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by Charles Jacobs


Recently, I criticized the Anti-Defamation League and its national director, Abe Foxman, for the organization's inadequate response to the threats posed by Islamist antisemitism and global jihad movement.

Jews are caught in the perfect storm: In Western societies, real danger to Jews no longer comes from Christian hatred of Judaism or from Nazi-like animus against our "race." It comes instead from a hatred of the beleaguered Jewish state and its supporters. That this animus comes mostly from the ideological Left, with which a majority of Jews identify for many reasons, is painful and confusing to many.

At the same time, blowing in from the Muslim world is a different sort of antisemitism, one which combines modern anti-Zionist themes with primordial Islamist theological hatred.

Driving Masses

Jew-hatred now drives countless masses around the globe. Imbibing this poison, Muslim radicals have targeted, attacked, and murdered Jews from Israel to Europe, from India to Seattle.

Islamist hatred has indeed come to America. In 1999, Sufi Sheikh Hisham Kabanni, head of the Supreme Islamic Council, testified to the State Department that 80 percent of American mosques are in the hands of radicals. A study by Freedom House, a Washington, DC-based policy center, found Saudi-produced antisemitic literature in Islamic centers throughout the country.

"Close Guantanamo, Re-open Auschwitz" had been the battle cry shouted by Muslims in anti-Israel demonstrations in Fort Lauderdale and it has been posted on Boston-based websites.

They Know

Jewish leaders, including Mr. Foxman, are not blind to these threats. Two years ago, at an international conference on global antisemitism in Jerusalem, the heads of many major American-Jewish organizations heard speakers such as Robert Wistrich, director of the Hebrew University's Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of antisemitism, describe Muslim Judeophobia as an existential threat.

Last March, Mr. Wistrich wrote in Ha'aretz that "the scale and extremism" of the literature and commentary available in Arab and Muslim newspapers, journals, magazines, caricatures, documentaries, films, and educational materials, as well as on Islamist websites and Middle Eastern radio and TV news, "is comparable only to that of Nazi Germany at its worst."

Through the Internet, this material is widely available to Muslims living in the US.


The mainstream media, for various reasons, downplay these threats. Therefore, for the most part, Jews who depend on the New York Times, Boston Globe, or CNN do not see how our situation has been radically altered.

But the question remains: If our leaders know, why haven't they told us?

I suggest three reasons:

First is a fear of being attacked as racists, bigots, and Islamophobes, a line that has been particularly effective against Jewish organizations.

Second is a fear of being targeted for "defamation" suits, such as the one launched against activists and media outlets in Boston when they reported on or even asked questions about the radical connections of leaders of the Saudi-funded Roxbury mosque. So-called "lawfare" works. Legal-defense costs can be crippling.


But I think the real reason our leaders are silent is that they simply do not know what to do. Rather than admit this, they stay mum and limit most of their public efforts to issuing reports and posting on their websites.

ADL's New England head, Derreck Shulman, has claimed that there are instances of ADL activism against radical Islam. He points to articles about Islamist extremists and Arab anti-Jewish cartoons on ADL's website, as well as instances of Congressional testimony and consultations with world leaders. Surely this cannot be called a serious effort for an operation such as ADL which has a $50 million annual budget and claims to be our chief defender.

In a recent letter to the Boston Globe, Mr. Shulman exposed the "historical links" between the Committee on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and Hamas as well as CAIR's "pattern of offering platforms to conspiratorial Israel-bashers and antisemites." He also pointed out that CAIR's InFocus News and advertising campaigns regularly publish antisemitic articles and cartoons as well as content expressing support for terrorist groups.

Right Direction

The letter was a step in the right direction, but the problem resides in the ADL's main office in New York. Should Jews not expect ADL head Foxman — and our other leaders — to level with us? To tell us what they know about the penetration of the Muslim Brotherhood into our communities and about the proliferation of radical mosques across America, and about the intimidation of Jewish students by Muslims on campuses?

We cannot continue with PC-denial and with timidity. Silence is potentially deadly.

But this critique of the ADL for not doing more on Islamist antisemitism provoked from Mr. Foxman a sharp and somewhat defensive response which unintentionally confirmed my point. In attempting to prove me wrong and misguided, Mr. Foxman cited only one specific public "action" by the ADL on the threat of radical Islam — a speech he gave almost four years ago. The only other examples he provided were private briefings, which cannot be checked or assessed for their effectiveness.

Why So Little?

Although Mr. Foxman claimed that "the greatest threat to the Jewish people and the highest priority for the ADL was that which comes from Islamic extremists," a review of ADL's website shows that, since 1995, the organization has devoted less than three percent of its thousands of press releases to "Islamic Extremism" and "Arab Antisemitism."

Why is this so?

In both the Muslim world and in the West, a huge torrent of Islamist hatred for Jews spews from a wide range of sources, some of them state-financed. In books, articles, television and radio, mosque sermons, organizations' position papers, and even schools, hatred of Jews is presented daily to an audience of millions. This torrent dwarfs all other non-Islamist sources of antisemitism combined, resulting in significant risks to the safety of Jews worldwide.

New Antisemitism

We know well that antisemitism mutates over time. In the past, hatred of Jews was based in Christian theology, nationalism, and racialist movements, usually located on the political Right. It also appeared in Communist countries, especially in the USSR. Jews have had to continually develop new strategies to fight the dominant form of antisemitism of their time. But adjusting the community's response is not easy. Maybe ADL's leaders have concluded that a shift away from their major traditional focus — Jewry's enemies on the Right — would be institutionally risky. Perhaps the ADL thought that expanding its mandate to include Islamist antisemitism might weaken its effectiveness against the pitifully few and culturally weak neo-Nazis and Christian antisemites.

In today's politically correct culture, confronting Muslim antisemitism risks accusations of intolerance, bigotry, and Islamophobia, even by — or especially by — some Jewish intellectuals. ADL's leaders could easily imagine the prospect of such accusations causing ruptures in their solid support groups.


But there is another possibility as well. Not long after I published my critique of ADL, the organization seemed to launch a seismic shift, one that could alter the course of Jewish-Muslim relations in this country. The ADL announced that a much heralded effort by American Muslim organizations to root out radicalism in their midst was nothing more than a "sham."

The Muslim groups had announced their initiative at a major Muslim convention held this past December in Chicago. Convened by the Muslim American Society and the Islamic Circle of North America, the convention passed a resolution calling for Islam to be "clean and clear of all extremism."

But, as ADL discovered, the convention itself "served as a forum for religious scholars and political activists to rail against Jews." At the convention, speakers described Jews as "the worst kind of people" and claimed that "Allah gave us the Jews" as the primary historical and religious example of those who "take the wrong path." Other speakers said America was at war with Islam and that it is a Muslim duty to "liberate [all of] Palestine" — a clear call for the annihilation of the Jewish state.


The ADL reported that books and CDs by radical antisemitic sheikhs, including Yusuf al-Qaradawi, whom the ADL has called a "theologian of hatred," and Anwar al-Awlaki, who was allegedly consulted by Major Nidal Malik Hasan, the accused Fort Hood killer, were on sale at this "anti-radicalism" conference.

The ADL's direct, specific, and public condemnation of these major American-Muslim organizations marked a belated but welcome stunning turn of events that will reverberate around the country. In Boston, for example, a multi-million-dollar Saudi-funded Islamic Center, built by the Islamic Society of Boston, is now run by the Muslim American Society, which federal authorities call "the American face of the Muslim Brotherhood." It is the ideological and operational center of the global jihad. For years, Mr. al-Qaradawi was listed on the sworn filings of the Islamic Society of Boston as a member of the mosque's board.

It is particularly meaningful that the ADL focused on the tactic of deception employed by mainstream Muslim groups. Around the country, Jews and others have entered into dialogues with Muslim groups, some of which are directly linked to the Muslim American Society and the Islamic Circle. Jewish public acceptance is a chief goal of radical Islamist groups. In effect, they get a key to the city when they receive a "pass" by the local Jews.

Not Our "Society"

Of course, it is too early to tell if this important ADL statement actually heralds a new direction for the organization, and everyone must recognize how hard it is to change the culture of such a large organization.

Just last month, when a Muslim man had to be physically removed from an airplane in Miami as he was ranting about wanting to "kill all the Jews," the ADL's Miami director told reporters that the incident showed "that antisemitism and hatred of Jews is still very much part of society."

Society? That is precisely the sort of politically correct self-deception that Mr. Foxman will have to squelch at ADL if progress is to be made.

Nevertheless, there are high hopes that this recent pivot at ADL will mark the beginning of a serious strategic effort to confront the most daunting threat our community faces.

Despite its fears, Jewish leadership, for the sake of Jewish safety, needs to expose and oppose Islamist Jew-hatred.

Key Tasks

There are some key tasks that should be included in such an effort:

First, we need a wake-up call. World Jewry needs to be educated about the threat and we must respond with focus, energy, and Jewish creativity. Most Jewish establishment leaders have failed to mobilize a response. A new kind of leadership, one that is willing to speak out honestly, must emerge and rally the people.

Second, the Jewish community must develop alliances. Because Islamist antisemitism forms part of a more general attack on the West, we have potential allies around the world who — for reasons of their own self-interest — will join us in this effort.

Anti-Jihadist alliances are already emerging in the United States. In New York, the Human Rights Coalition Against Radical Islam (HRCARI) — a rainbow coalition of Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, homosexuals, women, atheists, Muslim moderates, and apostates from Islam — holds rallies and protests against Islamist assaults on any and all targeted peoples around the world.

Jewish organizations must reach out to Christians, Hindus, and moderate Muslims who have — more than Jews — been the targets of radical Islam.

New Critiques

There must be an analysis of Muslim religious texts and teachings. The enormous, life-saving reversals in Christian theological teachings about Jews could not have been achieved without years of intensive Jewish critique of Christian Biblical texts and traditions. It was the sensitive sharing of these studies with Christians of good will that turned the tide.

If the Muslim world is ever to experience theological (and social) re-interpretations of its "teachings of contempt" about Jews — which predominate but are also contradicted in the Islamic canon — Jews will have to confront, study, and speak about the theological antisemitism embedded in Muslim holy books.

In the past, ADL has fled from this task. Whenever it has deigned to criticize Jew-hatred in the Arab media, it has done so without reference to the Islamic sources.

A fourth step involves activism on behalf of the Jewish community. Jewish activists seem to prefer almost every cause in the world to those which are in their own community's interest. These talented Jewish activists need to be enlisted to sponsor conferences on Islamist antisemitism and penetration of American society; to expose the Saudi lobby and its impact on silencing scrutiny of anything Islamic; to lobby our elected officials about the dangers facing the country; and to campaign for implementation of sensitivity training for university students who come from lands with antisemitic cultures.

Perhaps the ADL should retreat from its new possibilities, maintain its former mission, and continue being effective at what it does. But if they do, the Jewish people must find a way to launch a new defense organization adapted to the evolving menaces of the 21st century. We're long overdue.


This excerpt is from a letter by Charles Jacobs in the Boston Jewish Advocate, January 29, 2010.

My critique of the Anti-Defamation League for not doing more on Islamic anti-Semitism brought a sharp and somewhat defensive response from the organization's leader, Abe Foxman, which unintentionally confirmed my point. In attempting to prove me wrong and misguided, Foxman only cited one specific public "action" by the ADL on the threat of radical Islam - a speech he gave almost four years ago. The only other examples he provided were private briefings, which cannot be checked or assessed for their effectiveness.

In his letter to the Advocate, Foxman wrote that "the greatest threat to the Jewish people and the highest priority for the ADL was that which came from Islamic extremists." Yet, a review of ADL's Web site shows that since 1995 the organization has devoted less than 3 percent of its thousands of press releases to "Islamic Extremism" and "Arab Anti-Semitism."


Charles Jacobs is president of Americans for Peace and Tolerance. Previously, he was co-founder and director of the David Project. In 2004, the David Project produced a film documenting the intimidation and harassment of pro-Israel students by Arab professors at Columbia University. Few Jewish faculty at Columbia openly backed the students.

This article was published in the February 2010 issue of The Jewish Voice and Opinion, based in Englewood, NJ.


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