THE DECLINE OF THE ADL.

I'm just not really that offended that Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck have been comparing President Obama to the Nazis. This what they do--they offer a bitter cocktail of rage and self-pity while projecting and supersizing their own worst impulses onto their ideological and political enemies. I don't expect the mainstream press to act as referee in this case--and I don't think liberals should stand on the sidelines demanding that they do. They're just as likely to highlight such comments as nutty as to present them "objectively" in a manner such as "Is Obama like Hitler?"

Maybe there's a political advantage in highlighting just how completely nuts the right's most prominent spokespeople sound--but I almost think all it does is distract from the case liberals need to be making for reforming the health care system--and to paraphrase Jay-Z, when you argue with fools, from a distance it's hard to tell who is who. I guess I argue with fools all the time though, so feel free to get at me for that.

Still, there's a part of this that really bothers me, and that's the silence of Abraham Foxman, who has repeatedly thrown himself into the fray to advance right wing interests in his role as head of the Anti-Defamation League. As Glenn Greenwald points out, Foxman was incensed by an entry in a MoveOn ad contest that compared Bush to Hitler, saying that it was a "vile and outrageous comparison". Likewise, when Ted Turner made a similarly ill advised comparison with Rupert Murdoch, Foxman said "[T]he comparison is an insult to the memory of the millions of victims of Nazism." Aside from acting as the speech police for the left, Foxman made the astounding decision to oppose recognition of the Armenian Genocide in Congress--because it was "counterproductive". Until 2007, the ADL hadn't even recognized the murder of a million Armenians as genocide.

Naturally, Foxman has remained entirely silent on Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh's actions--which presumably don't insult the victims of the Holocaust because Foxman finds them politically sympathetic. The guiding principle here seems to be that if you're associated with those who support Israel uncritically and unconditionally, you can make all the trivializing Holocaust comparisons you want.

It's not just the Holocaust comparisons--Foxman has repeatedly labeled liberal figures anti-Semites based on the flimsiest of pretenses. I'd say Foxman has become a Jewish version of Al Sharpton--except that I still think that Sharpton occasionally helps people who otherwise wouldn't get help and draws attention to issues that might otherwise be ignored. As far as I can tell, all Foxman does is insert himself into the media fray to help his political allies on the right. Foxman's ADL looks less and less like the Southern Poverty Law Center or the NAACP and more like William Donohue's Catholic League. It's a shame.

In the past few years, Foxman's politically selective defense of American Jewish interests has been an embarrassment--a perfect symbol of the yawning generation gap between younger Jews and their progenitors. Just speaking for myself, it's hard to be raised going to Hebrew School, learning that Jews have a special relationship to the downtrodden, and then watch some older folks in the community excuse everything Israel does to the Palestinians as long as it's done in the name of security.  The ADL's former embrace of universal human rights--like Foxman's response to Holocaust comparisons--has become entirely selective, dependent on who is hurting who.

UPDATE: I'm happy to see that the ADL has decided to come out with a statement condemning Limbaugh's nonsense. We'll see if it gets as much media play as their criticisms of Mary Robinson.


-- A. Serwer

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