Jefferson Morley | January 21, 2020
The ADL Smeared Me. So I Complained to the Anti-Defamation League.
A Jewish friend from Queens emailed me last week, “Oh look, you, Phil Weiss and Max Blumenthal are being called anti-semitic by ADL” I checked out the link. Our reportage and commentary was included in an ADL blog post on “anti-semitic responses” to the assassination of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.
How was my alleged anti-semitism manifested? The ADL cited my Jan. 3 Counterpunch report on the assassination, in which I accurately quoted Yossi Cohen, the chief of Mossad. I also inked to news stories on two legitimate news sites in Israel, neither of which is anti-Semitic. My article said nothing about Jews or about Zionism. So, on its face, the ADL’s insinuation was baseless.
I didn’t mind being associated with Phil Weiss, a friend and senior editor/founder of Mondoweiss, the excellent Israel/Palestine news and opinion site. While I don’t know Max Blumenthal very well and disagree with him about Syria’s chemical attacks, I can assure you he’s not anti-Semitic. I’ve been friends with his parents for years. They’re mensches.
I re-read the ADL’s blog post, top to bottom. It quoted a dozen true neo-Nazis and anti-Semites proclaiming ludicrous memes about Jews controlling Trump. Vile and stupid stuff with lots of quotes from the likes of David Duke. And then came quotes from the reporting Phil, Max and me.
Weiss is rightly and righteously angry. He sees an effort to silence anti-Zionist Jews. You can read his Mondoweiss response here.
I felt like I’d been smeared by association. So I sought out a remedy–from the Anti-Defamation League itself. The ADL is an organization I respect. For more than a century, the group’s public positions on civil rights issues have gained it a well-deserved reputation for standing up to “bias, discrimination and hate.”
I went to the ADL web site.
“If you have experienced or witnessed an incident of bias, hatred or bigotry, please fill out the form below. We will do our best to investigate your situation and respond to you quickly. If this is an emergency, please dial 911.”
Emergency? The ADL blog post insinuating I was anti-Semitic wasn’t quite a clear and present danger to me. But it was–and is–a pain in the tuchus. As a downwardly mobile Gentile journalist in a lousy job market, I didn’t care for the guilt by association. I have contempt for David Duke and his ilk. But if social media starts saying I’m anti-Semitic, I’m more sunk than I already am..
I am doubly sensitive to this smear for a personal reason. A teacher at the Ethical Culture Schools in New York City was recently fired over bogus charges of anti-Semitism. A long time ago, I attended the Ethical Culture Schools,. an institution founded and run by some very brilliant Jews. It was a formative moment in life. I came under the influence of an educational institution that derived the ideal of “secular humanism” from Jewish traditions. It was, and is, a great school.
The alumni of the Ethical Culture Schools (ECS) are accomplished in the professions, sciences, and the arts. They include Robert Oppenheimer, father of the atomic bomb, Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs chieftain, Warren Leight, show runner for TV’s second-longest running series, Law & Order, and ace New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer. After spending three years in the Jewish environment of the Ethical Culture schools, I would never become the Christian boy I was raised to be. If someone can lose their job at ECS over a smear, I realized I might be at some professional risk.
On the “What happened?” tab of the ADL’s pulldown menu, I had six choices. I clicked on the most accurate: “I am experiencing hate or harassment online.”
Asked for a description of the incident, I wrote:
A reputable national organization has cited my accurate journalism about the assassination of Iranian General Qassem Solemani in an online round-up of “anti-Semitic responses” to the event. The insinuation, now found on the internet, is that my reporting about Soleimani was “anti-Semitic” and that my name is somehow associated with “anti-Semitism in the U.S.” Since none of this is true, I don’t like the blog post.
“What remedy/solution are you seeking?” the next button asked.
Having brooded on that question for days, I wrote.
- I want my name and the summary of my reporting removed from this article that appears on the ADL Web site
- I want a correction appended to the blog post stating that my name and my reporting should not have been included in ADL’s summary of anti-Semitic responses to Soleimani’s assassination.
- I want an apology that stating that the ADL has no evidence I am or ever have been anti-Semitic.
- I want the correction/apology to run on the ADL Web site for as many days as my story appeared under the false, unsupported and malicious headline.
It felt good to get that off my chest. Then came a law enforcement question: “Do you know the perpetrator?”
Um, not exactly. I once met an effervescent lawyer from the ADL at a book party, but I’ve forgotten her name. I agree with much of what ADL executive director Jonathan Greenblatt says about the politicization of anti-Semitism,, but I don’t know him.
I clicked “No.”
“Has the perpetrator given you any indication about their motivation?” the ADL wanted to know. “If so, what? Please provide relevant details.”
I suspect the motivation was to distract attention from facts/argument in my article which implicitly call into question the wisdom of the current U.S.-Israeli strategic alliance. That’s just an educated guess. I have no direct knowledge of why I was treated so maliciously.
I left my phone number. I hit send.
I got an email right back promising action on “Anti-Defamation League Case #00055912.”