Memo To: Howard Berkowitz, President -- Anti-Defamation League
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: A New Leaf?
It was good to see you, Howard, at the Hayden Planetarium preview gathering. Yes, as you noted, I have been rough on you guys at the ADL, but maybe if we can get together for that lunch we talked about we can straighten out a few things. Last week, I wrote a piece here called "Where Nazis Come From," relating to the new coalition government in Austria. I should have faxed it to you, but will do so now, with this extension of those remarks. You might be interested in logging on to my TalkShop, where there was a lively discussion about the topic. In fact, that is where I wrote the following commentary.
* * *
Jewish groups always run the risk of creating anti-Jewish feeling by being free-and-easy in labeling this person or that outfit "anti-Semitic." I've come to call the Anti-Defamation League the "Defamation League" for this very reason. In order to survive and thrive as an institution, it constantly has to be discovering new "anti-Semites," "Hitlers," and "neo-Nazis." Because there is so little real anti-Semitism in modern America, the ADL cannot afford to "lose" Louis Farrakhan -- which is why it has for 14 years refused to meet with him, although he has done everything one could ask of him in trying to reconcile differences. The ADL can do this, because the major political parties or their political candidates cannot identify with any targets of the ADL without being labeled anti-Semitic.
The ADL can't make people "anti-Semitic," but it can create "anti-Jewish" feeling, and I think it has done so. I was pleasantly surprised last week to see the ADL's Abe Foxman, writing in The Washington Post, taking a lofty view of the Haider controversy in Austria instead of fueling the fires. It would be much healthier for the world Jewish community if it could limit its attacks to real anti-Semites and not smear anyone who disagrees with its political agenda as being a neo-Nazi. Maybe Foxman and the ADL have turned over a new leaf.
* * *
Howard, I wish it were true. But if it is, the Anti-Defamation League is going to have to become consistent in challenging defamation, not just perceived anti-Semitism. When Thomas L. Friedman of The New York Times last week bracketed Pat Buchanan with "neo-Nazism," I protested in a private letter to one of the editors whom I thought would see my point. Buchanan, for goodness sakes, is a lifelong ZIONIST, and yet Friedman, the paper's Pulitzer-prize winning foreign-affairs columnist, knows he can with impunity get away with slandering Pat. On Sunday, another Times columnist, Frank Rich, piled on, calling Buchanan a "Jew baiter." This is disgusting stuff, Howard, propagated by serious and powerful people who should be called to account by the ADL. In Pat's book, A Republic, Not an Empire, he goes to the trouble to explain how diplomatic bungling by Britain cost the lives of 6 million Jews!!! His view is exactly in parallel with that of Winston Churchill. But because Pat is challenging the Political Establishment, his argument has to be inverted. The NYT again led the way in broadcasting the view that what Pat really was saying in his book is that the United States should have let Hitler do whatever he wanted to do, because he was no threat to the United States. What is the "Anti-Defamation" League for, if not to strike out a defamation wherever it occurs? Think about it, Howard, and I will call you soon for lunch.