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ADL Draws Fire for Cordoba House Stance

Foxman fails to reconcile group’s position, values

Marc Tracy
August 02, 2010
ADL Director Abraham Foxman.(Life)
ADL Director Abraham Foxman.(Life)

The Anti-Defamation League’s opposition to Cordoba House, the Islamic center planned for two blocks away from Ground Zero in lower Manhattan, has become news itself. J.J. Goldberg provides a nice round-up of infuriated center-left voices (though he omits contributing editor Jeff Goldberg’s and TNR’s Jonathan Chait’s).

Meanwhile, contributing editor Seth Lipsky’s New York Sun editorializes in favor of the ADL’s decision and credits prominent opponent Sarah Palin with having seichel (one of us, one of us?).

In its statement (which, as Bradley Burston notes, “sounds like unfiltered honesty”), the ADL justifies its stance with reference purely to the survivors’ interests. But whatever Abraham Foxman and the rest of the ADL’s decision-makers may believe as private citizens, the ADL’s mission is not to advocate for survivors’ rights; it is to advocate (as its mission statement says) for “democratic ideals” and “civil rights.” Given that the people behind the Cordoba House are, by the ADL’s own admission, private, law-abiding citizens going through the proper channels to try to achieve a private, Constitutionally protected goal, it is indisputable that those sworn to uphold “democratic ideals” and “civil rights” are obliged to take their side.

“Survivors of the Holocaust are entitled to feelings that are irrational,” Foxman apparently said. Okay then: If the dictates of Foxman’s conscience compel him not to align the ADL on the side of Cordoba House, then one could muster respect for that. But then the solution would be to have the ADL say nothing at all—not to harness it to go precisely against its self-declared, century-old values. To continue to promote itself and accept donations on the basis of those values would border on dishonest.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.

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