ADL Meeting Opens on Optimistic Note; But Leaders Say Anti-Semitism Still A Serious Concern
New York, NY, February 15, 2005 … Anti-Semitism, Vatican-Jewish relations, Hispanics, the United Nations, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Presbyterian Church's proposal to divest from businesses dealing with Israel, and other issues affecting the Jewish community were discussed during the Anti-Defamation League's National Executive Committee Meeting, February 10-12 in Palm Beach, Florida.
Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, opened the conference on an optimistic note, suggesting that the recent warming trend in Israeli-Palestinian relations offered hope, "that we could now perhaps see some peace and stability.
"So far there is reason for more optimism than we've had in a long time," he said, citing the historic handshake between Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
But Mr. Foxman added that the work of ADL in confronting threats to the Jewish state and Jews around the world is far from being finished. Responding to recent criticism from community observers that the Jewish defense organizations are no longer effective, Mr. Foxman said that the work of ADL continues to be relevant in a world still tainted by anti-Semitism and terrorism.
"The essence of our approach has been remarkably successful," Mr. Foxman said. "The fact that Jews are being attacked on the streets of Europe, that conspiracy theories about Jews are being spread among the populations of the Arab/Muslim world, that Israel is hypocritically demonized, is not proof of conceptual failure. Rather it demonstrates once again that anti-Semitism has a life of its own, and a moment can emerge that will allow it to spring forward again with fury."
The National Executive Committee Meeting brings together ADL leaders from around the country and is the highest policymaking body of ADL.
Jewish-Christian Relations Explored
James Carroll, author of "Constantine's Sword: The Church and the Jews, A History" (2001) reviewed the many positive strides the Catholic Church and Pope John Paul II have made in countering 2,000 years of Church-sponsored anti-Semitism. The concern is whether those teachings will continue into the future, he said.
"New popes will be elected. In the future church, will Pope John XXIII and John Paul II be remembered as going too far in remembering the Holocaust?" asked Mr. Carroll. "Will Vatican II and Nostre Aetate be left behind?
"What John Paul has achieved in Jewish-Christian relations is a beginning, not an end," Mr. Carroll said, noting that the church still needs to make efforts to clarify its role, and that of Pope Pius XII, during the Holocaust years.
Speaking for the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Rev. Dr. Jay Rock, Coordinator of Interfaith Relations, defended the church's recent proposal to engage in "phased, selective divestment" of companies doing business in Israel. Rev. Rock said that the decision, "is not taken as an action against the Jewish people. … It is not aimed at Israel, but at specific activities of certain corporations."
In response, Rabbi Gary Bretton-Granatoor, ADL Director of Interfaith Affairs, expressed concerns that the proposal unfairly targets Israel and has the appearance of an economic boycott against the Jewish state, similar to that once applied against apartheid South Africa in the 1960s. Mr. Foxman, ADL's National Director, added that the PCUSA's statements on the issue emphasize Israeli violence while playing down Palestinian terrorism against civilians. "What galls me is the moral hypocrisy," Mr. Foxman said. "Just say it's the Palestinian position you've adopted. … After a year of dialogue, you defend the same things you did when we began."
Hispanic Relations, Other Issues Explored
Adolfo Carrion Jr., the Bronx Borough President, discussed the need for Jews and Hispanics to find common ground on issues of mutual concern. "This is about democracy. This is about freedom," he said. "We have a unique opportunity to create a great relationship between the Jewish community and the Hispanic community." Mr. Carrion was among a group of Hispanic religious and political leaders who traveled to Israel in summer 2004 on an ADL-sponsored mission.
The ADL leaders also heard from Ambassador Dore Gold, the former Israeli representative to
the U.N. and author of "Tower of Babble: How the United Nations Has Fueled Global Chaos," who discussed the problems inherent in the U.N.'s current structure and mandate; J. Brent Walker, Executive Director of the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, who offered an update on the challenges facing the separation of church and state in America; and Ronny Naftaniel, Executive Vice-Chairman of the European Jewish Information Centre (CEJI), who gave his assessment of efforts to fight anti-Semitism in Europe.
ADL and Law Enforcement: Partners Against Hate
In a session on ADL's work with law enforcement, top officials from three Florida law enforcement agencies described how they and their colleagues have come to depend on the League's information on hate groups and extremist threats on the domestic scene.
H. Scott Friedman, Special Agent with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, explained how ADL, "continues to let us know through all these years that the domestic threat is still as great as the international threat." Also speaking on the panel were Sgt. Anthony Alberti of the Palm Beach Sheriff's Office, and Chief Michael S. Reiter of the Palm Beach Police, who described ADL as a "definitive resource" for information on extremist groups and trends.
Citing his career accomplishments in intelligence, national
security and international affairs and his commitment to diversity issues and anti-bias training in the workplace, ADL presented former CIA Director George J. Tenet with its highest honor, the America's Democratic Legacy Award. The award was presented by National Director Abraham H. Foxman, with a videotaped greeting from Avi Dichter, Director of the Shin Bet, Israel's internal security service.
ADL honored New Yorker staff writer and Middle East correspondent Jeffrey Goldberg with the second ADL Daniel Pearl Award. Named in honor of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, the award is given to recognize individuals who are working for a positive impact on the image of Jews and Judaism in the Muslim world.
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.