The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has led a campaign of defamation over the last several months, involving false claims of bigotry, and targeting President Donald Trump; his adviser, Steve Bannon; and Breitbart News.
The charges were false, but that did not stop the ADL from making them, whether directly or indirectly — nor did it stop the wide array of organizations, inside and outside the Jewish community, who, relying on the ADL’s authority, echoed those claims for political purposes.
Now the whole narrative has fallen apart.
On Thursday, Israeli authorities announced that they had arrested a 19-year-old Jewish dual U.S.-Israeli citizen, who happens to be Jewish, for carrying out “most” of the antisemitic bomb threats against Jewish community centers across the country and around the world. Not only were these “hate crimes” hoaxes, but they appear to have been perpetrated by a fellow member of the Jewish community, for motives that have yet to be made clear.
The arrest is deeply damaging to the fight against antisemitism, which remains a real and very dangerous phenomenon. Future antisemitic threats may not be taken as seriously because of the way these were allegedly faked, and who faked them.
Those of us who have tried to raise the alarm about antisemitism, especially on college campuses — much of which is left-wing, and linked to anti-Israel activism — may now struggle to be heard, while perpetrators will use today’s hoaxes to hide tomorrow’s crimes.
Yet the ADL and other organizations — especially so-called “Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect,” which is nothing more than a partisan attack machine that desecrates the Holocaust for political gain — placed the fight against antisemitism at risk. (The “center” has responded to the news of the arrest by insisting that Trump is still to blame for antisemitism.)
They never gave the Trump administration the benefit of the doubt. They dragged Breitbart — named for its Jewish founder! — through the mud.
Beyond Trump, or Breitbart News, the victims of the slander campaign included millions of ordinary Americans who voted for President Trump, or read Breitbart News, and who were presumed guilty, by association, of antisemitism and other forms of bigotry.
Jewish conservatives who support Trump had it worst: within our communities and even our own families, we have faced accusations of being complicit with what critics alleged was a Nazi-style regime. All untrue.
And yet, to borrow a line from George Orwell, the truth about antisemitism is far worse than that it is lied about and made into propaganda. The truth is that it happens.
I know, because among the handful of real antisemitic attacks over the past few months was one carried out against my synagogue in Santa Monica, which was vandalized. Another synagogue to which I have familial links, the Loop Synagogue in Chicago, was also vandalized. There was, thankfully, an arrest in the latter case, and a (real) hate crime charge.
Ironically, American Jews have just reached a positive milestone. On Thursday, the U.S. Senate confirmed an Orthodox Jew, David Friedman, as the new U.S. ambassador to Israel. Not only would the appointment of a Jew to that post — never mind a frum one — have once been unthinkable, but Friedman’s confirmation was also welcomed by Christian groups.
The Faith and Freedom Coalition, founded by former Christian Coalition director Ralph Reed, issued an exultant statement:
People of faith across the country are extremely excited about the confirmation of David Friedman as U.S. Ambassador to Israel. The Trump administration is ushering in a golden age of U.S. – Israel relations and we look forward to working with Ambassador Friedman as he works to strengthen the solidarity between the United States and the people of Israel.
Christians are celebrating Jews not in spite of, but because of, our Jewishness. That is how great America, and Americans, are.
What the ADL and other organizations — again, not just Jewish ones — did by hyping a wave of apparent hoaxes was fundamentally a partisan, political act. Rather than reaching out to the administration, they chose to make an enemy of the White House, and boasted to supporters that they had done so.
They seem to have made the same deliberate yet delusional gamble that the left and the media in general made — namely, that if enough pressure were applied, the Trump administration would disappear.
Wiser leaders — like Matt Brooks of the Republican Jewish Coalition; Morton Klein of the Zionist Organization of America; and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, among others — worked to build bridges to the administration in the midst of the crisis. Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, chided the ADL for sensationalizing the claims against President Trump.
That rebuke turned out to be prescient. It is well past time for other leaders to do some soul-searching, and change course.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. His new book, How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.