WASHINGTON — In a major policy speech, Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt reemphasized his argument that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism, emphasized the threat to visibly Orthodox Jews and accused The New York Times of an “anti-Semitic attack” in its coverage of chasidic movements.
The speech on May 1, at the ADL’s annual leadership summit in Washington, DC, was remarkable for barely mentioning what has, for years, been the group’s focus: the threat from the far right. Instead Greenblatt, in prepared remarks, focused on a message he sounded at the same summit a year ago — that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism.
“I know that for bigots — especially those who self-style as ‘anti-Zionists’ — Israel’s Independence Day is a day to redouble their efforts to make sure it is Israel’s last Independence Day,” he said. “To underscore what I said at this event last year: Anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism. Full stop.”
Althought not featured in Greenblatt’s speech, the threat from the right was embedded in the conference agenda; one session was dedicated to the surge of the far right on social media and another was dedicated to ties between the the extremes of the conservative movement today and the John Birch Society of the mid-20th century.
The conference culminated on May 2 with a Capitol Hill rally against anti-Semitism, held together with LGBTQ and civil rights groups.
Its featured speakers included Susan Rice, the former national security advisor who is now a domestic policy advisor to the Biden administration, as well as Maryland Gov. Wes Moore, Israeli President Isaac Herzog and Reza Pahlavi, the son of the deposed shah of Iran, an advocate of Iran-Israel ties.
Greenblatt emphasized in his speech that anti-Semitism knows no single ideological home. He noted what the ADL has documented as an alarming spike in anti-Semitic attacks and that more than half of violent attacks have targeted visibly Orthodox Jews.
“This year, we find that the dramatic increase in anti-Semitic incidents is not due to any single ideology fueling violence, or one group becoming more accepting of anti-Semitism than another,” he said.
“It’s due to every ideology becoming more comfortable with anti-Jewish hate.”
Since he took the ADL’s helm in 2015, Greenblatt has been under fire from conservatives for the organization’s emphasis on threats emerging from the extreme right.
Greenblatt’s speech last week touched on themes that have troubled Jewish conservatives, including the threat to pro-Israel Jews on campuses, and defending haredi Orthodox Jews from threats to their lifestyles and education system.
Greenblatt took The New York Times to task for its series of articles reporting on deficiencies and malfeasance in chasidic schools in New York.
“Our Orthodox brothers and sisters are constantly under threat,” he said.
“It is one that needs solidarity and support from everyone — Jewish and non-Jewish alike.
“So to see this community singled out by elite institutions, like The New York Times, arguably the most important paper in the world, depicting them as clannish and using power to manipulate events . . . that represents an anti-Semitic attack on their community.”
Greenblatt was outspoken last year in criticizing Trump for having dinner with Kanye West after the rapper, who now calls himself Ye, embarked on a string of anti-Semitic comments. That dinner also included Nick Fuentes, a Holocaust denier and far-right provocateur.
Greenblatt also didn’t mention Ye in a section of his speech on the ADL’s work with corporations, even though the ADL led a campaign last year urging Adidas to end its partnership with Ye. After Adidas ended the collaboration, it announced a partnership with the ADL.
Greenblatt began his speech by celebrating Israel on the occasion of its 75th birthday, despite what he acknowledged as “complexity, worry, anxiety and concern” about the country’s future.
A large part of that concern, within the country, has centered on the debate over judicial reform.
Greenblatt called the protests against it “something really special,” and “the triumph of Zionism.” He urged compromise on the judicial overhaul.
An ADL report last month noted another worry — that Israel’s government includes politicians who “have polluted Israeli public discourse with chilling racist expressions that would have led to the immediate termination of their political careers in other democracies.”
The report added that “Jewish racism is as deplorable as other forms of racism and should never be excused or tolerated.”
Greenblatt did not mention that concern in his speech, though he called for Israel to have “a civil society where non-Jews enjoy the same rights and fulfill the same responsibilities as their Jewish neighbors.”
“There are challenges in Israel right now — and there will be challenges and difficult conversations to come, but ADL will never waver in its support of a democratic, Jewish state,” Greenblatt said in the speech.
“Israel is a miracle, and I will never apologize for being a proud Zionist.”