The Defamation League

By Eric Alterman

To delve deeply almost anywhere into the arguments over the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is to invite an overload of irony, but let us focus for one moment on a fracas caused by Abe Foxman, national director of the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation League. Irony No. 1 is that a “league,” as such, does not exist. Foxman is it. (When asked, for a New York Times profile, whom in the organization besides himself a reporter might interview, Foxman “couldn’t think of anyone.”) Irony No. 2? Under Foxman, “antidefamation” is not really the ADL’s line; defamation is.

Take, for example, Foxman’s recent attack on Bill Moyers (a longstanding friend and occasional supporter of my work). When Moyers broadcast a less than laudatory commentary about Israel’s Gaza invasion, Foxman accused the veteran journalist and liberal icon of–I kid you not–“moral equivalency, racism, historical revisionism, and indifference to terrorism.” The incident says far more about Foxman than Moyers. As M.J. Rosenberg of the Israel Policy Forum observed, Moyers “is one of the most admired figures in America. This attack will harm not at all. It will, in fact, enhance his reputation just as Ed Murrow’s was enhanced by the attacks on him during the McCarthy era.” Still, it is demonstrative of the maximalist Manichaean mindset that characterizes so much of American Jewish officialdom. Among Moyers’s myriad sins, says Foxman, was his “ignorance of the terrorist threat against Israel, claiming that checkpoints, the security fence, and the Gaza operation are tactics of humiliation rather than counter-terrorism.” Now really: is it so hard to imagine that the checkpoints, security fence and Gaza operations are tactics of both humiliation and counter-terrorism? Where, exactly, would be the contradiction?But for the likes of Foxman, any action Israel takes is de facto defensive and solely in the interests of peace, no matter how warlike. He goes so far as to attack Barack Obama’s choice of former Senator George Mitchell as the US envoy to the region because–get this–Mitchell is “fair” and “meticulously even-handed,” and Foxman says he is “not sure the situation requires that kind of approach.” Foxman’s moral compass has gotten so twisted, he has the ADL working to undermine Congressional resolutions condemning genocide–specifically, that committed by Turks against the Foxman does not dispute that genocide took place; rather, he argues that it would be inconvenient for Turkish (and Israeli) Jews were Congress to take note of it.