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Toward Tradition’s Dangerous Blind Spot


They say if you live long enough you’ll see everything, but that doesn’t mean you won’t need the smelling salts this week. Sit, don’t stand, because the Monitor is compelled to defend the Anti-Defamation League and its national director, Abraham Foxman, against some outrageous statements made by Toward Tradition and its president, Rabbi Daniel Lapin.

Most readers who choose to put up with the Monitor on a regular basis probably know that in the past this column has been less than kind to Mr. Foxman and wholly laudatory of Rabbi Lapin. Foxman’s posturing as Supreme Arbiter of what does and doesn’t constitute anti-Semitism is off-putting, to say the least, while Toward Tradition has offered a refreshing and much needed alternative to the reflexive liberalism espoused by the secular American Jewish establishment.

To its credit, Toward Tradition has been steadfast in defending Christian conservatives from the often injudicious and blanket indictments of their movement delivered by Jewish spokesmen the likes of Foxman, who on any given day tend to confuse the revelation at Sinai with that morning’s New York Times editorials. But in its zeal to protect conservative Christians when they come under undeserved attack from liberal Jews, Toward Tradition has increasingly displayed a troubling tendency to pooh-pooh the inexcusable when it emanates from conservative Christian sources..

The latest such case was the flap over Billy Graham’s unambiguously anti-Semitic remarks in a 1972 White House discussion with Richard Nixon, details of which were first made public two weeks ago (and discussed in last week’s Monitor). The ADL and Foxman, along with a number of other Jewish organizations, rightly denounced Graham’s comments. Lapin and Toward Tradition, on the other hand, denounced Foxman for denouncing Graham.

In a press release issued last week, Toward Tradition declared that it was calling “on the Anti-Defamation League to stop defaming the Rev. Billy Graham.” The ADL’s Foxman, the statement went on to say, had “assailed Graham as a purveyor of ‘age-old classical anti-Semitic canards,’ referring to secretly tape-recorded remarks Rev. Graham made to President Nixon 30 years ago. The ‘canard’ in question is that Jewish people are disproportionately represented among Hollywood and other media power brokers. Graham spoke to Nixon of a Jewish ?stranglehold’ on the American media.”

Next followed a lengthy quote from Rabbi Lapin, who lamented what he called “the unfairness of this ADL attack” on Graham. Lapin tried to justify that characterization by citing recent charges that the producer of a critically acclaimed film, mindful of Hollywood’s influential Jewish community and wary of blowing his chances for an Academy Award, “deliberately left out” of his movie any mention of its protagonist’s anti-Semitism.

To Lapin, such a decision was wholly understandable: “Given that the Hollywood establishment indeed includes a considerably greater proportion of people of Jewish ancestry than does the American populace as a whole,” said Lapin, “[the producer] was concerned that the Academy would justifiably spurn a film that lionized an anti-Semite. To call that a ‘stranglehold’ may not be polite, but it is no lie, either.”

Lapin then wondered “why it is acceptable” for the film’s producer “to acknowledge this reality, however implicitly; but when Billy Graham did so, long ago and in private, it was somehow different – ‘chilling and frightening,’ in Mr. Foxman’s words.”

What the Monitor finds chilling and frightening is Lapin’s seeming inability to distinguish between a film producer’s decision to sanitize his story – even if the decision was based on self-interest rooted in the recognition that Jews play an important role in his industry – and the revelation that America’s best-known and most respected preacher was capable of engaging in the most hateful of anti-Semitic diatribes behind the closed doors of the Oval Office.

And lest anyone think Toward Tradition was satisfied with merely defending Graham, a revised press release issued a few days after the first actually called on the ADL “to apologize for defaming the Rev. Billy Graham.”

Good work, Abe Foxman. For shame, Daniel Lapin.

Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com  

About the Author: Jason Maoz is the Senior Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at jmaoz@jewishpress.com.

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