ADL Marks 90 Years Of Action and Advocacy
New York, N.Y., February 3, 2003 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) kicks off its 90th Anniversary this week in Palm Beach, Florida when League leaders gather for the National Executive Committee Meeting.
“As we celebrate our 90th anniversary and ADL’s accomplishments over the years, we are all too aware that the anti-Semitism that spurred the creation of the League is still with us today,” said Glen A. Tobias, ADL National Chairman, and Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. “ADL has invested nearly a century in influencing, educating and effecting reform and promoting inter-group understanding and respect. Our founding mandate, ‘to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment for all citizens alike,’ remains the driving force of our agenda.”
“ADL’s History in Brief
“ The Beginning: 1913
Sigmund Livingston, a Chicago attorney, believed that there was a significant need to form an organization to protect Jews from the blatant anti-Semitism of the day. With the support of the B’nai B’rith organization, Mr. Livingston founded ADL in 1913, with two desks in his office and $200.
In that same year, the Jewish manager of a pencil factory in Atlanta, Georgia was falsely accused and convicted of murdering a young Christian girl who worked at the factory. After a sensational trial, with weak evidence, a jury sentenced Leo Frank to death. The Georgia Governor’s commutation of the death sentence in 1915 so enraged the populace that a mob stormed the prison and lynched Leo Frank., an act that became a symbol of Jew-hatred in America.
“In the first half of the 20th century, the American atmosphere reeked of anti-Semitism, from the radio broadcasts of Father Coughlin to Henry Ford’s publication of the notorious anti-Semitic forgery Protocols of the Elders of Zion in his The Dearborn Independent to the ‘Jews need not apply’ notices in major national newspapers,” said Mr. Foxman.
The unemployment and economic distress following World War I led to the scapegoating of Jews and discrimination in education, employment, and housing. The Ku Klux Klan, dormant since the end of the Civil War, was revitalized. ADL’s model legislation to unmask the KKK became the basis for state laws, which were upheld as constitutional by the Supreme Court in 1928. ““By working to unmask the Klan during that time, ADL became widely known as a leader in the fight against hate,” said Mr. Tobias.
“The 1930’s As fascism and Nazism were gaining ground in Europe, American sympathizers and supporters were trumpeting anti-Semitism. Once again Jews were being blamed for the nation’s economic woes and for bringing the country to the brink of war. ADL monitored and exposed the growing fascist movement in America, including such groups as the German-American Bund.
Even as America entered the war, the Nazi onslaught moved across Europe, determined to exterminate the Jewish population. Jews who managed to flee Europe were denied entry into the US; the most infamous instance being the US refusal of asylum to Jewish refugees aboard the St. Louis. With the Allied victory over Nazism came the realization that after 6 million Jews were murdered, those who had survived needed a Jewish homeland. ““As the Holocaust was the darkest time for Jews, the birth of the State of Israel in 1948 was the brightest,” said Mr. Foxman. “But all too soon Jews were again attacked, this time by Arab armies opposed to Israel’s very existence. And so a new priority for ADL was to make the case for America’s only democratic ally in the region.”
In the post-World War II era the “communist scare” led to witch hunting epitomized by Sen. Joseph McCarthy and his hearings before the House Un-American Activities Committee. ““During the 1950s a new, sinister brand of anti-Semitism emerged, introduced by Sen. McCarthy’s implication that Jews were communists and therefore disloyal to America,” said Mr.Tobias.
Jews and Blacks joined forces in a Civil Rights movement for equal rights that polarized the nation. ADL was on the front lines on the ground in the South, in the halls of government in support of the passage of landmark Civil Rights legislation, and in the courts.
Catholic-Jewish relations, made inert by centuries of the teaching of contempt, became engaged when the Vatican issued Nostra Aetate, its 1965 landmark declaration absolving Jews of the deicide charge. ADL’s national and local interfaith dialogues opened the door for greater understanding between Catholics and Jews, as well as other Christian denominations
In 1964, ADL and the University of California at Berkeley joined forces to measure the level of anti-Semitism in America. In its benchmark study of American Attitudes Towards Jews, the League found that 29% of Americans held strong anti-Semitic views. This spurred ADL to develop educational programs nationwide to promote understanding and tolerance.
““The ‘70s was a decade of intense pro-Israel activity for ADL, as the Jewish State found itself targeted by Arab hatred and determination to wipe it out,” said Mr. Foxman. The Arab-imposed boycott against Israel gained worldwide support in its effort to isolate Israel economically and diplomatically. ADL worked against the boycott, urging Congress to adopt laws to prevent U.S. companies from complying with the Arab demand.
The PLO and other radical groups employed terrorism against Israel and its citizens, including the murder of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic Games in 1972. Arab nations attacked Israel on Yom Kippur, 1973. ADL worked tirelessly to repeal the infamous 1975 “Zionism is Racism” U.N. resolution.
““The light at the end of the dark decade of the seventies was Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s courageous act of going to Jerusalem to seek peace, resulting in the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty,” Mr. Foxman concluded.
Continuing to expose hatemongers, ADL revealed the anti-Semitism and racism of Louis Farrakhan and his Nation of Islam and former KKK leaders David Duke and Tom Metzger, among others. ADL’s annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents became an important measure of how anti-Semitism is acted out and a model adopted by other minority groups.
ADL’s years of experience in the human relations field led to the 1985 creation in Boston of its award-winning A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE campaign. The campaign was rolled out nationally, with ADL experts providing anti-bias training in schools and universities, for educators, corporations, communities and law enforcement professionals on the local, state and federal levels.
Internationally, ADL was in the forefront of the Soviet Jewry Movement. “Knowing the road to Moscow was through Washington, we worked to gain government support to pressure the USSR to let Soviet Jews either live as Jews or leave,” said Mr. Foxman. We visited Moscow, Kiev and other cities to bring hope and assure refuseniks that their struggle was a high priority on the US-Soviet agenda.”
In the Middle East, the only Arab leader to make peace with Israel, Anwar Sadat, was assassinated, setting back the progress for peace between Israel and her neighbors. The first Palestinian intifada began in 1987, prompting ADL to intensify its support and advocacy of Israel’s security.
““The new technology of the Internet, linking people globally, marked a sea change for ADL,” said Mr. Tobias. The Web, with its potential to foster the best through communication became an important tool for anti-Semites, racists and extremists to recruit members and promote their hateful messages inexpensively, instantaneously, and sometimes anonymously. ADL developed a HateFilter to provide parents with a means to protect their children from the uninvited hate that often popped up on their computer screens. The League initiated a campaign to get Internet providers to self regulate their sites so that the users could be safe from hate.
Anti-government extremist activity intensified and armed militias grew in number. With the first bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993 and the subsequent attack on the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Americans experienced terrorism firsthand.
ADL led the way for the enactment of hate crime legislation on the state and federal levels. Hate crime laws are now on the books in 45 states, many based on ADL’s model statute, which was upheld as constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Hope for peace in the Middle East took a positive turn as Israelis and Palestinians entered into talks at the 1991 Madrid Conference. In 1992, Yitzhak Rabin was elected Prime Minister and his efforts to forge peace resulted in the Israeli-Palestinian Declaration of Principles signed on September 13, 1993. ““That day on the White House lawn I believed peace would finally be a reality and the violence and terrorism would end. Unfortunately it was not to be,” said Mr. Foxman. Though Jordan and Israel did sign a peace treaty in 1994, violence and terrorism continued with suicide bombings and the assassination of Rabin.
“The New Century 2000-2002
The hope that comes with a new millennium was not to be fulfilled in the first years of the new century. All of Israel’s efforts for peace were rejected by the Palestinians and new intifada began, coupled with suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism against Israelis at home and abroad. Islamic extremist hate against Israel, Jews and America was disseminated via the media and Internet. Anti-Israel, anti-Semitic and anti-American activists hijacked the UN World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa in August 2001 to promote their own agenda.
““As ugly as Durban was, we could not have imagined the events of 9/11. Yet as Jews, we have a history of experience of what hate can lead to,” said Mr. Foxman. “Today we must combat the Big Lie, the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory blaming Jews for 9/11, which more than half the world believes to be true. We must fight against anti-Semitism the likes of which we have not seen for more than half a century, and the hatred that murdered Daniel Pearl and engages in acts of terrorism.”
“The Years Ahead
““As we reflect back on ADL’s history, we bring to the future the lessons of the past,” concluded Mr. Tobias. “ADL stands strong and ready to meet the challenges before us to protect and promote America’s democratic values for all Americans, to defend the Jewish people and the Jewish State of Israel.”
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.