ADL Chief Who Smeared Steve Bannon Directed Project at Soros-Funded Institute

Jonathan Greenblatt (Julie Jacobson / Associated Press)
Julie Jacobson / Associated Press

TEL AVIV – Jonathan Greenblatt, the National Director and CEO of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), previously directed an initiative at a George Soros-financed, far-left institute, and he worked for the Obama administration just prior to joining the ADL.

Greenblatt last week stirred controversy by baselessly smearing Steve Bannon for associations with anti-Semites. Those charges collapsed after Jewish leaders and Breitbart employees described Bannon as staunchly pro-Israel and a fighter of anti-Semitism, with the ADL itself conceding on Thursday that it is “not aware of any anti-Semitic statements made by Bannon himself.”

Bannon, Breitbart’s former executive chairman, was named by President-elect Donald Trump last week as chief strategist of the new White House administration.

Greenblatt in November 2014 was appointed head of the ADL, coming straight from the Obama administration, where he served as Director of the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation.

Greenblatt’s official ADL bio shows little documented experience in combating anti-Semitism.

Greenblatt was an ADL intern while a graduate student at Tufts University, but the Forward newspaper reported that his “professional life took him to other directions.”

Continued the paper:

He managed real estate and later co-founded a socially conscience business venture, Ethos Brands, which sold bottled water while donating part of the profits to clean water programs. The company was later sold to Starbucks and Greenblatt became a vice president of the giant coffee shop conglomerate. He later served as head of GOOD media company and founded the not-for-profit All for Good, an Internet platform connecting volunteers with organizations seeking help. Greenblatt also taught social entrepreneurship at UCLA.

Soros ties

Until his appointment as head of Obama’s Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation, Greenblatt served as Director of the Impact Economy Initiative at the George Soros-funded Aspen Institute.

Curiously, that role is not mentioned in Greenblatt’s ADL bio, which simply states that he is “a member of the 2006 class of Henry Crown Fellows at the Aspen Institute.”  The Fellowship describes itself as seeking to “develop the next generation of community-spirited leaders, providing them with the tools necessary to meet the challenges of business and civic leadership in the 21st century.”

Besides funding from Soros, Aspen has hosted Soros on numerous occasions, including one reportedly clandestine summit aimed at devising a strategy to defeat George W. Bush in the 2004 election.

The Aspen Institute’s official mission statement is nondescript. It says the organization seeks to:

Spark intellectual inquiry and exchange, connecting new concepts to timeless values.

Create a diverse worldwide community of leaders committed to the greater good.

Provide a nonpartisan forum for reaching solutions on vital public policy issues.

Like Aspen’s generalized mission statement, Greenblatt described what he meant by “Impact Economy,” the namesake of the Aspen division that he directed, in general terms. He stated in a 2011 interview that “Impact Economy” focuses on “national competitiveness, social impact and environmental benefit… a phenomenon that encompasses a wide range of sectors including community enterprises and clean tech as well as new fields such as affordable living and ethical brands.”

Discover the Networks reports on Aspen’s mission thusly:

Encompassing a broad range of issues, many of AI’s policy-work programs are rooted in the belief that the United States is a nation whose history amounts largely to an unbroken narrative of injustice; that government intervention frequently represents the best remedy for social and economic problems; and that America’s deep-seated “structural racism,” while “harder to see than its previous incarnations,” is just as likely as its forerunner to “perpetuate racial group inequity.”

Indeed, the term “structural racism” is a major theme on Aspen’s website. And it has been the theme of numerous Aspen publications and events. A closer look may help explain Greenblatt’s institutional background at Aspen as it relates to his perspective on issues of racism.

Aspen defines “structural racism,” which it contends continues to impact the U.S., as:

A system in which public policies, institutional practices, cultural representations, and other norms work in various, often reinforcing ways to perpetuate racial group inequity. It identifies dimensions of our history and culture that have allowed privileges associated with “whiteness” and disadvantages associated with “color” to endure and adapt over time. Structural racism is not something that a few people or institutions choose to practice. Instead it has been a feature of the social, economic and political systems in which we all exist.

An Aspen blog post regarding the Institute’s “Roundtable on Community Change” contends:

From both historical and contemporary standpoints, whites have possessed advantages in all of the principal opportunity domains for a long time, including education, employment, housing, health care, political representation, and media influence. It has accumulated into an understanding among whites (and perhaps others) that “whiteness is the ‘default setting’ for race in America” and that it is the “assumed color” of our nation.

Aspen’s roundtable suggested the use of a “structural racism lens” to understand the following concepts:

The racial legacy of our past.

How racism persists in our national policies, institutional practices, and cultural representations.

How racism is transmitted and either amplified or mitigated through public, private, and community institutions.

How individuals internalize and respond to racialized structures.

The roundtable concluded it is “important to challenge the American ideals of equal opportunity and meritocracy by considering the following”:

The notion of the “fairness of the system.”

Consider where we, as individuals, fit into and help sustain structural racism, especially in the media and popular culture.

Reflect on the role that social service, community development, or philanthropic organizations play in the maintenance of racial inequity.

Soros’s Open Society Foundations has provided numerous grants to the Aspen Institute totaling at least $515,000.

In August 2004, Soros reportedly attended “a clandestine summit meeting” that “took place at the Aspen Institute, in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. The participants, all Democrats, were sworn to secrecy” and, according to the New Yorker, included Soros and four other billionaires who “shared a common goal: to use their fortunes to engineer the defeat of President George W. Bush in the 2004 election.”

In 2006, National Review Online reported:

Soros, through his Open Society Institute, provides support for the Aspen Institute, which runs various activities in support of its stated mission of “foster[ing] enlightened leadership and open-minded dialogue.” Among these activities are its “Justice and Society Seminars,” which often have federal judges as participants. The Aspen Institute has waived the steep seminar fee (currently up to $6,950) for participating federal judges, and also has covered their expenses for travel, lodging, and meals.

Soros himself spoke at a July 2004 Aspen event titled “America’s Role in the Fight Against Global Poverty.”

In August 2006, Aspen hosted Soros again for a speech about his book released that year, titled, The Age of Fallibility: Consequences of the War on Terror.

Jim Spiegelman, Aspen’s director of communications, formerly served as “special assistant” to Soros, Spiegelman’s Aspen bio notes.

Soros-funded J Street

Greenblatt, meanwhile, stirred controversy for remarks he made about Israel at a speech earlier this year to J Street, the Soros-financed liberal Middle East activist organization.

J Street has been critical of Israeli anti-terror operations, considers Israeli settlements an “obstacle to peace,” and strongly supported the Iran nuclear deal labeled by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a threat to Israel’s very survival.

The pro-Israel Zionist Organization of America compiled some of Greenblatt’s most controversial statements at the J Street speech alongside ZOA’s “concerns” about those statements.

ZOA says Greenblatt “wrongly blamed ‘both sides’ for acts that are the sole responsibility of Palestinian Arabs and their leaders.”

This was a response to Greenblatt’s statements: “We must be on guard for those… who place blame on one side instead of putting forward solutions that acknowledge the role and responsibility of both sides” and “both sides need more investment and less intifada, more business and less boycott, more help and less hate.”

ZOA contended that Greenblatt “falsely accused fellow Jews of ‘Islamophobia’ and ‘marginalizing Palestinians’ and claimed that the ‘Palestinian narrative’ is ‘legitimate.’”

Greenblatt stated at the J Street dinner: “We should not stand idly by when those in our community exhibit Islamophobia or deny the rights of the marginalized, Palestinian or otherwise. So, when it comes to striving for a two state solution, it’s critical for two parties to meet halfway.  Both sides need to acknowledge the legitimacy of the other’s narrative.  We need equal pressure for equality.”

The ZOA noted that the “Palestinian narrative” consists of the “false claim that Jews living on Jewish land are ‘occupiers’ that ‘stole’ their own land from ‘Palestinian’ Arabs.  The ‘Palestinian narrative’ also falsely claims that Jerusalem and the Temple Mount are Islamic holy places that Jews are ‘defiling,’ and that Jews have no connection to Jerusalem.”

The ZOA argued Greenblatt “falsely implied that Israel does not protect Arab citizens’ rights today, and instead portrayed protecting Arab citizens’ rights as a future aspiration for which activists must fight.”

Greenblatt stated: “We want to see Israel as a democratic country that acknowledges [sic] and protects [sic] the rights of all its citizens, Ashkenazi and Sephardic, Sabra and immigrant, Jew and Arab.”

The ZOA further protested:

Israel in fact already protects the rights of all its citizens, including its Arab citizens.  Israeli Arabs vote in Israeli elections; serve as doctors, lawyers and top judges in Israel; and even sit as members of the Israeli Knesset, despite supporting Israel’s enemies. Israeli Arab MK’s have visited and comforted families of Arab terrorists who murdered Jews, joined the IHH flotilla to break the Israeli blockade of arms shipments to Hamas, urged Islamist terrorist group Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah to fight Israel, and supported the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers.

The ZOA wrote that Greenblatt “encouraged criticism of Israel as to why there is no ‘two–state solution’” whole ignoring that the Palestinians rejected offers of a state in 1937, 1947, 2000, and 2008, and have refused to even come to the bargaining table in recent years.

The ZOA was referring to Greenblatt’s statement: “Looking back [after the hopes of Oslo], some disagree about what happened or how we get to that two-state solution. We can – and should – have a robust debate. We can criticize and argue with our brothers and sisters in Israel, and with their government. I know I do. I know ADL does.” Greenblatt also said: “We can seek to support Palestinian self-determination.”

Jerusalem Post columnist and veteran international Jewish leader Isi Leibler protested not only Greenblatt’s statements on Israel, but the ADL chief’s attendance at a J Street event, which Leibler feared would provide legitimacy to the controversial organization.

The negative impact of Greenblatt’s overtures to J Street should not be underestimated. This is a crucial period in Israel-US relations. For one of the wealthiest Jewish establishment bodies to shower praise on an organization with a consistent track record of undermining and demonizing Israel and to call for its inclusion in the “big tent” will surely serve to encourage Obama to exert pressure against Israel in the last months of his tenure.

Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.

With research by Brenda J. Elliott.



Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.