Friday, July 30, 2010

The ADL Does Not Speak for Me

I am outraged by the Anti-Defamation League's recent statement opposing the building of an Islamic center in New York City near where the Twin Towers once stood. The ADL's statement is an embarrassment to the organization and to Jews everywhere, and it should be condemned in the strongest possible terms.

The Anti-Defamation League is supposed to be the Jewish people's advocate for understanding, civil rights, and cross-cultural dialogue. It's supposed to be our defender against bigotry and intolerance. It's supposed to serve as an example to the world of Jewish ethical morality.

The ADL's statement says, in essence, that because bigots oppose something, we ought to respect their right to oppose it by also opposing it ourselves, while at the same time condemning the bigotry that leads us to oppose it.

Others have come out with strings of examples of where such twisted logic could lead. I have no interest in getting bogged down in metaphor.

Instead, I want to state unequivocally and stridently that the ADL's statement does not reflect my understanding of Jewish values, and should not be taken as an example of how the vast majority of Jewish people think.

Jewish ethics require us to "love our neighbors as ourselves." The ADL is not adhering to this standard.

Jewish ethics, not to mention American law, demands respect for the right of religious organizations to build structures and worship on whatever land that they control or possess. I do not have the right, nor do you, nor does the ADL, nor does the American government, to dictate where a Muslim organization may place its institutions. Or a Christian organization. Or a Jewish organization.

Beyond which, I believe that building an Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero is a GOOD step, a POSITIVE step, something that may just lead to better cross-cultural dialogue, as we work to build peace and understanding in a world that is increasingly interconnected technologically but still so divided by political ideology and religious misunderstanding. As Jews, we should be helping the Muslim community, defending them against this kind of bigotry and fear.

Do I really need to explain why the Jewish people should be on the side of the Muslims in this particular fight? If I do, then we're all in trouble.

Jewish people who, like me, are horrified and offended by the Anti-Defamation League's statement, need to do something about it. Call your local ADL chapter and protest. Local chapter phone numbers can be found on the ADL website. Write letters to the editor. Blog about this. Talk to your Muslim neighbors and express your support. Contact the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and express your opposition to the ADL statement, and ask how you can help. Donate money to organizations that understand the urgent need for respectful cross-cultural dialogue.

As Jews, we have a special obligation to smother the very kind of bigotry and fear that the ADL is demonstrating with its statement. I am simply mystified and infuriated that the ADL completely failed to adhere to its own values in this case, and I condemn their position unequivocally.