It was only a matter of time before the Anti Defamation League dumped Benjamin Netanyahu. Ever since Jonathan Greenblatt replaced Abe Foxman at the head of the organization a year ago, he has made it his mission to reach out and build coalitions with American progressives, particularly young people, whom Foxman had ignored. It hasn’t gone well. The inherent obstacle that Greenblatt has to overcome is that the ADL has regularly parroted Israeli and Netanyahu talking points. You just can’t do that while trying to build bridges with today’s youth and their values.
Last week Greenblatt grabbed a chance to shed the odious Netanyahu in the hope of improving the ADL image, when he issued a public rebuke of the latest Netanyahu anti-Palestine video, the one called “No Jews,” in which Netanyahu made an ethnic cleansing charge against Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian leadership. That video received a lot of negative publicity, so it was the perfect opportunity for Greenblatt to finally rid himself of the erratic and toxic prime minister. “Sorry, Bibi, the Palestinians are not ‘Ethnically Cleansing’ Jewish Settlers,” Greenblatt’s statement was titled. In it he slammed the prime minister for distorting reality on the West Bank and among Israeli Palestinians to serve his “political ends.”
Crazies at Commentary jumped on the ADL statement, and the ADL was quick to publicize the attacks. Trust me, Jonathan Greenblatt is praying right now for Sheldon Adelson and the rightwingers to go after the statement. The ADL really wants to bask in the liberal sunshine.
Unfortunately for Greenblatt, his courageous move will have little impact on the people he is trying to sway.
Mr Greenblatt’s problems start before we even get to his article. Right there in the headline when the piece was posted on Foreign Policy: “Using words that hint of genocide for crass political ends is beneath the standards of Israel.”
Mr. Greenblatt is still using the discourse of a “light unto the Nations,” a country with especially high moral code. Mr. Greenblatt believes Israel’s “standards” are higher than everyone else, and Mr. Netanyahu didn’t act up to those unusually high standards in his “No Jews” video.
But that “most moral country in the world” rhetoric belongs to another age.
The people Mr. Greenblatt is trying to impress have a very different idea of what “Israel standards are.” These American progressives would ask Mr Greenblatt precisely which Israeli enlightened standards, Mr. Greenblatt is referring to in that Foreign Policy headline.
Does he mean beneath the high standard Israel exhibited during the last Israeli election? When Mr Netanyahu made his notorious “Arabs are coming out in droves” video to mobilize his supporters. Even Donald Trump wouldn’t try to pull a stunt like that off. And if he did, you can be sure the ADL would be the loudest condemning him. The worst act of racism by a ruling political party in the Western world since the civil rights era, and the best that the ADL could do at the time was to congratulate Netanyahu for apologizing for the comment, and say that he hadn’t intended the comments as “anti-Arab or racist.”
The ADL barely did better than Jeffrey Goldberg, who found Netanyahu’s shocking racism “ironic.”
But let’s not pick on Netanyahu. Maybe Mr Greenblatt is talking about the high ethical “standards” of Israeli society at large. There too, young American liberals and progressives have a very different impression of Israel standards from Mr. Greenblatt’s. They know about news like this article at 972 showing staggering support among Jewish Israelis for extrajudicial executions of Palestinians, including Sgt. Elor Azaria, who killed a Palestinian lying incapacitated on the street in Hebron last March and is now on trial for the killing.
Forty-seven (47) percent of Jewish respondents said they agree that “any Palestinian who carries out an attack should be killed on the spot, even if he does not pose a threat.
Sixty-five (65) percent of respondents said they feel the soldier, Sgt. Elor Azaria, was justified in executing the Palestinian man, Abed al-Fatah al-Sharif.
Did you see that: Even if he does not pose a threat. That’s an endorsement of tribal murders.
If Jonathan Greenblatt is serious about making the ADL more of a civil rights organization, a good start is to stop his hasbara rhetoric now. It is pure propaganda. Then after that he should read the Israeli army’s deputy chief of staff General Yair Golan’s recent Holocaust memorial speech warning of Nazi-like currents in Israeli society. And he should also start reading the fine Israeli newspaper Haaretz. There he would see many articles about blossoming fascism in Israel, some of them quoting former security officials.
If frightened Israelis are not talking about Israel meeting its high standards but about fascism and Nazi Germany, why is Mr. Greenblatt?