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August 19, 2016 0

The Living Memory of a Lynching

How an Injus­tice Com­mit­ted Over 100 Years Ago Inspires Our Com­mit­ment to Jus­tice Today

By Jonathan Green­blatt
CEO of the Anti-Defamation League

This blog orig­i­nally appeared on Medium

Leo Frank

This week, we mark a somber anniver­sary of the 101st anniver­sary of the lynch­ing of Leo Frank, a Jew­ish busi­ness­man sent to Geor­gia to man­age his family’s pen­cil fac­tory. This lynch­ing took place at a time of ram­pant anti-Semitism in the South and more broadly in Amer­i­can soci­ety. So it was no sur­prise that when a young Chris­t­ian girl was found mur­dered on the prop­erty, fin­gers were pointed at the out­sider Frank. Despite a lack of evi­dence, and in part due to an envi­ron­ment of incite­ment, Frank was found guilty and sen­tenced to death.

When the gov­er­nor of Geor­gia sub­se­quently com­muted Frank’s sen­tence from cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment to life impris­on­ment, a mob was enraged by this act of mercy for a Jew. At mid­night just over 100 years ago, they tore Frank from his prison cell at the Milledgeville State Pen­i­ten­tiary and hung him on a tree in Mari­etta. Pho­tog­ra­phers cap­tured the grotes­querie for posterity.

The sham trial and bru­tal lynch­ing were an injus­tice and a wound whose pain still sears the Jew­ish com­mu­nity. It was an iso­lated inci­dent for the Jew­ish com­mu­nity, but just one of thou­sands of lynch­ings car­ried out against black Amer­i­cans dur­ing that time, mur­ders that still scar our national psy­che. And it was a moment in time that made clear the need for ADL, which had been founded in 1913.

In this moment, our founders hud­dled in Chicago and laid out a char­ter for a new orga­ni­za­tion they called the Anti-Defamation League. They wrote that it would be ener­gized by a sim­ple mis­sion: “to stop the defama­tion of the Jew­ish peo­ple and to secure fair treat­ment and jus­tice to all.”

These activists set out to address a mis­sion which even­tu­ally led ADL to address the sys­temic dis­crim­i­na­tion and per­va­sive prej­u­dice that kept Jews from achiev­ing full equal­ity in the United States. Decades later, this led to the break down of quo­tas that kept Jews out of higher edu­ca­tion and the tear­ing down of cul­tural bar­ri­ers that pre­vented our com­mu­nity from par­tic­i­pat­ing fully in Amer­i­can life. Their pas­sion prompted our work to unmask hate groups and expose big­ots. It moti­vated our com­mit­ment to use edu­ca­tion to tear out hatred at its roots. It dri­ves our work today to under­stand anti-Semitism around the world and to use inno­va­tion to iden­tify and call out hate in all its forms.

Basi­cally, the ADL could not have saved Leo Frank, but we since have endeav­ored to build a world where this kind of lynch­ing never again would take place.

In 2016, the Amer­i­can Jew­ish com­mu­nity cer­tainly has over­come many of the obsta­cles that once held us back. We now pos­sess a degree of polit­i­cal power and social cap­i­tal that was unimag­in­able in the early twen­ti­eth cen­tury. To a large extent, the open anti-Semitism that was woven into the cul­ture of a prior gen­er­a­tion has been pushed out of the realm of polite con­ver­sa­tion. But it has not gone away.

Anti-Semitism remains a potent force and a per­sis­tent prob­lem in our soci­ety, even if it now assumes dif­fer­ent forms. In an age of fil­ter bub­bles and per­sonal news feeds, self-selecting com­mu­ni­ties traf­fic in anti-Semitism and rein­force each other’s con­spir­a­cies. We also encounter this hatred in rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent ways on social mediaon our col­lege cam­puses or even on the wrestling mat in the Olympics.

Indeed, though open anti-Semitism remains largely taboo in the main­stream, we see haters often hid­ing behind a veneer of ‘polit­i­cal cor­rect’ hos­til­ity, direct­ing their ani­mus toward the Jew­ish state rather than Jews as a reli­gious group. But we rec­og­nize the dou­ble stan­dards, overt demo­niza­tion and the denial of the very right of the Jew­ish state to exist, a phe­nom­e­non also known as dele­git­imiza­tion. Despite all the grave injus­tices in the world, these are tac­tics only directed at Israel. They are reminders that what we are fac­ing in a ris­ing tide of anti-Zionism is lit­tle more than a mod­ern ver­sion of the Old­est Hatred.

That is why ADL remains ded­i­cated to our found­ing pur­pose. We never will relent in the fight against anti-Semitism. And that is why we also speak out against all forms of bigotry.

Some seek to por­tray ADL’s one hun­dred year com­mit­ment to fight hatred in all forms as a dilu­tion of our focus. They say that ADL has lost its way. But we are not dis­tracted by arm­chair crit­ics who mis­char­ac­ter­ize our work from the com­fort of the side­lines. We know that our case is strength­ened when we dare greatly, that we are stronger when we find com­mon cause with oth­ers who also face hate.

The pur­suit of part­ners does not mean that we will shy away fight­ing anti-Semitism when­ever it comes from. ADL will con­tinue to call out any­one who ped­dles in prej­u­dice regard­less of their party or sta­tion, whether it’s those seek­ing pub­lic office who resort to car­toon­ish slan­der or those who traf­fic in a mod­ern ver­sion of the age-old blood libel.

And we will con­tinue to stand by other com­mu­ni­ties who suf­fer from hatred and ter­ror. That is ADL stood with the Sikh com­mu­nity after the mur­der of four wor­ship­pers at a Gur­d­wara in the sum­mer of 2012. That is why in the wake of the mas­sacre at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston last year, ADL launched 50 States Against Hate, to ensure that there are ade­quate hate crimes laws in all 50 states to pro­tect mar­gin­al­ized com­mu­ni­ties. That is why we sup­ported the LGBT com­mu­nity after the heinous ter­ror attack per­pe­trated in Orlando ear­lier this sum­mer. And that is why ADL will call outanti-Muslim big­otry and the wor­ry­ing increase in vio­lence tar­get­ing Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties and places of worship.

Our tra­di­tion implores us: “Jus­tice, jus­tice shall you pur­sue.” On this anniver­sary, Leo Frank’s mem­ory impels us to ignore the crit­ics and fight fero­ciously against anti-Semitism and big­otry in all its forms. To para­phrase Dr. King, we recom­mit to the strug­gle because the work is not yet done.

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August 5, 2016 3

Eyes on The Prize: In Pursuit of Racial Justice, Stick to the Facts and Avoid the Fiction

By Jonathan Green­blatt
CEO of the Anti-Defamation League

This blog orig­i­nally appeared on Medium

Black Lives Matter

Ear­lier this week, a col­lec­tive of more than 50 orga­ni­za­tions asso­ci­ated with the Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment (BLM) released a detailed plat­form, A Vision for Black Lives, Pol­icy Demands for Black Power, Free­dom & Jus­tice. There are other groups asso­ci­ated with BLM who have not signed onto the Plat­form and offered dif­fer­ent approaches. Nonethe­less, the Plat­form is bold and provoca­tive in its demands. It point­edly rejects many racial equal­ity approaches tried over the past four decades. Instead, the doc­u­ment pro­poses a trans­for­ma­tional pol­icy frame for many ideas that pre­vi­ously have been artic­u­lated by activists, schol­ars and writ­ers like Bryan Steven­sonMichelle Alexan­der and Ta-Nehisi Coates.

We do not agree with many of the spe­cific demands of the Plat­form, but the doc­u­ment appro­pri­ately high­lights the need to address mass incar­cer­a­tion and a wide range of racial inequities and socio-economic issues fac­ing African Amer­i­cans today. Beyond hand-wringing and soul-searching, the Plat­form pro­poses a num­ber of spe­cific legal, admin­is­tra­tive, and leg­isla­tive reme­dies to address iden­ti­fied challenges.

We appre­ci­ate these points because the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is deeply com­mit­ted to address­ing many of these issues, too. ADL’s long­time ded­i­ca­tion to fight­ing big­otry in all forms includes build­ing a just soci­ety where fair and equal treat­ment is guar­an­teed for all. Along with coali­tion part­ners, we are tack­ling crit­i­cal civil rights issues such as end­ing racial pro­fil­ing, address­ing edu­ca­tional equity and eco­nomic inequal­i­ties, dis­rupt­ing the school-to-prison pipeline and reform­ing our crim­i­nal jus­tice system.

This work is not new. For decades, we have been work­ing closely with our civil rights part­ners in the hard fight to advance a shared agenda of equal­ity, jus­tice, and respect for human dig­nity through lead­er­ship work in edu­ca­tion, leg­is­la­tion, and lit­i­ga­tion. Where pos­si­ble, we want to engage with a range of activists to achieve these goals.

But would-be allies in the strug­gle for civil and human rights along with jus­tice and fair treat­ment can­not ignore the Platform’s false and bla­tantly one-sided posi­tion on US-Israel rela­tions and Israeli-Palestinian issues. We cat­e­gor­i­cally reject the document’s crit­i­cism of the United States and Israel as being “com­plicit in the geno­cide tak­ing place against the Pales­tin­ian peo­ple.” The Jew­ish com­mu­nity knows too much about genocide.

What­ever one’s posi­tion on the rela­tion­ship between Israel, its Pales­tin­ian cit­i­zens, and the res­i­dents in the West Bank and Gaza, it’s repel­lent and com­pletely inac­cu­rate to label Israel’s pol­icy as “geno­cide.” And the Plat­form com­pletely ignores incite­ment and vio­lence per­pe­trated against Israelis by some Pales­tini­ans, includ­ing ter­ror inside the coun­try and rocket attacks lobbed from Gaza. Unfor­tu­nately, these phe­nom­ena are not new but have been chal­lenges that have faced the Jew­ish state since its incep­tion more than half a cen­tury ago.

We strongly dis­agree with the Platform’s erro­neous broad-brush con­flat­ing of the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict with civil and human rights abuses dis­cussed in the doc­u­ment. Although Israel is far from a prin­ci­pal focal point in the more than 40,000-word doc­u­ment, it’s the irre­spon­si­ble and com­pletely over-the-top ref­er­ences to the Jew­ish state — as well as later gross mis­char­ac­ter­i­za­tions of Israel as “an apartheid state,” and calls for sup­port of the BDS move­ment (boy­cott, divest­ment and sanc­tions against Israel) that alien­ate us and bear lit­tle resem­blance to real­ity. These points are wrong on the facts and offen­sive in tone. Impor­tantly, for ADL and many in the Jew­ish com­mu­nity, such false char­ac­ter­i­za­tions and mis­guided calls to action dis­tract us from the task of address­ing other, critically-important jus­tice and equal­ity priorities.

So let’s work to keep our eyes on the prize.

In the past few weeks, we have seen sig­nif­i­cant progress in push­ing back against state voter sup­pres­sion laws and advanc­ing crim­i­nal jus­tice reforms. The Jus­tice Depart­ment is appro­pri­ately high­light­ing the need to address the crim­i­nal­iza­tion of povertyThe President’s Task Force on 21st Cen­tury Polic­ing is actively pro­mot­ing many worth­while ideas to increase police account­abil­ity and enhance police-community relations.

The vital issues of racial jus­tice we are con­fronting now — and the need to directly com­bat extrem­ism, hate vio­lence, immi­grant bash­ing, and stereo­typ­ing — require sus­tained com­mit­ments. They neces­si­tate a dis­ci­plined, relent­less focus. They demand clear-headed, fact based approaches.

We can­not walk away. We can­not be dis­tracted or dispir­ited. Those of us com­mit­ted to jus­tice can­not afford to stray from address­ing the very real injus­tices fac­ing our communities.

We are com­mit­ted to doing just that.

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April 20, 2016 8

Why I’m Speaking to Students at J Street U

By Jonathan Green­blatt
CEO of the Anti-Defamation League

This blog orig­i­nally appeared on Medium on April 17, 2016.

J Street U

This morn­ing, I will speak to stu­dents at the J Street U National Assem­bly, the annual gath­er­ing of more than 200 young lead­ers from across the coun­try who con­verge on Wash­ing­ton D.C. to dis­cuss the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict, and to exchange views about what they can do on cam­pus to advance a two-state solu­tion. J Street U reached out to me seek­ing to engage with the Jew­ish com­mu­nity, eager to estab­lish a rela­tion­ship with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) which it has never had.

As I begin to chart the course of my lead­er­ship, I felt it was impor­tant that I accept this invi­ta­tion. I feel this way because of my con­vic­tion that it is vital to engage with all mem­bers of our com­mu­nity, even and espe­cially those with whom we might have disagreements.

We can’t talk only to those who are aligned with us on every point.

In our time of hyper-polarization and the ero­sion of civil dis­course, I believe it’s imper­a­tive that the orga­nized Jew­ish lead­er­ship mod­els the traits that we want to define the broader pol­i­tics in our coun­try. When I started my tenure as CEO, the coun­try was locked in a bit­ter debate over the Iran deal. More than any­thing, the expe­ri­ence showed me that our com­mu­nity suf­fers from an inabil­ity to thought­fully and respect­fully engage across polit­i­cal divides.

I saw it first­hand as Jews who sup­ported the deal as well as those who opposed the deal both were attacked viciously for their views, par­tic­u­larly by fel­low Jews. I was dis­mayed by the self-destructive behav­ior — tak­ing out news­pa­per ads, plas­ter­ing munic­i­pal buses, exco­ri­at­ing oth­ers with ad home­nim attacks — such attacks don’t advance the debate. They dimin­ish all of us.

For a peo­ple who ele­vated the notion of dis­sent as a bedrock prin­ci­ple of our reli­gious prac­tice, the unwill­ing­ness to coun­te­nance oppos­ing views is counter to the best tra­di­tions of our peo­ple. As a leader, I will not engage in these tac­tics. Instead, as the CEO of ADL, I will be an active advo­cate for civil­ity and avoid the pol­i­tics of per­sonal destruction.

Build­ing from this frame, I see my remarks today as a major oppor­tu­nity for ADL to accom­plish two things.

The first is to deliver the mes­sage that, at ADL, we are com­mit­ted to ensur­ing Israel remains a safe and secure, Jew­ish and demo­c­ra­tic state, as enshrined in its procla­ma­tion of inde­pen­dence. It was that remark­able Zion­ist vision expressed from the cra­dle of Israel’s birth that cap­tured the imag­i­na­tion of the Jew­ish peo­ple and the world, the notion that Israel would be a coun­try unlike all others:

“…based on free­dom, jus­tice and peace as envis­aged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure com­plete equal­ity of social and polit­i­cal rights to all its inhab­i­tants irre­spec­tive of reli­gion, race or sex; it will guar­an­tee free­dom of reli­gion, con­science, lan­guage, edu­ca­tion and culture…”

Frayed Israel Flag

That is why ADL has had a pol­icy of sup­port for a two-state solu­tion for decades. This means advo­cat­ing for the legit­i­macy and secu­rity of the Jew­ish state even as we sup­port Pales­tin­ian dig­nity and equal­ity of Arab cit­i­zens in Israel. These ideas should not be in con­flict. Rather, they are con­sis­tent with our cen­ten­nial com­mit­ment to civil rights and social justice.

Sec­ondly, I see an oppor­tu­nity to deliver an impor­tant mes­sage to these impas­sioned stu­dents who are gal­va­nized by the imper­a­tive to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace. At ADL, we equally want to see a res­o­lu­tion of the con­flict. Israel must take real, mean­ing­ful mea­sures to pro­mote an end to the impasse. How­ever, the idea that peace can be brought about only by apply­ing pres­sure to one side of the con­flict — Israel — is a strat­egy bound to backfire.

Fur­ther iso­lat­ing Israel at a time of great local tumult and regional volatil­ity will only rein­force the polit­i­cal psy­chol­ogy of Israelis who eye con­ces­sions made in the con­text of nego­ti­a­tions with the Pales­tini­ans as inevitably endan­ger­ing them. And this fear is real. It is sub­stan­ti­ated in the unrav­el­ing of the mod­ern Mid­dle East, the rise of vio­lent non-state actors com­mit­ted to the destruc­tion of Israel, ter­ror­ist groups like Hezbol­lahISIS and Hamas, and the regional power of Iran whose rev­o­lu­tion­ary ide­ol­ogy remains firmly rooted in anti-Semitism. As Israelis look around they see regional chaos engulf­ing their neigh­bor­hood: whole­sale slaugh­ter in Syria, chaos in Sinai, chal­lenges to the sta­bil­ity of their friends in Jor­dan. Any rea­son­able approach to solv­ing the con­flict in order to be cred­i­ble in the eyes of Israel must bear in mind this new reality.

Given these facts, it is only the con­stancy of Amer­i­can guar­an­tees of moral and phys­i­cal sup­port that will under­gird an even­tual agree­ment. And under­min­ing that sup­port endan­gers the prospects of peace. While a respon­si­ble approach should rec­og­nize that there are steps that Israel must take to ensure the via­bil­ity of a two-state solu­tion, a rea­son­able approach must have expec­ta­tions of the Pales­tini­ans as well.

Ignor­ing the steps they also must take, com­pro­mises they too must make to achieve peace, does a deep dis­ser­vice toward that goal.

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The fact is that the Pales­tini­ans, under the lead­er­ship of Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Abbas, twice rejected seri­ous Israeli peace offers, once in 2008 dur­ing direct talks between Prime Min­is­ter Ehud Olmert and Abu Mazen, and again under the Obama Admin­is­tra­tion — an admin­is­tra­tion which I was a part of. When Pres­i­dent Obama offered Pres­i­dent Abbas an Amer­i­can frame­work doc­u­ment for the res­o­lu­tion of the final sta­tus of the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict, Abbas decided to ignore it entirely. That is an incon­ve­nient fact for some who wish to por­tray the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict as a sim­plis­tic story of Israel’s unwill­ing­ness to make peace. But it is a fact that can­not be ignored.

The cham­pi­ons of Pales­tin­ian self-determination must hold the Pales­tin­ian lead­er­ship to task for its fail­ures as well.

But even as I will make these points, I want to stress that despite this, we must find the areas where we can be partners.

It is vital to be in con­ver­sa­tion with these stu­dents and the next gen­er­a­tion of Amer­i­can Jew­ish lead­ers because it they who can cred­i­bly bro­ker crit­i­cal con­ver­sa­tions on cam­puses rooted in a com­mit­ment to peace, while unmask­ing the dam­ag­ing effects of BDS and anti-normalization.

The imper­a­tives for social jus­tice today do not lie in the Israeli-Palestinian nego­ti­a­tions alone. We can­not let our dif­fer­ences over how to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace keep us from work­ing together to address so many other chal­lenges fac­ing our nation. There are vital issues of struc­tural racism that we must address now, mat­ters of press­ing racial injus­tice that wrack our own soci­ety. There are dem­a­gogues ris­ing to power in Europe and the intro­duc­tion of a ter­ri­ble new type of polit­i­cal dis­course that threat­ens our fun­da­men­tal values.

The Anti-Defamation League was founded in 1913 with an endur­ing mis­sion that still rings true today: to stop the defama­tion of the Jew­ish peo­ple and to secure jus­tice and fair treat­ment to all. For more than 100 years, we have worked to fight anti-Semitism and all forms of big­otry even as we equally have fought for civil rights and social jus­tice for Jews and other mar­gin­al­ized people.

But it always has been a shared strug­gle, one that we have not waged our­selves but that has been a prod­uct of alliances, coali­tions and part­ner­ships. And the work is not yet com­plete. There is still much to do be done. Hope­fully we can do it, together.

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