Abraham Foxman, who as a young boy lived with a family for four years as a baptized Catholic to escape the Holocaust, became ADL’s director in 1987.
As one who learned ethnic discrimination first hand, one would think that Mr. Foxman would be the right person to man the barricades during these of all times. But for whatever reasons, be they fear, be they political, be they tribal, time has changed the man, challenging his core beliefs, and sending him skittering toward the defense of things he used to hold darkest.
A recent survey conducted in Europe by ADL has reinforced Foxman’s worst fears: anti-Semitism is alive and growing in his familiar, dark lands of Europe. Some of what he has gleaned from the study does legitimately need to be called out and that is the ugly trope about Jews and their exclusive influence on the economic system, thanks in no small part to Bernie Madoff. Thirty one percent of those polled blame Jews for the current economic crisis. While Jewish involvement in finance is real, Jews are hardly alone in the exercise of greed, a trait that is universal to bankers of all religious stripes. Foxman is right to cry foul when blame for the financial crisis is placed solely at Jewish feet; to do so is to harken back to eras when similar scapegoating served as a precursor for some of the deadliest periods in Jewish history.
But there is a critical synapse missing in Foxman’s thinking. While those who see the current economic meltdown as the sole responsibility of the Jews are indeed expressing a not-so-latent anti-Semitism, Mr. Foxman has chosen to willfully ignore the stunning damage done to Israel’s reputation from what the world has come to see as the wrongful occupation of Gaza. It is patently absurd that he not connect the dots linking the outrage for the November siege of Gaza to an Israeli disregard for justice towards a people crying out for the right to survive, the same right for which we Jews have so often struggled.
Point of fact: ADL’s survey shows that fifty-eight percent of Europeans polled have been negatively influenced by their feelings toward Israel, with “nearly half of the respondents in each of the countries [saying] that Jews were more loyal to Israel than to their home country.”
While there may be little truth in such a statement, what stands out is Foxman’s utter lack of understanding that his recent concerns over the even-handedness of George Mitchell come off as duplicitous and self-serving, as I discussed in a previous column.
And then there’s this: In 2006, Foxman condemned hardliner and current Israeli kingmaker Avigdor Lieberman for stunning statements Leiberman made at the time, calling for the execution of Arab legislators who would deign to meet with leaders of Hamas. Last week, only days before Israelis headed to the polls, stunee became stunner when Foxman defended Lieberman’s recent proposal that Israeli Arabs submit to a loyalty oath if they want to maintain their citizenship.
As reported by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, "Some liberal Israeli and Jewish groups have condemned Lieberman as a fascist - the left-wing Meretz Party even compared him to the late far-right Austrian politician Joerg Haider - for his proposal to require Israeli Arab citizens to sign an oath of allegiance to the Jewish state."
Lieberman’s extremist positions should send anyone left of fascism shrieking. That Abe Foxman now openly condones such hate-filled Islamaphobia casts a dark cloud over the judgment of the man who has served as the Jewish watchdog against anti-Semitism since 1987. Foxman’s racism is blatant, particularly because it comes from a Holocaust survivor. It is gravely disheartening that a man tasked with safeguarding Jews from anti-Semitism has unwittingly become one of its advocates.
If perception is nine-tenths of reality, Abe Foxman and organizations like his have become increasingly responsible for painting a monolithic and unfair picture of the Jewish people, a people to whom the world has long looked to as a source of morality. The ADL’s most recent survey ought to have awakened Mr. Foxman to the real reasons behind the growing negativity towards Jews. Instead, he has chosen to fan the flames of hatred with incendiary words, upping the ante to yet greater heights.