as one of the bases that a crime could be deemed a hate crime. ADL also drafted the model hate crimes legislation in the 1980s; it serves as a model for the legislation that a majority of states have adopted.
In 2010, during a hearing for Florida House Bill 11 (Crimes Against Homeless Persons), which was to revise the list of offenses judged to be hate crimes in Florida by adding a person's homeless status, the League lobbied against the bill, which subsequently passed in the House by a vote of 80 to 28 and was sent to the Senate, taking the position that adding more categories to the list would dilute the effectiveness of the law, which already includes race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, and age.
Relations with religious and ethnic groups
Relations with Arabs and Muslims
In 1993 the ADL published a report, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Muslim Brotherhood: Islamic Extremists and the Terrorist Threat to America, which accused the Holy Land Foundation (which was to become the largest Muslim charity in America), of supporting Hamas.
Relations with African-Americans
In 2004, ADL became the lead partner in the Peace and Diversity Academy, a new New York City public high school with predominantly black and Hispanic students. The school was part of a Bloomberg-led effort to open many smaller schools. In 2014, the school was designated among New York's schools with the lowest graduation rates. In celebration of Black History Month, the ADL created and distributed lesson plans to middle and high school teachers about Shirley Chisholm (1924–2005), the first black woman elected to the US Congress, and an important civil rights leader.
The ADL has accused several prominent African-Americans of anti-semitism. One of the examples of this is the ADL cataloguing almost more than the three-decade history of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan's history of antisemitic rhetoric, including claims that certain Jews are "not real Jews" and that they are "wicked deceivers of the American people" who "sucked Americans blood", and that powerful Jews promote homosexuality and control black leadership. Farrakhan first attracted the attention of the ADL with comments in a March 11, 1984, radio broadcast saying that, "Hitler was a very great man". Farrakhan insists that he was using the word 'great' in the sense of 'Great Depression', meaning prominent or influential and not good or positive.  On June 24, 1984, Farrakhan described the Jewish state as "structured on injustice, thievery, lying and deceit and using the name of God to shield your dirty religion under His holy and righteous name." The ADL has urged various groups including the NAACP (whose leader Benjamin Chavis developed a working relationship with Farrakhan in 1994) to dissociate themselves from Farrakhan and his views. In 1984, The Boston Globe reported that then-ADL national director Nathan Perlmutter said that Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. was antisemitic after Jackson referred to New York City as "Hymietown". However, ADL later reconciled with Jackson and has worked with him on the issue of the Iranian Jewish community. In 2018 the ADL criticized Rep. Danny Davis for not condemning Louis Farrakhan.
The ADL criticized film director Spike Lee regarding his portrayal of Jewish nightclub owners Moe and Josh Flatbush in his film Mo' Better Blues (1990). The ADL said the characterizations of the nightclub owners "dredge up an age-old and highly dangerous form of anti-Semitic stereotyping", and that it was "disappointed that Spike Lee – whose success is largely due to his efforts to break down racial stereotypes and prejudice – has employed the same kind of tactics that he supposedly deplores". Lee's portrayal also angered the B'nai B'rith and other such Jewish organizations, causing Lee to address the criticism in an opinion piece for The New York Times, where he stated "...if critics are telling me that to avoid charges of anti-Semitism, all Jewish characters I write have to be model citizens, and not one can be a villain, cheat or a crook, and that no Jewish people have ever exploited black artists in the history of the entertainment industry, that's unrealistic and unfair".
In 1996 ADL's New England Regional Office established a faith-based initiative called "The Interfaith Youth Leadership Program", better known as "Camp If", or Camp Interfaith. Involving teenagers of the Christian, Jewish, and Islamic faiths, the camp brings the teens together for a week at camp where the teens bond and learn about each other's cultures. The camp has emerged as a new attempt to foster good relations between younger members of the Abrahamic faiths.
ADL has been criticized both from the right and left of the US political spectrum, including from within the American Jewish community. ADL positions and actions that have generated criticism include alleged domestic spying, its former Armenian genocide denial, (since repudiated and apologized for), and what parts of the American left argue is the ADL's conflation of criticism of the Israeli government with antisemitism. ADL's support for the Trump Administration's decision to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May 2018 drew criticism. Right-wing groups and pundits, including right-wing Jewish groups, have criticized ADL as being too left-wing, labeling it a "Democratic Party auxilary".
2020 #DropTheADL campaign
In August 2020, a coalition of progressive organizations launched the #DropTheADL campaign, arguing that "the ADL is not an ally" in social justice work. The campaign consisted of an open letter and a website, which were shared on social media with the hashtag "#DropTheADL". Notable signatories included the Democratic Socialists of America, Movement for Black Lives, Jewish Voice for Peace, Center for Constitutional Rights, and Council on American–Islamic Relations. The open letter stated 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." Some liberal groups responded by defending the ADL, with HIAS CEO Mark Hetfield characterizing #DropTheADL as a "smear campaign". The ADL published a statement that the campaign involved "many of the same groups who have been pushing an anti-Israel agenda for years." Around sixty organizations supported the campaign on its initial launch, and an additional hundred groups joined by February 2021.
New antisemitism concept
A 1974 book titled The New Anti-Semitism by ADL national leaders Arnold Forster and Benjamin Epstein argued that a new kind of antisemitism was on the rise. A subsequent book, The Real Anti-Semitism in America, published in 1982, was written by ADL national leader Nathan Perlmutter and his wife, Ruth Ann Perlmutter. In the 2003 book Never Again? The Threat of the New Anti-Semitism, by ADL's national director Abraham Foxman, he states on page 4: "We currently face as great a threat to the safety and security of the Jewish people as the one we faced in the 1930s—if not a greater one."[non-primary source needed]
Reviewing Forster and Epstein's work in a May 1974 issue of Commentary, Earl Raab, founding director of the Nathan Perlmutter Institute for Jewish Advocacy at Brandeis University, argued that a "new anti-Semitism" was indeed emerging in America in the form of opposition to the collective rights of the Jewish people, but he criticized Forster and Epstein for conflating it with anti-Israel bias. Allan Brownfeld writes that Forster and Epstein's new definition of antisemitism trivialized the concept by turning it into "a form of political blackmail" and "a weapon with which to silence any criticism of either Israel or U.S. policy in the Middle East," while Edward S. Shapiro, in A Time for Healing: American Jewry Since World War II, has written that, "Forster and Epstein implied that the new antisemitism was the inability of Gentiles to love Jews and Israel enough."
Norman Finkelstein has written that organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League have brought forward charges of new antisemitism at various intervals since the 1970s, "not to fight antisemitism, but rather to exploit the historical suffering of Jews in order to immunize Israel against criticism." The Washington Post reported in 2006 that the ADL had over the years repeatedly accused Finkelstein of being a "Holocaust denier," and that "these charges have proved baseless."
Denver defamation suit
In 1994, ADL became embroiled in a dispute between neighbors in Denver, Colorado. Upon the involvement of ADL, the petty quarreling of next-door neighbors, initially about garden plants and pets, quickly escalated into both civil and criminal court cases involving charges of antisemitism, and counter-charges of defamation. Candace and Mitchell Aronson, Jewish next-door neighbors of William and Dorothy Quigley, used a Radio Shack police scanner to listen in on the cordless telephone conversations of the Quigleys. When the Aronsons heard the Quigleys discuss a campaign to drive them from the neighborhood with "Nazi scare tactics", the Aronsons contacted the Denver office of ADL. Upon the advice of ADL, the Aronsons then recorded the Quigley's private telephone conversations. The conversations included discussions of putting pictures of oven doors on the Aronsons' home (a reference to the Holocaust), burning one of the Aronson children, and wishing that the Aronsons had been killed in a suicide bombing. (The Quigleys later indicated that these remarks were not antisemitic, and were only intended to be sick humor.) Neither the Aronsons nor ADL were aware that Congress had amended federal wiretap law which made it illegal to record conversations from a cordless telephone, to transcribe the material, and to use the transcriptions for any purpose.
Not knowing about the new federal law, the Aronsons used the tapes as the basis for a federal civil lawsuit against the Quigleys in December 1994. A day later, Saul Rosenthal, Regional Director of ADL, appeared at a news conference with the Aronsons in which he described their encounter with the Quigleys as "a vicious antisemitic campaign," based solely on conversations he and associates had with the Aronsons. Later that day, Rosenthal expanded on his remarks in an interview on a Denver radio talk show. Two days later, Jefferson County prosecutors used the tapes as the basis for filing criminal charges against the Quigleys. The Quigleys became the target of scorn and ridicule. They received threats and were forced to hire security guards for their homes. A package of dog feces was mailed to their house. When they attended church, their priest openly chastised them in his sermon. The family was forced to shop in other towns, to avoid being recognized. Mr. Quigley's career with United Artists suffered serious damage.
Upon investigation, and after assistant district attorney Steven Jensen heard on the tapes the context of Dorothy Quigley's remarks, all charges but one, a misdemeanor traffic violation against William Quigley, were dropped. The district attorney issued two letters of apology to the Quigleys, saying he found no evidence that either had engaged in "anti-Semitic conduct or harassment."
The Quigleys brought a lawsuit against ADL, Rosenthal, the Aronsons, and two ADL volunteer attorneys. The two attorneys agreed to pay $350,000 to the Quigleys in settlement of their claims. The Quigley settlement with the Aronsons did not involve a cash payment. The Quigleys maintained their action against ADL and Rosenthal, which was heard in federal court. A federal jury returned a verdict of $10 million in favor of the Quigleys. ADL appealed. According to an April 13, 2001, article in The Forward, upon hearing the appeal, a federal judge "lambasted the ADL for labeling a nasty neighborhood feud as an anti-Semitic event" and upheld most of Quigley's $10 million lawsuit for defamation. According to a report in the Rocky Mountain News, with accrued interest, the judgment amounted to more than $12 million.
Delayed recognition of the Armenian genocide
In 2007, Abraham Foxman came under criticism for his stance on the Armenian genocide. ADL had previously described it as a "massacre" and an "atrocity", but not as a "genocide". Foxman had earlier opposed calls for the US Government to recognise it as a "genocide". In early August 2007, complaints about the ADL's refusal to acknowledge the Armenian genocide led to Watertown, Massachusetts's, unanimous town council decision to end its participation in ADL's "No Place for Hate" campaign. (Watertown is known for its Armenian population.) In the subsequent months, some human rights commissions in other Massachusetts communities decided to follow Watertown's lead and withdraw from the ADL's No Place for Hate anti-discrimination program. ADL had earlier received direct pressure from the Turkish Foreign ministry. Also in August 2007, an editorial in The Boston Globe criticized ADL by saying that, "as an organization concerned about human rights, it ought to acknowledge the genocide against the Armenian people during World War I, and criticize Turkish attempts to repress the memory of this historical reality."
On August 17, 2007, ADL fired its regional New England director, Andrew H. Tarsy, for breaking ranks with the main organization and for saying that ADL should recognize the genocide. In an August 21, 2007, news release, ADL changed its position and acknowledged the genocide, but maintained its opposition to congressional resolutions aimed at recognizing it. Foxman wrote, "the consequences of those actions," by the Ottoman Empire against Armenians, "were indeed tantamount to genocide." The Turkish government condemned the league's statement. Tarsy subsequently won his job back, but subsequently submitted his resignation, on December 4, 2007. The 2007 ADL "Statement on the Armenian Genocide" was criticized by activists as failing to be a full, unequivocal acknowledgment of the Armenian genocide because the use of the qualifier "tantamount" was seen as inappropriate, and the use of the word "consequences" was seen as an attempt to circumvent the international legal definition of genocide by avoiding any language that would imply intent, a crucial aspect of the 1948 UN Genocide Convention definition.
On May 13, 2016, Jonathan Greenblatt, then ADL's CEO and National Director for less than a year, published a blog post in which he wrote "What happened to the Armenian people was unequivocally genocide" and urged the US to take a position recognizing the Armenian genocide. In late 2019, ADL publicly endorsed and lobbied for a historic Congressional resolution commemorating the Armenian genocide, which passed the House of Representatives with bipartisan support. The US Senate passed a similar resolution, which was also backed by ADL, but in December 2019 the Trump administration, under pressure from Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, refused to back recognition of the Armenian genocide.
Park51 Community Center opposition
On July 28, 2010, ADL issued a statement in which it expressed opposition to the Park51 Community Center, a proposed Islamic community center and mosque near the World Trade Center site in New York. ADL stated, "The controversy which has emerged regarding the building of a Community Center at this location is counterproductive to the healing process. Therefore, under these unique circumstances, we believe the City of New York would be better served if an alternative location could be found." ADL denounced what it saw as bigoted attacks on the project. Foxman opined that some of those who oppose the mosque are "bigots," and that the plan's proponents may have every right to build the mosque at that location. Nevertheless, he said that building the mosque at that site would unnecessarily cause more pain for the families of some victims of 9/11.
This opposition to the Community Center led to criticism of the statement from various parties, including one ADL board member, the American Jewish Committee, the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, Rabbi Irwin Kula, columnists Jeffrey Goldberg and Peter Beinart, the Interfaith Alliance, and the Shalom Center. In an interview with The New York Times Abraham Foxman published a statement in reaction to criticism. In protest of ADL's stance, CNN host Fareed Zakaria returned the Hubert H. Humphrey First Amendment Freedoms Prize ADL awarded him in 2005. ADL chair Robert G. Sugarman responded to a critical The New York Times editorial writing, "we have publicly taken on those who criticized the mosque in ways that reflected anti-Muslim bigotry or used the controversy for that purpose" and stating that ADL has combated Islamophobia.
- American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
- Antisemitism in the United States
- Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
- Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation
- Israel lobby in the United States
- Jewish Council for Public Affairs
- Membership discrimination in California social clubs
- Simon Wiesenthal Center
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Through our network of 25 regional offices
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