ADL NATIONAL DIRECTOR CALLS FOR VIGILANCE IN FIGHT AGAINST BIGOTRY;
DELIVERS MAJOR ADDRESS ON ANTI-SEMITISM, RACISM AND EXTREMISM IN AMERICA
New York, NY, November 19, 1996..."Today we live in a society that
is less and less civil, more and more intolerant, a society in which some
people who feel disconnected seek solace in conspiratorial theories that
reinforce their discontentment; they seek scapegoats. The 'others' are to
blame -- the Jews, the Blacks. The rhetoric is abounding and astounding,"
said Abraham H. Foxman, Anti-Defamation League (ADL) National Director,
to ADL leaders gathered in New York for the League's recent Annual National
In discussing the threat of extremism "seeping into the mainstream
of our society" Mr. Foxman introduced the new ADL publication, Danger:
Extremism, The Major Vehicles and Voices on America's Far Right Fringe,
a guide detailing the current trends of extremist organizations and individuals
that constitute the focal points of far-right activity in America today.
"ADL has named more than a few extremists in our new publication...95
groups and individuals, some old, some new. The old have joined with the
new to come out of the closet, to peddle their pernicious hate and mainstream
their malicious views on our airwaves -- on radio and television --, on
the campaign stump, and very distressingly, on the Internet." Mr. Foxman
emphasized that extremism is affecting us all -- White, Black, Jew, Christian,
"Hate no longer comes in brown paper envelopes, or is promoted at meetings
in seedy hotel rooms. Hate is a mouse click away on our computer screens
... invading our privacy when we least expect it," he said. "The
racism we fought to eradicate, through litigation, legislation and education
is unfortunately still with us today, 40 years after the landmark Brown
v. Board of Education Supreme Court Decision and the Civil Rights Act of
Mr. Foxman cited incidents where racism has reared its ugly head such as
the protest lines in Harlem where hateful words led to fatal consequences,
ending with the arson of a Jewish-owned business in which 7 innocent people
He cited the insensitive, inappropriate and repetitious use of Nazi imagery
by those with celebrity who command headlines such as Marge Schott and Ted
Turner; Farrakhan's incessant scapegoating of Jews, blaming them for all
the ills of the past and present facing the African American community;
swastikas spray painted on homes, army barracks and in the Nation's capital;
and Texaco, as the most recent example of racism within corporate America.
"Is there no regard for the depth of pain caused? Is there no understanding
of history? Or do those who engage in these acts know all too well the affect
they will have? Is their hate so great they must act it out?" asked
As we approach the 21st century, Mr. Foxman said, "We need to prepare
ourselves for great technological advances, for doing business in a new
way. For we, the Anti-Defamation League, will undoubtedly be in business....The
resiliency of anti-Semitism proves it is adaptable to any time, any place,
any climate, any technology."
Mr. Foxman was optimistic, however, in noting that it is not just the bigots
who are busy but "good people who choose to teach by example, who stand
up to the hatemongers and extremists saying, no, no we will not allow you
to take over."
The National Urban League and ADL said no to hate when the two groups committed
to working together to fight racism and anti-Semitism.
"We have made great strides against hate," said Mr. Foxman, "and
I am confident that we will continue to make great strides. Yet, history
has taught us that we must be ever vigilant," and we must be "always
hopeful that good will prevail over evil."
Attached is the complete text of Mr. Foxman's speech.
"CONFRONTING ANTI-SEMITISM, EXTREMISM AND HATE IN
AMERICA ON THE BRINK OF THE 21st CENTURY"
ADDRESS GIVEN BY ABRAHAM H. FOXMAN, ADL NATIONAL DIRECTOR
NOVEMBER 7, 1996, NEW YORK CITY
TO THE ADL NATIONAL COMMISSION MEETING
I want to speak with you today about something that troubles me deeply --
extremism. Extremism that is anti-Semitism, extremism that is racism, extremism
that is seeping into the mainstream of our society.
I am often accused of being obsessed with anti-Semitism, of seeing it everywhere,
hearing it everywhere, reading it everywhere. I find that accusation ironic,
since I and the Anti-Defamation League pride ourselves on the importance
of saying what is NOT anti-Semitism, just as much as on what is. Is anti-Semitism
everywhere? Of course not. Is anti-Semitism alive and well, of course it
is. Fifty years after the horror of the Holocaust we find ourselves confronted
by the same 2,000 year old anti-Semitism, sometimes camouflaged, more often
not; sometimes subtle, more often not.
The racism we fought to eradicate, through litigation, legislation and education
is unfortunately still with us today, 40 years after the landmark Brown
v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision and the Civil Rights Act of
As we embark on the road to the 21st century, we find that the breakthroughs
we have made in the 20th century -- the advancements in technology, getting
man to the moon and back, the defeat of Nazism and fascism, the crumbling
of Communism -- have not had the impact on anti-Semitism or racism that
we would have liked to see.
Today we live in a society that is less and less civil, more and more intolerant;
a society in which some people who feel disconnected seek solace in conspiratorial
theories that reinforce their discontentment; seek scapegoats. The "others"
are to blame -- the Jews, the Blacks. The rhetoric is abounding and astounding.
It is in political campaigns, in testimony before Congress, on talk radio,
on the Internet, and in corporate America, as evidenced by the recent revelations
at Texaco. It is in the mainstream, affecting us all -- White, Black, Jew,
The issues confronting America today are tough ones, yet to me they can
be synthesized into one sentence, albeit a long one -- How can we be the
best that we can be, a flourishing, technologically advanced democracy,
where all Americans are treated with dignity and tolerance, have access
to opportunity and an understanding of history, and join with fellow
Americans to stand up against hate, racism, anti-Semitism and extremism.
To be the kind of America the Founding Fathers envisioned, and the kind
of America I, we, want for ourselves, our children and generations to come,
we must choose a high road. For we have seen the low road and its travelers
and we know undoubtedly to where it leads. Its exit signs are clearly marked,
INCIVILITY, INTOLERANCE, PREJUDICE, BIGOTRY, ANTI-SEMITISM, RACISM, HATE,
There was a time in this country when the right thing to do was to "keep
a civil tongue in your head." Whether in national political discourse
or at a local school board meeting, people disagreed, but they did so respectfully.
Today, incivility and in-your-face bigotry seem to be more the norm.
_ Disagreement over issues at a community school board meeting in Queens,
NY, led to anti- Semitic epithets directed at a Jewish board member from
an Asian-American member.
_ A bitterly contested redistricted Congressional race turned ugly in Atlanta.
The Jewish challenger painted the African-American incumbent as a supporter
of Louis Farrakhan. A Black state representative called the challenger "a
_ In Orange County, California, an African American municipal professional
is called "Nigger" and told to "go back to Africa"
_ In suburban Chicago, a Pizza Hut manager refused service to African-American
Hateful words, incendiary rhetoric, rhetoric run rampant -- just words some
say. "Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never harm
me," is the well known children's rhyme.
But we know that words can and do harm us.
_ Hateful words spoken to a Native American in Huntington Beach, California
led to a vicious stabbing attack which he barely survived .
_ Hateful words spoken to a young Vietnamese-American in South Florida triggered
a mob of teenagers to beat him to death.
_ Hateful words spoken over and over on a protest picket line in Harlem
ended with the arson of a Jewish-owned business by a Black man, in which
7 innocent Latinos tragically died.
Hateful words spoken, hateful words written, hateful words spray-painted.
The impact is greater "than just some words." The hate inflicted
on the victim, extends to the victim's loved ones, to the targeted community
and to the community at large.
And then we have:
Swastikas, Nazis, Hitler, Goebbels, Gestapo.
_ Swastikas on homes in the upscale Westchester town of Mamaroneck, NY
_ Swastikas behind a vacant J.C. Penny building in Marietta, Georgia
_ On the walls and door of an elevator in the John Hancock Center in Chicago
_ In a Fort Bragg barracks
_ On the streets of our nation's capital
Just graffiti, just childish pranks, just copycat, or an intent to send
a message -- a message of hate?
Why, I ask myself, is there such a prevalent use of Nazi imagery.
_ Commenting on the regulation to leash dogs in city parks, a New York cartoonist
depicts the Parks Commissioner as a Gestapo officer. The newspaper regrets
having given offense and apologies, admitting it "failed properly to
edit the cartoon in question."
_ A New York Assemblyman likens a fellow Assemblyman to Joseph Goebbels.
He apologizes, saying, "I am old enough to remember, and am fully aware
of the devastation of the Holocaust."
Let us not forget the rich and famous, those with celebrity who command
_ Marge Schott on Hitler. "Everyone knows he was good at the beginning,
but he just went too far." She can't seem to shake her racism, and
anti-Semitism, despite apology after apology.
_ Ted Turner, one week after apologizing for comparing a business rival
to Adolf Hitler, did it again. And apologized again. Ted seems to think
his business problems are like life for Jews under the Nazis. He said so
in July 1995. And he apologized then.
_ Cemetery desecrations in East Haven, Connecticut, New Jersey, at Jewish
cemeteries across this land.
So I ask again, why? Why? Is there no regard for the depth of pain caused?
Is there no understanding of history? Or do those who engage in these acts
know all too well the effect they will have. Is their hate so great they
must act it out?
There are those who we know harbor an abiding hate and subscribe to conspiratorial
theories to validate their hate and their actions -- Neo-Nazi skinheads,
white supremacists, Aryan Nations, the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke, Tom Metzger,
Willis Carto, to name a few.
Indeed, ADL has named more than a few extremists in our new publication,
Danger: Extremism The Major Vehicles and Voices on America's Far Right
Fringe -- 95 to be exact. 95 groups and individuals, some old, some new.
The old have joined with the new to come out of the closet, to peddle their
pernicious hate and mainstream their malicious views on our airwaves --
on radio and television -- on the campaign stump, and very distressingly,
on the Internet.
Hate today no longer comes in a brown paper envelope, or is promoted at
meetings in seedy hotel rooms. Hate is a mouse click away on our computer
screens; confronting us in our offices, our homes, our libraries, our classrooms
and dorm rooms, invading our privacy when we least expect it.
And, as Danger: Extremism reveals, the threat is real, as manifested by
the bomb that took down the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 165
innocent men, women and children, injuring scores of others, and traumatizing
a nation. Yes, the threat is real.
_ The incendiary device that killed the seven people in Harlem was fueled
not only by gasoline, but by incendiary rhetoric.
_ The violent death of Prime Minister Rabin in Tel Aviv one year ago was
preceded by violent rhetoric from New York to Jerusalem.
People ask me why, why are we, am I, so agitated by Minister Louis Farrakhan
and his Nation of Islam. After all, it's just talk, they say. Just talk.
Just like the "talk" in Germany in 1933. People said, "The
talk isn't harmful; Hitler will never amount to anything; don't make a
big thing out of it." Well Hitler did, he made a big thing out of
his talk -- Kristallnacht, Dachau, Auschwitz, Bergen Belsen, Treblinka.
We know the bricks that built the death camps were preceded by "talk"
-- by words -- that many said weren't worth worrying about.
WORDS DO HAVE CONSEQUENCES. THEREFORE, I WORRY.
_ I worry about Farrakhan's incessant scapegoating of Jews, of blaming
us for all the ills -- past and present -- confronting African-Americans.
_ I worry about his lieutenants -- about what spark the vicious rhetoric
of Khalid Muhammad and the others might ignite.
_ I worry about the sale of anti-Semitica, the Protocols of Zion, The Jews
and Their Lies, The International Jew, The Jewish Onslaught, The Hoax of
the Twentieth Century at Nation of Islam events, at Minister Farrakhan's
_ I worry that Americans, especially media and opinion makers, can't see
the seriousness of Minister Farrakhan's hate; I worry that they brush it
_ And, now I worry that Louis Farrakhan sees a role for himself in the Israeli-Palestinian-Arab
peace process. He has suddenly decided, after allying himself with tyrants
and terrorists in the Middle East, that he can become the catalyst that
will bring about a Palestinian State.
The last thing we need is Minister Farrakhan in the peace process.
As you know, Minister Farrakhan continues to make overtures to the Jewish
community, wanting to meet with Jewish leaders, wanting to build bridges
to the Jewish community, wanting proof that his "divine truths"
are not so.
As you know, we have steadfastly rejected meeting him until he publicly
and consistently ceases his anti-Semitism.
What you don't know, is that a prominent and well-meaning Jewish leader
did meet with Farrakhan and then wrote to me saying, " Leopards don't
change their spots and this man is evil personified. Looking back, your
position has been reinforced. No self-respecting person, let alone a Jew,
should have anything to do with him."
The meeting was between World Jewish Congress President Edgar Bronfman,
at the initiative of Mike Wallace. Mr. Bronfman told Farrakhan that his
language about the Holocaust was inflammatory, and his comparing the Holocaust
to other situations was unacceptable to the Jewish community. In the exchange
Mr. Bronfman felt that Farrakhan sounded as if he were sincere in wanting
to dialogue with Jewish leaders, so he suggested they each designate a representative
to meet and continue the dialogue.
On the day the two representatives met and talked about how the language
used by Minister Farrakhan must be drastically changed, the NOI leader was
in Brooklyn comparing Iraqi children to the children of the Holocaust.
Surprise? Not to me. Not to ADL. And so ended the short-lived dialogue.
Minister Farrakhan will undoubtedly continue to extend the proverbial olive
branch, but we know the olive branch is tainted -- tainted with the anti-Semitism
and racism he clings to, indeed embraces.
One would think that with all these hatemongers and extremists there would
be a traffic jam on their low road. Instead, it seems there is always room
for one more hater, one more hate group.
And so, unlike Robert Frost who did not know which road to choose, our path
is obvious. The high road is for us, with its clearly marked exits, CIVILITY,
TOLERANCE, RESPECT, EDUCATION, UNDERSTANDING, COMMUNITY, PEACE, LOVE.
Make no mistake about it, the high road is heavily traveled too -- by good
people who choose to teach by example, who stand up to the hatemongers and
extremists saying no, no we will not allow you to take over.
_ The citizens of Billings, Montana said no to hate in their community,
when Jewish homes with Hanukkah menorahs in the windows were attacked.
_ The citizens of Denver said no to hate and mobilized as a community to
assist Black churches who were victims of arson.
_ The citizens of Washington, DC said no to hate, when they joined together
to literally erase the hate -- paint over swastikas that appeared all over
the nation's capital.
_ American citizens said no to hate, men and women jurors who convicted
the Islamic extremists who bombed the World Trade Center and those who were
thwarted from carrying out additional terrorist attacks.
_ A couple in Springfield, Illinois said no to hate and the Ku Klux Klan
when they created a walk- a-thon in reverse to raise funds for organizations
_ President Clinton and courageous Members of Congress said no to hate,
when they enacted anti- terrorism legislation.
_ The National Urban League and ADL said no to hate when we committed ourselves
to work together to fight racism and anti-Semitism almost one year ago.
As we stand on the brink of a new century, looking toward the possibilities
and opportunities that await us, we must reflect on the past century.
For us as Jews, the 20th century held our worst and finest hours.
The establishment of the State of Israel and the miraculous redemption of
Soviet, Ethiopian and Syrian Jews.
For us as American Jews, we saw the end of institutional anti-Semitism,
we established our place in American society; yet the specter of anti-Semitism
still looms over our lives.
Yes, the 21st century sounds exciting; and we must be ready for it.
We need to prepare ourselves for great technological advances; for doing
business in a new way. For we, the Anti-Defamation League, will undoubtedly
be in business.
The haters will not go away, no matter how much we wish it so, no matter
how much some ignore them. And, we cannot afford to ignore them.
The resiliency of anti-Semitism proves it is adaptable to any time, any
place, any climate, any technology.
Extremism cloaked in legitimacy is still extremism.
Hate wrapped in the American flag or the Bible or the Koran is still hate.
Anti-Semitism disguised as academic scholarship is still anti-Semitism.
To the armed militias and white supremacists, to the demagogues the likes
of Louis Farrakhan, to the extremists and terrorists -- homegrown and imported
-- to the Holocaust deniers, to the anti-Semites and racists, we say :
Be aware: We are here. We are here to watch you, to expose you and to defeat
We have made great strides against hate, and I am confident that we will
continue to make great strides. Yet, history has taught us that we must
be ever vigilant.
Perhaps it will be in the 21st century that a vaccine against anti-Semitism,
against racism, against hate, will be developed. Until then, we must bridge
the gap between two centuries, ever mindful of the past as we embark on
the future, always hopeful that good will prevail over evil. The task is
great, the stakes are high. Each of us who are the Anti-Defamation League
working together, reaching out to and joining with Americans of good will,
together, we can make A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE.
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.