Memo To: My Jewish Friends
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Judgment in Denver
I’m sorry to tell you how delighted I was to read on the front page of the Forward’s April 13 issue, which came in the mail Tuesday, that the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has lost the $10 million defamation case brought against it by folks the ADL called “anti-Semitic.” If you have been following my memos here for any length of time, you know I have been calling the Anti-Defamation League the “Defamation League.” I do so precisely because of its practice in recent years of stamping the “anti-Semitic” label on people who insist they are not anti-Semitic. I suppose they do it to justify the $50 million they raise in contributions every year from Jewish Americans who still think Christians and Muslims are whispering about them in dark corners and want to stamp that out. When the ADL of the B’nai B’rith was founded 87 years ago, there was more anti-Semitism than you could shake a stick at, and the ADL provided a positive force in American society.
There is now no anti-Semitism in the United States, period. There may be in Europe, where it has deep roots, but as I travel in wide circles of Christians and Muslims I have not heard an anti-Semitic remark in decades. DECADES. And my close Jewish friends tell me they are not aware of any anti-Semitism. When I was a boy, I remember slurs against “the Jews” as being “Christ-killers,” but the Catholic Church stamped out that stuff in the early 1960s, in the reforms of Vatican II. The ADL has made a game of portraying the Nation of Islam and its leader, Louis Farrakhan, as being “anti-Semitic,” to the point where a majority of white Americans believe that nonsense. I’ve gotten to know Min. Farrakhan like a brother over the last five years, and know he has made repeated attempts to find reconciliation with the ADL and the leaders of the Jewish community. He is a Muslim and has an appreciation of the Palestinian point of view in the Middle East, but that does not make him “anti-Semitic.” He invited me and my wife Patricia to his World Islamic Conference in Chicago in 1997 and said we could wander in and out of any of the workshops or plenary sessions. We never heard a single word that I would consider to be anti-Semitic, and as I had grown up a Catholic in a Jewish neighborhood of Brooklyn, I would certainly would know anti-Semitism if I sniffed it.
The case brought before the federal court in Denver by William and Dorothy Quigley involved a dispute involving a Jewish couple, Mitchell and Candace Aronson, who moved to the affluent suburb of Evergreen, CO, next to the Quigleys. As the Forward reports, “The couple was initially befriended by the Quigleys, their neighbors, but relations quickly began to sour, escalating from complaints about dogs and stolen plants to an allegation by Mrs. Aronson that Mr. Quigley tried to run her over with his car.” They contacted the ADL after deciding the Quigleys were trying to drive them out of the neighborhood because they were Jewish. They had a tape of a cell phone conversation they say they picked up by accident on a police radio, which they said were the voices of the Quigleys “talking about sticking pictures of over doors on their house, burning their children, and wishing they had been blown up in a terrorist attack in Israel.”
Quigley, who was a Hollywood producer (Dirty Dancing among the films he produced), had been transferred to Denver to head the United Artists’ theater chain. When the anti-Semitic stuff circulated, he “became a pariah in the business,” according to his attorney, Jay Horowitz. In January 1996, the Quigleys sued the Aronsons and the ADL for violating their rights under the Federal Wiretap Act. Two years later, the Aronsons settled out of court but the ADL did not. The Quigleys accused the ADL of libel, invasion of privacy and violation of the Federal Wiretap Act. In April 2000, a jury accepted nearly all the charges and awarded $10.5 million in damages, one of the largest defamation awards in Colorado. On appeal to U.S. District Court, the ADL lost most of their arguments March 31. As the Forward reported:
In upholding the first-ever court defeat handed to the 87-year-old ADL, U.S. District Judge Edward Nottingham said the organization had endorsed and publicized the bigotry accusations of a Jewish couple against its neighbors without either investigating the case or weighing the consequences. ‘Based on its position and history as a well-respected civil-rights institution, it is not unreasonable to infer that public charges of anti-Semitism leveled by the ADL will be taken seriously and assumed by many to be true without question.... In that respect, the ADL is in a unique position of being able to cause substantial harm to individuals when it lends its backing to allegations of anti-Semitism.’
According to the account in the century-old Jewish weekly, the ADL did not bother to listen to the several hours of tapes made by the Aronsons at the urging of the ADL. Judge Nottingham characterized the isolated remarks selected out to build the anti-Semitic accusation as “mere sarcastic, banal and tasteless remarks uttered in a garden variety dispute among neighbors.” So there we have the “Defamation League” wiretapping cell phones in search of anti-Semites. My friends in the Jewish community, I’m sorry to have to bring this up because it will only irritate you, but I’ve given you plenty of warning of how far the ADL has gone in order to justify its existence. You would be better off closing it down completely and giving that $50 million a year to your local synagogues.