(November 29, 2021, JNS Wire) Former Anti-Defamation League (ADL) National Director Abe Foxman, in a newly released episode of the All Inclusive with Jay Ruderman podcast, claimed that President Joe Biden is well underway in his work to reverse the growing levels of antisemitism which the U.S. experienced during his predecessor’s presidency.
Asked to evaluate President Biden’s response to antisemitism, Foxman affirmed that “absolutely, he’s there. He’s spoken, he’s acted. He’s appointed a new ambassador on antisemitism. I think on most cases, when you see any incident in this country, you see a response from this government, whether it’s from Homeland Security, whether it’s from the Justice Department, whether it’s from the Secretary of State. It’s there and that’s his leadership. So, that is not a problem. The problem is our general environment.”
That concerning environment, he explained, extends well beyond antisemitism. Former President Donald Trump, through remarks such as his belief that “there is blame on both sides” for the 2017 neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, fomented “a more open bigoted atmosphere out there.”
“The two hundred Neo-Nazis in Charlottesville were there before Donald Trump. He didn’t create them. They were there. They were Neo-Nazis. They were antisemites,” explained Foxman. “What one can accuse Trump or blame him for is he emboldened them. He gave them the legitimacy. These antisemites were antisemites, but they knew better not to go public.”
“So, [Trump] let the genie out of the bottle. I think Biden and this administration are trying to put that genie back in the bottle. It will take time,” said Foxman, who led the ADL for 28 years and is one of America’s best-known Jewish leaders, particularly on the issue of combating antisemitism.
Regarding the sight of “Camp Auschwitz” t-shirts at the January 6 Capitol riot, Foxman said that “the people who gravitate towards populism and to supernationalism are people who gravitate to racism, and racist theories, and white supremacy. So, they are white supremacists. And white supremacists have a higher level of antisemitism than other supremacists.”
Social media, Foxman argued, is “probably the most significant element in making antisemitism so much more blatant” today.
“Social media and the internet have already destroyed privacy. They’re on the way to destroying civility,” he said. “It has provided a superhighway for bigots, for the antisemites. You can now transmit antisemitic thoughts, conspiracy theories about Jews, lies about Jews in nanoseconds globally.”
Thirty years ago, Foxman noted, “You couldn’t recruit. You couldn’t communicate this hatred in such a sophisticated manner as you do it today.”
Foxman also warned against using cancel culture as a tool in the fight against antisemitism or any other form of advocacy. “I was always opposed to cancel culture,” he said. “I believed it was our job to change people’s minds and hearts. And you don’t do it by cancel culture. What you do is, you remove [antisemites and bigots], but they’re still out there.”
Recalling how the ADL called out actor and director Mel Gibson — first for the potential of his 2004 film The Passion of the Christ to fuel antisemitism, and then for his antisemitic tirade when he was arrested for driving under the influence in 2006 — Foxman said, “To be very honest with you, I never personally interacted with Mel Gibson…But society acted. Yeah. We made it public. I spoke out, I challenged, I questioned, but it was the societal response that made the difference. Today, we’re not trying to change people’s minds and hearts. We want to cancel them out. I think at the end of the day, we’re all going to pay a very serious price for that.”