ADL head warns: U.S. at risk of ‘normalizing’ antisemitism

“We’re in an environment where a term like ‘globalists’ has moved from the corners of the internet to the Cabinet Room of the West Wing,” Greenblatt said.

October 29, 2018 01:44
2 minute read.

Jonathan Greenblatt (R) will succeed Abraham Foxman (L) as national-director of the ADL.. (photo credit: JTA)


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WASHINGTON – The head of the Anti-Defamation League is sounding an alarm that antisemitism has become normalized in America’s political discourse, following an historic massacre of Jews in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on Saturday.

Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Jonathan Greenblatt, national director of the ADL, said that antisemitic dog whistles long held at the fringes of American political life have entered the mainstream at little cost.

I worry that antisemitism has become normalized – literally. That too many people roll their eyes when certain politicians evoke George Soros – ‘the Jewish financier George Soros, or the Jewish financier Sheldon Adelson,’” Greenblatt said. “They just shake their head at it and dismiss it.”

On television programs and in the press, Greenblatt has provided guidance to a nation non-conversant in a growing crisis of antisemitism, tracked by his organization’s annual reports. That crisis hit an inflection point on Saturday as a 46 year-old man entered a synagogue yelling antisemitic epithets, shooting and killing 11 worshipers and wounding several others.

“We’re in an environment where a term like ‘globalists’ has moved from the corners of the internet to the Cabinet Room of the West Wing,” Greenblatt said, referring to a term used in antisemitic conspiracies claiming that Jews control various levers of world power.

“We can demand that leaders lead,” Greenblatt said. “We can demand that they do better.”

Each year, the ADL tracks incidents of vandalism, harassment and assaults documented by law enforcement, in media accounts and directly by victims themselves. In 2017, the organization found that assaults decreased from the prior years but that acts of vandalism and harassment spiked.

In total, the organization identified a 34% increase in incidents from 2015 to 2016 – and an increase in 2017 of 57% from the prior year. That amounts to the largest single-year increase since the organization began tracking incidents in 1979, and an explosive short-term trend.

Incidents were trending downward until the exceptionally divisive election year of 2016, when Donald Trump successfully campaigned for the presidency, the data shows.

“I think for us, we’re very focused on the data,” Greenblatt said. “The data doesn’t lie, and I think both the toxic political atmosphere, the access of social media and how its accelerated and amplified some of the worst voices.”

Greenblatt offered muted praise to Trump for quickly condemning the Pittsburgh attack on Saturday, suggesting doing so was a minimal requirement of an American head of state. He also said that political figures who fail to condemn brazen discrimination toward Jews should have no place in public life.

“The first thing that can happen is that people in positions of authority should stop hate when it happens,” he added. “There’s no doubt that the president has the largest platform, the biggest megaphone, and just by the power of his words he can contribute to the fight against antisemitism.”

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