When will the ADL start fighting antisemitism on the left?

Instead of countering progressive antisemites, CEO and national director Jonathan Greenblatt prefers to slander Jewish friends.

Jonathan Greenblatt, national director and CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, in Jerusalem, on June 5, 2017. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.
Jonathan Greenblatt, national director and CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, in Jerusalem, on June 5, 2017. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.
Ellie Krasne-Cohen. Credit: Courtesy.
Ellie Krasne-Cohen
Ellie Krasne-Cohen is a visiting fellow at Independent Women’s Forum and founder of Krasne Strategies. She holds an MA from the University of Chicago and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Follow her on Twitter @Parisfreedomfry.

The Anti-Defamation League was founded in 1913 in the wake of the lynching of Leo Frank. Its noble purpose was to defend the Jewish people and fight antisemitism wherever it might be. But in this generation, the ADL has lost its way under the leadership of CEO and national director Jonathan Greenblatt.

Greenblatt’s background was as a partisan left-wing political operative. It often appears as if he uses the ADL as a political weapon rather than a means of protecting Jews. He demonizes his political and ideological opponents, including other Jews and Jewish groups, and does little to confront the sources of today’s antisemitism.

In America and around the world, antisemitism is at shocking levels, mainly in leftist politics and academia. Yet the ADL continues to advance partisan leftist ideologies and often wrongly attacks conservatives.

In 2023, the ADL blasted the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) for hosting Chaya Raichik, an Orthodox Jewish woman and founder of Libs of TikTok. The ADL claimed that she was “anti-LGBTQ.” To be sure, CPAC has had its share of controversies. It is the nation’s largest political grassroots gathering, and its “big tent” will always, unfortunately, attract fringe groups. I make no excuse for this. But somehow, the ADL said nothing about the Democratic National Convention, where Palestinian flags reportedly outnumbered American flags and attendees burned Israeli flags.

More recently, the ADL smeared two mainstream policy organizations—the National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR) and the National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC)—accusing them without evidence of antisemitism. The ADL claimed that mere criticism of “globalism” or “globalist organizations,” including the antisemitic United Nations, is an “antisemitic dog whistle.” The ADL also singled out NCPPR’s Ethan Peck, an Israeli-American Jew and former editor at The Jerusalem Post, for criticizing globalist organizations.

The NCPPR and NLPC are mainstream organizations, neither of which, to my knowledge, has displayed antipathy towards Jews or any other racial or religious minority. In fact, my experience was quite the opposite. (Full disclosure: NCPPR has cited some of my policy writing.) The groups engage in outreach to black communities and those living with disabilities. These are not the actions of institutions that hate Jews or discriminate against other minority groups.

In early 2020, Greenblatt attacked Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), one of the most philosemitic and pro-Israel members of Congress, for tweeting a widely mocked Bloomberg News story about its owner Michael Bloomberg’s political prowess. Cruz’s tweet joked, “It’s almost as if he runs the media.” This was a simple quip about a man who does, in fact, own a large media outlet. It is not an antisemitic conspiracy theory.

Greenblatt’s ADL not only consistently attacks those who defy progressive politics. It also does little to fight actual antisemitism. For example, it refuses to acknowledge that antisemitism is disproportionately high in black communities and woven into the platform and statements of the Black Lives Matter leadership. Indeed, the ADL has embraced BLM, an affection that survived the leading BLM organization’s recent declaration of solidarity with Hamas following the terror group’s Oct. 7 massacre of 1,200 people, almost all of them civilians.

Worse still, Greenblatt’s progressive political allies are working to normalize antisemitism on Capitol Hill. Indeed, perhaps the ADL targets Cruz and conservative-leaning organizations because their pro-Jewish positions make Democrats appear grotesquely antisemitic. This is something any good political operative might do.

Indeed, while the ADL condemned Cruz for a harmless if perhaps ill-advised tweet, Greenblatt has used his ADL platform to push the progressive lie that “Jews have ‘white privilege.’” This defamatory charge is used by the intersectional left to exclude, harass and attack Jews. Yet Greenblatt and the ADL have yet to withdraw the claim and apologize.

In another egregious case, it came to light in September 2022 that the ADL had endorsed material supporting the now-defunct antisemitic Women’s March. One of the March’s leaders, Linda Sarsour, is a notorious Jew-hater. Another leader, Tamika Mallory, endorsed the viciously antisemitic leader of the Nation of Islam, Louis Farrakhan.

Nor did Greenblatt condemn Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, when she referred to Jews as “privileged” members of the “ownership class.” Like Weingarten, Greenblatt is entitled to his progressive opinions. But the head of a powerful union and the CEO of the ADL should be opposing rather than endorsing antisemitic tropes.

During the CPAC convention, hundreds of Jews will gather for it official Shabbat program. They are freedom-loving Americans, and many of them, like NCPRR and NLPC, may take issue with globalism. Many of them may also take issue with sexualizing young children, as does Libs of TikTok. Many of them likely reject Sarsour’s and Weingarten’s belief that Jews are privileged oppressors. None of that is “antisemitic.”

Meanwhile, since the Oct. 7 atrocities, antisemitism in the United States has increased 337%. The overwhelming majority of the antisemites involved are Greenblatt’s political fellow travelers. If he cannot bring himself to condemn them, then by definition, he cannot fight antisemitism. Nor can he effectively protect the Jewish community and our friends from those who are literally killing us.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
You have read 3 articles this month.
Register to receive full access to JNS.

Just before you scroll on...

Israel is at war.

JNS is combating the stream of misinformation on Israel with real, honest and factual reporting. In order to deliver this in-depth, unbiased coverage of Israel and the Jewish world, we rely on readers like you.

The support you provide allows our journalists to deliver the truth, free from bias and hidden agendas. Can we count on your support?

Every contribution, big or small, helps JNS.org remain a trusted source of news you can rely on.

Become a part of our mission by donating today
Thank you. You are a loyal JNS Reader.
You have read more than 10 articles this month.
Please register for full access to continue reading and post comments.
Never miss a thing
Get the best stories faster with JNS breaking news updates