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Posts Tagged ‘Foxman’

The Schwarzschild Award

Monday, January 23rd, 2006

The winner of the Monitor’s second annual Henry Schwarzschild Award for most offensive comments by a Jew in the public spotlight goes to Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. The prize, which last year went to Israeli uber-leftist Uri Avnery, is awarded to the person who, in the Monitor’s considered opinion, by his or her statements displays a contempt for the Jewish people, a disregard for historical truth, a desire to sup at the table of Israel=s enemies, or who otherwise plays into the hands of the enemies of Jews and Israel.

Before we get to Foxman’s words of wisdom, a little something about Henry Schwarzschild and why a prize like this deserves to bear his name.

Schwarzschild, who died in 1996, was a longtime activist in groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and Jewish Peace Fellowship. In the wake of the Israeli siege of Beirut in the summer of 1982, he wrote a letter of resignation to the journal Sh’=ma which will stand in perpetuity as a monument to the neuroses and insecurities of a secular leftist. Schwarzschild’s main points:

For a generation now, I have been deeply troubled by the chauvinistic assumptions and repressive effects of Israeli nationalism. I have experienced the War on Lebanon of the past few weeks as a turning point in Jewish history and consciousness exceeded in importance only by the End of the Second Commonwealth and the Holocaust … the War on Lebanon has now made clear to me that the resumption of political power by the Jewish people after two thousand years of diaspora has been a tragedy of historical dimensions….

I now conclude and avow that the price of a Jewish state is, to me, Jewishly unacceptable and that the existence of this (or any similar) Jewish ethnic religious nation state is a Jewish, i.e. a human and moral, disaster and violates every remaining value for which Judaism and Jews might exist in history….

I now renounce the State of Israel, disavow any political connection or emotional obligation to it, and declare myself its enemy.

Schwarzschild’s piece was immediately published in the leftist Nation magazine, and for better than two decades has remained a favorite of Jews on the Left. Tony Kushner (Steven Spielberg’s screenwriter for “Munich”) and Alisa Solomon thought so much of it that they included it in Wrestling with Zion, a compilation of essays by leftists ambivalent about Israel.

Admittedly, Schwarzschild’s sick screed is an almost impossible act to follow. Maybe someone in some year to come will match that gold standard, but until then we’re forced to make do with efforts like Foxman’s speech last November at the ADL’s national conference in which he tore into the Christian Right for what he described as its efforts “to ‘Christianize’ all aspects of American life, from the halls of government to the libraries, to the movies, to recording studios, to the playing fields and locker rooms of professional, collegiate and amateur sports, from the military to SpongeBob SquarePants.”

Foxman’s hysterics — never employed when liberal advocacy groups attempt to ram their particular agendas through the courts and Congress — were bad enough. More egregious still was his imputing anti-Semitic sentiments to the majority of respondents in an ADL-commissioned poll.

“If 60 percent think religion is under attack,” said Foxman, “who do they think is attacking them? Hollywood, the media and the ACLU? And who is behind those three institutions? The Jews, right?”

As the Monitor observed at the time, “These are the remarks of a man intent on reading the darkest implications where it is far from obvious that any exist. It’s as though Foxman wants to feed the perception among some Jews that conservative Christians opposed to liberal policies are by definition opposed to Jews — and the perception among some conservative Christians that the words ‘Jewish’ and ‘liberal’ are interchangeable.”

Review: Never Again? The Threat Of The New Anti-Semitism

Friday, October 31st, 2003

Title: Never Again? The Threat Of The New Anti-Semitism
Author: Abraham H. Foxman
Publisher: HarperSanFrancisco, San Francisco, CA

An old Native American expression admonishes us to “Never judge a man until you walk a mile in his moccasins.”

Never Again? The Threat of the New Anti-Semitism, a somewhat autobiographical work by
the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, should come as something of a revelation
to those who take exception to many of Abraham Foxman’s statements and tactics and who ask the question: “Who appointed him to represent the Jews?”

Foxman writes candidly about how his early years in Hitler’s Europe – his parents smuggled
him out of the ghetto at the age of four and placed him into the hands of a Polish peasant woman who baptized him and began bringinh him up as her own Catholic child - shaped his commitment to fighting anti-Semitism and other forms of prejudice and bigotry, both as an attorney and a communal leader.

(Foxman, reunited with his family after the war, was raised an Orthodox Jew with a yeshiva
education.)

Never Again? deals with a number of important issues, including intermarriage, Jewish education and ecumenical relations. Foxman describes his outreach to such luminaries as Pope
John Paul II as necessary diplomacy for which he claims eminent suitability – though he has come in for his fair share of criticism over the years from other Jewish communal figures.

Foxman insists that “People pay attention to what I say…because they know I am serious and
thoughtful.” As part of his effort to build bridges between communities, he often defends public
figures against accusations of anti-Semitism, feeling that Jews needn’t make enemies out of
friends just because of innocent errors.

In addition to providing a look back at Foxman’s own life experiences, Never Again? serves as a handbook for readers interested in learning about and differentiating between the various types of anti-Semitism that exist in the world.

Foxman isn’t shy about offering his prescription for what do about many of those manifestations of hate. He tells his readers how to recognize their enemies, and, even more
importantly, how to recognize their friends and help turn the first group into more of the second.

Truman Diaries Expose Toothless Watchdog

Wednesday, August 20th, 2003

The Monitor really hadn’t planned on writing once again about Harry Truman. Last week’s column, which wondered why everyone was professing shock and surprise at the anti-Semitic statements expressed in a recently discovered diary of Truman’s, elicited plenty of debate and discussion on several popular websites, including FrontPageMag.com and FreeRepublic.com.

The Monitor’s main point was that evidence of Truman’s anti-Semitism had been in abundant supply for at least three decades, beginning with the release in the early 1970′s of Merle Miller’s popular Truman oral biography (Plain Speaking) and Margaret Truman’s best-selling biography of her father (Harry S. Truman).

Thirty years and countless books later - David McCullough’s 1992 effort, Truman, was a colossal commercial success, but the best overview of the Truman presidency can be found in Robert J. Donovan?s two-volume opus, Conflict and Crisis and Tumultuous Years, published, respectively, in 1977 and 1982 - it’s simply unfathomable how any thinking, politically aware person can sincerely claim to be shocked at the very idea that Harry Truman had, shall we say, issues when it came to Jews.

All of which brings us to Abraham Foxman, the ever-visible national director of the Anti-Defamation League. Given all the information available about Truman’s feelings toward Jews, Foxman was either insincere or unthinking and politically unaware when he penned the op-ed column that appeared in last week’s Forward under the title “Harry Truman, My Flawed Hero.”

Here’s Foxman’s opening paragraph: “Okay, the Richard Nixon tapes were one thing. But Harry Truman - A heroic president to Jewish people, with institutes and forests in Israel named after him – and now we learn from the recently discovered Truman diaries of 1947 that he, too, was capable of the most sordid anti-Semitic attitudes.”

The first question that comes to mind upon reading this meaningless pastiche is why Foxman sets up what he hopes readers will accept as a meaningful contrast between Nixon and Truman. Foxman implies that with Nixon, well, what better could one expect anyway – but Truman, ah, now there was a giant, and who would have expected such impurities to cross his lips?

What Foxman seems to be saying is that the taped revelation of Nixon’s anti-Semitism was hardly a shock because he was, after all, Nixon – the very embodiment of evil to every good liberal of a certain age. But we know that Nixon harbored anti-Semitic feelings only because we’ve heard those White House tapes or read the transcripts, and the fact that Nixon’s anti-Semitism was as shocking when it was first revealed as Truman’s was when it first came to
light gives the lie to Foxman’s shrug-of-the-shoulders statement that “Okay, the Richard Nixon tapes were one thing.”

Probably even more disturbing is Foxman’s claim that “now we learn from the recently discovered Truman diaries” about Truman’s anti-Semitism. As argued above, this is clearly not the case, and if Foxman is only learning now, at this late date, of the anti-Semitism of a president of the United States, what in heaven’s name is he doing sitting atop an organization that bills itself the world’s foremost watchdog against anti-Semitism?

Nor was Foxman’s choice of words a careless slip. When news of Truman’s diary first broke earlier this month, the ADL put out a press release stating that it “was shocked [emphasis added] to learn that President Harry S. Truman…had given voice to anti-Semitism in his personal diary.”

That same press release quoted Foxman saying that “The diary entries reveal that, sadly, President Truman was a man of his times…. it is shocking [emphasis added] to learn that this great American leader was afflicted” with anti-Semitism.

So much shock and dismay over something that’s been common knowledge for so long. Doesn’t anybody over at the ADL read books?

Note to Readers: Nominations for the Monitor’s forthcoming ‘Favorite Websites’ list will be accepted for only two more weeks.

Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com

Toward Tradition’s Dangerous Blind Spot

Wednesday, April 10th, 2002

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  

Comic Relief From The ADL

Wednesday, July 25th, 2001
It was shaping up to be a rather uneventful day until the arrival of a press release from one of the Monitor’s favorite Jewish organizations. Laughter may not the best medicine, but it certainly is the best palliative to boredom, and in that sense, at least, the Anti-Defamation League will never be accused of being boring.Here, get a load of this unintentionally hilarious opening paragraph, delivered in the august tones favored by people and institutions that take themselves far too seriously:

“Contrary to widespread negative assumptions about U.S. media coverage in the Middle East, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today released findings of an editorial survey of the nation’s largest daily newspapers, which showed overwhelming support for Israel and significant criticism of the Palestinian Authority and its leader, Yasir Arafat.”

To which one’s first, more charitable, inclination is to say, Yes, and so what? Has anyone suggested that the problem with media coverage of Israel lies in the editorial pages.

And then a slightly less charitable reaction sets in. Notice how the statement equates ‘U.S. media coverage’ with the level of editorial support or criticism for Israel or Arafat. Can it be that the ADL is confusing straight news coverage with editorial-page commentary? Or is there a bit of deliberate obfuscation going on here?

The press release continued: ‘Our survey shows that the editorial boards of the major newspapers across the country are viewing the situation in the Middle East in a realistic and objective manner,’ said Glen A. Tobias, ADL national chairman and Abraham H. Foxman, ADL national director.’

(Hmmm. Did they say it at the same time? Or did Tobias say it first, followed immediately by Foxman? Or was Foxman first out of the gate? Of course, there’s always the possibility that neither actually said it, but that one or both simply signed off on the work of some anonymous wordsmith in the ADL’s busy public-relations mill.)To further muddle the issue, the statement notes that ‘In the weeks prior to the cease-fire negotiations, editorial opinions were focused on portraying Israel in a positive light with much emphasis placed on the policy of restraint against continued Palestinian violence. The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal both editorialized on this issue by praising Prime Minister Sharon and his steadfastness against escalation.’

Leave aside the fact that to even mention the editorials of the Times and the Journal in the same breath does a severe injustice to the Journal, whose unwavering support of Israel and Sharon puts the Times to shame.

What really jumps off the page, of course, is the ADL’s readiness to uncork the Champagne because Israel is being universally lauded for its policy of non-escalation. But what happens when Sharon, patience finally spent, unleashes a strong retaliatory response? The instant that happens, the praise will turn to poison on many of the editorial pages now lauded by the ADL – and at that point the organization won’t have an argument to fall back on.

On a related note, in a recent Jewish Week article on a Manhattan rabbi’s call for a boycott of The New York Times, the ADL’s Foxman pronounced himself unalterably opposed to the idea. The paper’s editorials, he said, were better than they’d been, and boycotts won?t work, and one must deal with the Times individually and blah blah blah….

Excuse us, but the Monitor must have dozed off. Where were we? Oh yes, Foxman – who did, somewhat surprisingly, acknowledge to the Jewish Week that the Times has been known to display ‘outrageous exaggeration or insensitivity’ in its news coverage of Israel.

But don’t expect Foxman to lead the charge against the Times. He and his fellow high-muckamucks of Jewish organizational life know only too well that were it not for the occasional mention and photo in the Times and other media outlets, most Jews would remain blissfully unaware of the existence of their presumed leaders.

Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/media-monitor/media-monitor-126/2001/07/25/

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