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Foxman in a Henhouse

By Matthew Yglesias

"Foxman in a Henhouse"

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I was going to leave James Traub’s profile of Abraham Foxman on its own, but James Kirchik’s obnoxious Plank post on the subject compels me to write something. Saith Kirchik:

Traub accuses Foxman of frequently (and presumably erroneously) smearing individuals as anti-Semites. Other than Professors John Mearsheimer and Stepehn Walt (who have written of their belief in a Jewish conspiracy reaching into the highest levels of the press and the government), Traub does not once name a supposed victim of Foxman’s descriptive wrath other than Jimmy Carter, whom Foxman never labeled anti-Semitic–just “bigoted.”

Frankly, I thought Traub soft-pedaled this a bit, but suffice it to say that here’s the point. If the head of the ADL refers to a person as “bigoted” that just is an accusation of anti-semitism. And Foxman, as Traub makes clear and as is, frankly, clear to anyone who’s paying attention, has decided to start flinging around accusations of anti-semitism against people he has political disagreements with. Check this passage from Traub’s profile:

I asked if it was really right to call Carter, the president who negotiated the Camp David accords, an anti-Semite.

“I didn’t call him an anti-Semite.”

“But you said he was bigoted. Isn’t that the same thing?”

“No. ‘Bigoted’ is you have preconceived notions about things.”

The argument that the Israel lobby constricted debate was itself bigoted, he said.

“But several Jewish officials I’ve talked to say just that.”

“They’re wrong.”

“Are they bigoted?”

Foxman didn’t want to go there. He said that he had never heard any serious person make that claim.

Foxman, apparently, would like us to believe that he’s some kind of moron. That the head of the Anti-Defamation League doesn’t know what the word “bigot” means. That the head of the ADL is unfamiliar with the existence of Jewish critics of the Israel lobby. That all of these groups exist in order to influence the debate over Israel and yet somehow fail to have any degree of success in constricting the range of respectable options. All of that’s absurd. Foxman would need to be, as I say, a fool for any of that to be true. Obviously, however, he’s no fool. He knows perfectly well what it means to call someone a bigot, knows perfectly well that however wrong Jimmy Carter may be about Israel that he’s not motivated by hatred of Jews, knows perfectly well that this is all basically bogus.

The shame of it is that the ADL does a great deal of genuinely important work. Unfortunately, in recent years Foxman has increasingly chosen to focus attention away from that work in favor of a right-wing political agenda that the overwhelming majority of American Jews abhor. Compromising the ADL’s historical strong stand on church-state relations (obviously crucial for a religious minority group in America) because Christian right “leaders tended to be strongly pro-Israel” so “Foxman was willing to cut them some slack on issues of social justice, and even of church-state relations, in the name of solidarity toward Israel.” He took out a full page ad in The New York Times to support John Bolton’s confirmation as UN Ambassador as if the fate of the Jewish people hinged crucially on whether or not a UN-hating goy got to sit in Turtle Bay. And he’s decided that everyone who thinks AIPAC has too much power is ananti-semite bigot, and he’s engaging in a little national security policy freelancing offering up hawkish thoughts on containing Iran’s nuclear program. At the end of the day, however, I think it’s clear that equating anti-anti-semitism with support for hawkish foreign policy in the Middle East and getting in bed with Christian conservatives in order to do so is not going to serve the interests of American Jews.

‹ From an Unlikely Source

Mr. Bartley ›

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